When Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, became the first foreign leader to visit Donald Trump after his inauguration, perhaps visions of a second Margaret Thatcher/Ronald Reagan relationship danced in her head. There is just one problem. While we don’t know if Theresa May might be another Margaret Thatcher, it is more than evident that Donald Trump is certainly no Ronald Reagan. And her eagerness to meet with Trump seems to be backfiring on her. Bigly.
Her first misstep, and one that as a supposedly astute politician she should not have made, was to extend an invitation to Trump for a formal State Visit sometime later in the year. Granted that this is a common courtesy extended to most leaders of foreign countries, but May did not take into account that Trump is not like most foreign leaders. Did she forget that Trump, the businessman turned politician, had sued both individuals and local governments in Scotland regarding his golf course? Did she forget that he wanted the windmills, sources of clean and renewable energy, taken down because he thought they blocked the views from his golf course? Scotland is on the precipice of declaring its independence from the rest of the United Kingdom and many of its residents do not look favorably on our President – his stance on Brexit, which they overwhelmingly opposed, being just one reason.
And how could she overlook, both as a politician and a woman, the Women’s March on January 22nd, where people not only in American but across the world, including her own country, turned out in massive numbers to protest the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States? Granted some of the signs seen in London showed typical British understatement – “Highly Annoyed” being one of them. This was her second misstep.
Almost immediately following her invitation, a petition began back home in the British Isles to downgrade Trump’s visit from a State visit, which would include a reception by The Queen, to just an ordinary visit from a foreign leader. The reason given in the petition, both quaint and uniquely British, was because a State visit would “embarrass H.M. The Queen.” Within 48 hours, the petition had received nearly 3/4 of a million signatures and, at last count, the number of petitioners exceeded 1,700,000. By law, any petition gets at least 100,000 signatures must be considered by Parliament and Parliament will debate the petition on February 20th.
At age 90, the Queen has received both the best and some of the worst people known in the last 60 years. But the decision on whom to receive for a State visit does not lie with her, but with her government. So why would her people consider asking her to receive Donald Trump be an embarrassment for her? Perhaps because they, unlike the government, can remember the crude and disgusting comments Trump made years ago about their beloved Princess Diana, and even more recently about their future Queen, H.R.H. Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Just a few months after her death in a car crash in Paris, Trump boasted on the Howard Stern show that he believed he could have slept with her. Stern had asked Trump during the interview “Why do people think it’s egotistical of you to say you could’ve gotten with Lady Di, right? You could have nailed her..” “I think I could have.” Trump replied. In a later appearance on the same show in 2000, Trump is quoted as saying “she was crazy but added, “they were ‘minor details’ and he still would have slept with her without hesitation.” These comments surfaced again in 2016 following the release of the notorious “Pussygate Tape.”
Then in 2012, he took to his favorite medium Twitter to comment on semi-nude photos taken, without permission, of the Duchess, that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge described as “grotesque and unjustifiable.” Newspapers in the U.K. refused to run the photos. Trump, however, had a different take on the situation. He tweeted “Who wouldn’t take Kate’s picture and make lots of money if she does the nude sunbathing thing. Come on Kate!” Then, to add insult to injury, he blamed her in another tweet “Kate Middleton is great but she shouldn’t be sunbathing in the nude-only herself to blame.” Considering the Royal Family’s long-running feud with the paparazzi, especially following the death of Princess Diana, these comments by Trump are both tasteless and tactless.
In another twist to the State visit scenario, reports have circulated that members of the Trump Administration do not want him to meet with Prince Charles, due to the prince’s well-known views on climate change. They fear that President Trump would not react well to any criticism, even if given by the Heir to the Throne. However, their hopes that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could serve as acceptable stand-ins for the Prince of Wales might not happen either. The Queen is obligated to receive foreign dignitaries. The Cambridge’s are not, and it would be remarkable if the Duke is willing to meet with the man who publicly insulted both his mother and his wife.
Prime Minister May received a stunning rebuke this week in Malta at a one-day summit with EU leaders. According to the British publication The Guardian, her offer that the UK could serve as a “bridge” between the EU and the Trump administration was “ridiculed by the Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaite, who said “I don’t think there is a necessity for a bridge. We communicate with the Americans on Twitter.” Welp! Strike three.
Rescinding the offer of a State visit after it has been issued is almost unheard of. But if Prime Minister May and President Trump expect a triumphant visit with throngs of cheering crowds, they are both likely to be bitterly disappointed. The Queen, no doubt, will carry out her official duties with her usual grace and dignity. But to use the words attributed to Queen Victoria, the last queen regnant, the British people are likely to tell our President, in their own special way, “We are not amused.”