Malacandra.me

A dumb, unbalanced mob boss in the White House

A dumb, unbalanced mob boss in the White House

by digby

This article in Slate correctly suggests that this spat between Trump and Macron is particularly ridiculous since Macron is actually doing what Trump supposedly wants him to do:

[Macron's] argument was that Trump’s dismissive attitude toward the transatlantic alliance and longstanding defense pacts like NATO makes it necessary for Europe to take greater responsibility for its own defense. “We must have a Europe that defends itself more on its own, without only depending on the United States and in a more sovereign way,” Macron said.

The idea of establishing an integrated European military to complement NATO, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also backed, is controversial—a step toward integration that’s vastly out of step with the current mood on the Continent. But the larger idea here, that Europe should take responsibility for its own defense rather than relying on others (the United States, mainly) is exactly what Trump has been calling for since he took office. Trump ought to be applauding Macron, not castigating him.

Trump remains fixated on what he misleadingly calls paying “for NATO,” even though Macron is basically doing what Trump wants. With defense spending at 1.8 percent of GDP, France is already close to the 2 percent NATO goal on members’ defense spending that has become Trump’s obsession, and Macron announced in July that it will meet the threshold by 2024. And while outdated stereotypes from the “freedom fries” era persist in the U.S., France is among the more hawkish European powers.

It’s more obvious than ever that Trump doesn’t actually care all that much about European defense-spending targets. He’s hostile to the transatlantic alliance itself and even more so to anything that smacks of European integration.

There’s something sinister in the invocation of the world wars here. (Macron, who spent the past week touring World War I battlefields in Northern France, certainly doesn’t need the U.S. president to tell him about his country’s history with Germany.) Is Trump’s implication that France should be more concerned about the threat from its historical enemy Germany than from Russia or China? It’s not out of the question that Trump actually believes this, considering that he called the EU “as bad as China” on trade, invoked Pearl Harbor in a negotiation with Japan’s Shinzo Abe, and has, let’s say, unorthodox views on Russian foreign policy.

Macron’s pro-European sympathies clearly irk Trump. The remark about France being “nationalist” is plainly a response to Macron’s speech in Paris on Sunday—widely read as a direct rebuke of Trump, who was in attendance—in which he rejected nationalism as a “betrayal of patriotism.”

Trump has expressed support in the past for far-right French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen and, coupled with his invocation of Macron’s poll numbers, appears to be again suggesting that the French president is out of touch with the true “nationalist” nature of his constituents. We’ll see at France’s next election, but judging from Le Pen’s recent moves to distance herself from Steven Bannon’s efforts to build a united nationalist front in Europe, it’s not certain that Macron’s right-wing opponents will actually welcome Trump’s intervention. Trump has gotten slightly more popular in France lately, but he’s still one of the few world leaders the French like even less than their own.


All of this is true. But I think he's giving Trump too much credit. After all, just a few years ago as a businessman he loved the EU and was pronouncing globalism great for the bottom line. This is all about Trump's limited ability to understand world affairs. And by limited, I mean the fact that he doesn't understand it at all and has reduced everything to some kind of simple-minded monetary transaction which, in this case, doesn't make any sense.

He literally doesn't understand that when he's asking NATO to pay up, what he's asking is for them to build up their own defenses. He thinks that the NATO countries are supposed to be writing checks to the US Treasury for their "protection." And he thinks they are behind on "paying their bills."

Seriously. That's obviously what he thinks. He makes that clear every time he talks about it. He is clueless about all of it.

It's true that he likes nationalism and authoritarian leaders but it's not ideological. His leadership model is mob moss, which just comes down to "nice little planet you have here, be a shame if anything happened to it."

This level of ignorance would be unusual for any adult who even nominally follows politics. That he's still this dumb, even after being president for more than two years, is mind-boggling.