8 Ways Leading European Officials Perceive America's Big Embarrassment in the Oval Office
How is Donald Trump doing in his mission to impress the world’s Very Important People? Not so great, apparently. Buzzfeed writer Alberto Nardelli spoke with six high-ranking European government officials (who asked to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons) who have engaged with Trump and his team to find out what they think of the current administration. The general consensus is that Trump and his whole operation are kind of a mess. The president scores poorly in nearly every area discussed, but is too oblivious to know his failings are so apparent. With a crumbling team behind him and guided only by a desire to be Obama, Trump inspires concern about the future of the U.S. and its role in the world.
Here are 8 things top European officials think of Trump.
1. He’s obsessed with Barack Obama.
Since the moment he launched his political career, Trump has shown an infatuation with his predecessor. He used the birther lie, including questioning Obama’s academic record, to build his base of likeminded racist conspiracists. Since then, he’s continued to invoke the former president at every opportunity, proving Obama is always on his mind. He hated that Obama’s inauguration crowds dwarfed his, tried to pretend the obsession was mutual with wiretapping charges, and has attempted to blame his many political failures on a man who is no longer in office. And you know he just hates that his approval ratings will never match Obama’s, as evidenced by his pathetic retweets of obscure polls that give him the popularity edge.
European diplomats have noticed this sad tendency, with one telling Buzzfeed that Trump’s primary motivation seems to be undoing Obama’s legacy.
“It’s his only real position,” a European diplomat told the site. “He will ask: ‘Did Obama approve this?’ And if the answer is affirmative, he will say: ‘We don’t.’ He won’t even want to listen to the arguments or have a debate. He is obsessed with Obama.”
2. He’s viewed as a verbally limited international joke.
Throughout his European tour in May, Trump acted like he was raised in a (gold-plated) barn, proving his ignorance, boorishness and social ineptitude at every stop. He hand-wrestled with Emmanuel Macron, physically pushed Montenegro’s prime minister and earned derisive snickers from fellow world leaders. For this reason (though there are so many, many more), most Americans are embarrassed to have Trump as a leader.
At least one European diplomat told Buzzfeed Trump is seen as a joke at international meetups, mocked both for his general idiocy and his third-grade (or fourth- or fifth-grade, depending on who you ask) speaking skills, relying on five to 10 words kept in heavy rotation. “Everything is ‘great’, ‘very, very great’, ‘amazing’,” one diplomat said.
3. He has no knowledge of history that would give him insight on how not to repeat it.
The breadth of Trump’s historical ignorance is simply Palinesque in its scope. He doesn’t know why the Civil War was fought, had no idea who Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass were, had no prior sense of Chinese-Korean history, and confuses his Napoleons. Granted, these are things every American citizen might not know, but a president unquestionably should. This stupefying lack of historical perspective or interest on the part of its dum-dum president is a handicap for U.S. international relations.
The diplomats have noticed.
“He has no historical view,” a diplomat told Buzzfeed. “He is only dealing with these issues now, and seems to think the world started when he took office. He thinks that NATO existed only to keep the communists out of Europe. He has a similar attitude in Asia-Pacific with Japan, ignoring that the U.S. basically wrote their constitution.”
4. They have to find ways to work around him, which isn’t easy in such a chaotic White House.
During an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Trump described one of his preferred pastimes: randomly calling other heads of states to ask questions he could have answered on Wikipedia. (“And then you call places like Malaysia, Indonesia, and you say, you know, how many people do you have?”)
Apparently, Trump has pretty much the same routine during in-person high-level conversations, inspiring one diplomat to refer meetings with the president as “basically useless.”
“He just bombed us with questions: ‘How many people do you have? What’s your GDP? How much oil does [that country] produce? How many barrels a day? How much of it is yours?’” the diplomat told Buzzfeed. “He’s not the kind of person you can have a discussion about how to deal with [Fayez] al-Sarraj [the prime minister of Libya]. So you look for people around him, and that is where it’s a problem: The constant upheaval, it’s unclear who has influence, who is close to the president."
5. The White House braintrust is bare.
Leadership starts at the top, and in this case, there is none. That’s why it’s critical that an unprepared, uninformed president like Trump be surrounded by expert staffers who can make up for his deficiencies. Instead, Trump has failed to fill important positions across the board. By the most recent tally, Trump had filled only 46 of 561 top positions in his administration. The Independent reports that nearly one-third of upper-rank State Department positions remain unfilled.
“The White House lacks crucial expertise,” one European official said. “The State Department and others are isolated. You have the generals, the National Security Council, and then a void. There aren’t enough diplomats, experts, etc. in the White House. [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson has a small team. Does Trump listen to [James] Mattis [secretary of defense], [H.R.] McMaster [national security adviser], to the experts?”
One diplomat also described Trump and Tillerson’s body language when together as “terrible.”
6. Anyway, Trump would never take advice from experts.
Trump is notorious for demanding loyalty from everyone in his circle while being steadfastly disloyal to others. He publicly humiliates those who don’t make the loyalty cut, and disposes of people once they’re no longer useful to him. Nardelli notes that diplomats recounted witnessing Trump disparaging staffers and colleagues, and that he “has openly mocked his own aides, contradicting and arguing with them in front of other leaders.”
They cited Ivanka as the lone person the president respects and trusts, which recent history has shown us means absolutely nothing.
7. For all of these reasons, Trump is a danger to the world.
Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi often seems like the closest political parallel to Trump. The former Italian prime minister was also known for his affection for Vladimir Putin, his Islamophobia, his purported links to the Mafia, his sexism and misogyny, his erratic behavior and his administration’s unceasing scandals. But even he was a safer bet than Trump, apparently.
“Berlusconi wasn’t ignorant,” one of the diplomats told Buzzfeed. “And behind him he had officials and a whole government structure you could engage with.”
Trump has a well-established reputation as a loose cannon who cannot be managed and thus endangers global safety. Though Buzzfeed conducted its interviews with diplomats before Trump’s recent belligerent attempts to get us all killed, the topic naturally came up.
“Trump could send a tweet in the middle of the night pissing off Kim Jong-un,” one diplomat told Buzzfeed. “And the next morning we wake up to a world on the brink of war.”
And here we are.
8. He’s just hoping to convince people he’s a real president.
Trump lives in Insecurity Town, a province where he tells transparent lies about his made-up successes and even the slightest criticisms threaten to flatten his fragile ego. At international meetings, Trump apparently “divides up countries based on his worldview,” and it’s obvious to others that he “doesn’t respect France for their handling of immigration” and “dislikes Germany.” But Trump also wants desperately to be seen as top baller and shot-caller, the real and undisputed president of America.
“He gets that Germany is important. He is very graceful with China’s Xi Jinping,” one diplomat told Buzzfeed. “The impression is that he is seeking affirmation and approval as president of the United States.”