On Friday May 19 Donald Trump et al. are scheduled to depart for an ambitious eight-day visit to no less than six countries overseas. Trump will be accompanied by his wife Melania as well as most of his senior staff.
The White House, indeed the entire Trump administration, is in serious damage control mode following a week and a half of daily blockbuster blows, both to the president, his spokespeople, and their respective credibility. It is imperative that this visit go smoothly, without any controversy. But eruptions have occurred before the wheels of the plane are off the ground.
The planning of the itinerary, reportedly in the hands of Jared Kushner, has been rocky from the start. First came the revelation that while Trump would be attending a G-7 meeting in Sicily, no visit had been scheduled between the POTUS and the Pope. This was a stark departure from previous diplomatic norms where Presidents since the days of Dwight Eisenhower had paid courtesy visits to the Vatican.
Fortunately, Pope Francis is a forgiving sort of a person and a meeting has been arranged. However, even his tolerance might be strained by two things. First, Trump’s intention to appoint acknowledged adulteress Calista Gingrich as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. Second, as reported by Newsweek, Trump’s recent comments in the Rose Garden that he would go to “Saudi Arabia, then Israel, and then to a place my cardinals love very much, Rome.”
Unless Trump is referring to the baseball team, this is a terrible statement. They are not “his” cardinals. Even with his delusions of grandeur, Trump surely cannot believe that he is the Pope. Imagine how Donald would react if Pope Francis referred to “his Senators” or “his Congressmen.”
Then there is Israel. This week’s revelation by The Washington Post that Trump had shared highly classified intel during his meeting with both the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the United States that reportedly came from Israeli sources. This intel was so sensitive we had been asked not to share it with any other allies. Then President Blabbermouth just had to show off. Reportedly, Israeli intelligence was furious, especially since one of their assets within ISIS had been severely compromised.
There are two additional sore points with the Israelis as well. Despite his frequent campaign promises, Trump is now waffling on moving the U. S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Without debating the right or wrong of this decision, it is bound to make the Israelis unhappy. Then, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster speaking to the press earlier this week on the aforementioned security leak, refused to clarify whether Judaism’s most sacred site, the Western Wall, is in Israel or not – referring to it as a “policy decision.”
Also, according to several sources including the Jerusalem Post and Newsweek, Trump’s planned speech from the site of Masada, where Jewish rebels valiantly held off the Romans for months before committing suicide, was moved to an indoor museum. The reason – the Israeli government would not allow Donald Trump to land on the top of Masada in a helicopter, insisting that he must use the cable cars available, just like the rest of the world. Obviously not good enough for Trump.
The first stop on his trip will be to Saudi Arabia. This should be a relatively safe bet, even for Donald Trump. The Saudis have been our long-time allies, particularly against Iran, and Trump’ known fondness for absolute rulers should stand him in good stead. There was a bump in the road earlier when the Saudi’s invited the President of the Sudan, a known war criminal, to join the festivities. But the U.S. quickly made it clear that he would not be welcome.
Then Trump announced that he would be making a speech – on Islam – to the Saudis. Is he going to refer to “radical Islamic terrorists” during that speech? Will he wander off on his recollections of personally witnessing the 9/11 attacks without realizing that 19 of the 21 attackers came from Saudi Arabia? Does he even know that Saudi Arabia, along with most of the Muslim world, practice a different type of Islam than Iran does? He probably thinks the words “Sunni” and “Shia” refer to the names of two of the Saudi king’s wives.
Then came the embarrassing memo from NATO, embarrassing not just for Trump, but for all Americans, that the leaders of other countries speaking at the conference scheduled in Brussels (which by now one hopes that Trump knows is a city, not a country) should limit their remarks to no more than two to four minutes due to our President’s well-known short attention span.
Recently one wag suggested that Merkel and Macron should use a language that Trump doesn’t understand when speaking of sensitive matters. They suggested English.
This trip also marks the first time since becoming president that Trump has not spent the night at either the White House or one of his properties. Let’s hope he doesn’t get grumpy if the mattress is lumpy.
This will also mark the first time since becoming president that he has faced crowds that are not attending one of his rallies. There could very well be jeers, boos or even worse. It is extremely doubtful that reading “The Snake” will placate any disrupters watching him.
Many of the Republican faithful are placing a lot of hope in the success of Trump’s first overseas visit as POTUS. They are hoping his visit will distract from his disastrous month of May in Washington. Somehow, with all that has happened to him lately, turning Donald Trump loose on the world doesn’t seem like the best plan right now.
Oh yes, and by the way, Trump’s speech on Islam and his one to NATO are being written by the isolationist, Islamaphobe Stephen Miller.
But hey, what could possibly go wrong?