- He said during the campaign he knew Russian President Vladimir Putin. On this trip he admitted he barely knows him and obviously never met him until he became President.
- He announced billions of dollars of “deals” while in China. China experts note that none of them were “deals” but nearly- almost-but-not-quite promises that maybe, some day, there might be a deal, but probably not. You will not see many, if any, of his announced deals come to fruition. They just rounded up a lot of proposed projects and announced them as done.
- He talked about the great relationships he built with leaders on his trip like Xi of China and Duterte of Philippines. Xi said all the right things, apparently, when with the President, on North Korea and trade but, when Trump left China, the situation on both appear to be the same – China isn’t helping solve the North Korea issue and the trade balance remains the same (not that the matter of trade balances bothers me as much as it bothers Trump). And, in Philippines, while Trump’s spokesman said the President did raise human rights with Duterte (who kills drug sellers and users to solve his country’s drug problem) but Duterte’s spokesman said human rights didn’t come up.
- The White House and Kremlin announced a deal on Syria, but when you read it, it basically reinforces everything already agreed to.
- The President said he built “great relationships” on this trip. If you ask experienced diplomats, though, how much “great relationship[s” matter in diplomacy, they likely will tell you that the personal relationship is not as important as the policy each side brings to the table. In other words, I may like you but that doesn’t mean we agree.
All of that is without mentioning the domestic issue of his trip – Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s sexual abuse of minors when he was in his 30s. Trump can side step that one until he’s back on U.S. shores but he likely will stick with his “if it’s true, he should step aside” construct because even Trump (I hope) knows he has no credibility on sexual harassment matters. Then again, who knows.
Moore is threatening, among other things, to sue the Washington Post for publishing what he says is fake news. Moore is employing Trump Playbook Chapter 1: saying he will sue the Post (we’re still waiting for Trump’s suits to be filed against his female accusers during the campaign, something he promised to do) and saying it’s fake news, which it surely isn’t.
Like Mitt Romney, I believe that Moore is a candidate, not a criminally accused and the standard for guilt is much lower. In this case, women who have nothing at all to gain from making their claims and do it the current environment of the #metoo trend and speaking out. I believe them.
And former White House chief strategist and publisher again of Breitbart News Steve Bannon is threatening to publish the goods on Moore’s accusers. Those will be taken with many grains of salt but the audiences of Breitbart and Trump’s base buy it. The lead story on Breitbart right now is about a woman accusing President Bush 41 groping a woman 15 years ago, for example. The Bannon-Trump playbook is: get accused of something, distract and accuse someone else of the same thing.
For the half of the country that did not vote for Trump, his credibility was and remains an issue. The half that voted for him seem to believe most everything he says or discount for his exaggerations and lies, saying they still like a guy who speaks his mind and ignores political correctness.
The damage done on this trip, though, is largely with the countries and demagogues he visited, the leaders whose egos he stroked. Some of them are autocrats who literally kill their own people for little if any reason other than they don’t agree with the throne. The abuse the human rights of their citizens.
Past presidents consistently held their feet to the fire on human rights.
This President prefers getting them to like him than getting them to respect human rights.