A picture, as the old adage goes, is worth a thousand words. A single image can say more about a subject than the most insightful words conjured by writers and poets. Or propagandists. In other words, it’ll take more than a year’s worth of Donald Trump tweets (regardless of whatever covfefe means), Kellyanne Conway not-facts and Sean Spicer meltdowns to better portray the president than the multiple cringe-worthy photos and video taken of our dear leader abroad.
Although Trump’s first transnational trip — taking him from Saudi Arabia to Israel, then to Italy and Belgium — ended a few days ago, the reverberations of ridicule remain strong. Let’s reminisce over some of the best moments in the president’s first international excursion.
I’m Not Racist; I Have a Brown Friend
Trump’s first stop abroad was in Saudi Arabia; an odd choice, since he has continually fueled Islamophobic bigotry throughout his campaign and presidency. So how would the leaders of a country erroneously thought of as the authorities of Islam treat a man who has openly disparaged their belief and denigrated its followers? Like a king, of course. The Saudi royal family rolled out the red carpet, literally, as they bestowed Trump with a gaudy gold medal and invited him to awkwardly join them in a ceremonial sword dance.
Trump then joined Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President/Dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in jointly grasping a glowing orb at the opening of The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh. The image was so ridiculously laughable that it even led the leaders of the five Nordic countries to troll Trump with a mocking photo of them gathering around with their hands on a soccer ball.
Although this experience led to many laughs at Trump’s expense, it provided expensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. The kingdom will receive half a trillion dollars’ worth of war toys in the largest arms deal in U.S. history. The Saudis get $110 billion immediately, with $350 billion more to come over the next 10 years. Trump may have been the joke, but it’s the Saudi royal family that’s been revealed to be the warmongering, amoral, religious hypocrites that they’ve long been accused.
The 70-year-old Trump tries to declare his dominance, not with intellect, tact or diplomacy, but with crude attempts at physical assertion. His most childish attempt at doing so occurred as he walked with NATO leaders to pose for a photo-op at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Trump emerged from behind Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, pushed him aside for a prominent central position, and peacocked his head around as if nothing strange just happened.
Even Trump’s awkward tugging handshakes that garishly pull the recipient to and forth in a jarring motion are now becoming a test of strength and will for other leaders. Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, taking a note from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, didn’t let Trump win the handshake war, admitting that his “handshake with [Trump], it’s not innocent.” Macron professed that “one must show that we won’t make little concessions, even symbolic ones.”
Further proof of Trump’s deficient physical supremacy was apparent in his decision to ride along in a golf cart while the leaders of other Group of Seven nations walked the 700 yards in Italy for a photo-op. The man who derided Hillary Clinton for her lack of stamina was incapable of taking a brisk walk on the seaside streets of Taormina in Sicily.
Don’t Know NATO
We all get things wrong from time to time; no one is immune from speaking incorrectly. But not all of us repeat the same misinformed comment on an international stage with fellow world leaders snickering in dismay. That takes a Trumpian effort.
“NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations,” Trump slowly read aloud during a speech at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. “Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.”
What makes this statement so egregious is that Trump incorrectly believes U.S. taxpayers are carrying a heavier burden because other member nations are shirking their financial duty. Each NATO member has agreed to contribute at least 2% of their GDP on their own military by 2024. To date, five of the 28 countries have met this obligation; other countries still have seven years to meet the requirement, and not doing so doesn’t affect other countries’ defense. Trump’s lack of comprehension on how NATO works is a holdover from the lies he spouted during his campaign.
The NATO leaders stood in disbelief, openly smirking and whispering to each other, as they looked around to see if anyone else was witnessing the same incompetence.
To his benefit, Trump at least knew he was at NATO headquarters; he had a harder time identifying his location earlier in his trip when he told a room of Israeli leaders in Jerusalem that he “just got back from the Middle East.” Not surprisingly, Trump was unaware that Israel is actually a part of the Middle East.
Unhappy Wife, Happy Strife
Ever since Inauguration Day, questions have swirled about Trump’s relationship with his wife, Melania, who has been living in New York City, hundreds of miles away from her husband in D.C. The now infamous video of Melania expressing a fake smile that immediately melts to dour sadness the moment Trump turns his back only added to the gossip. Even now, Melania doesn’t seem to be doing much to quell the rumors of marital discord as she twice apparently avoided holding hands with her husband.
Once in Israel:
Again in Rome:
Finally, by the time they arrived in Sicily, they seemed to get it right:
Melania is apparently lost deep in the chasms of her reverse sunken place.
All jokes aside, this trip revealed more than Trump’s lavish incompetence. It further exposed him as an arrogant fool, a weak leader and a peddler of war, as he’s put himself in league with Saudi war crimes in Yemen, refused to join the Paris climate deal, and has let other European heads of state, like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, take the lead on the world stage.
Trump’s trip abroad, though, may have finally proven one of his recent claims true: His “administration has accomplished more” than others in the same period of time. When you add it all up, it’s hard to deny: Trump has achieved a whole lot of failure in just a nine-day tour.
*Image: Screenshot of live coverage of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia.