Any remaining doubt that most of the world, particularly our allies in Europe, view the Trump administration as a global embarrassment of extreme idiocy were laid to rest this weekend at the Munich Security Conference.
As Politico noted, the 55-year-old conference is supposed to be a demonstration of transatlantic solidarity on security matters dating back to the Cold War collaboration between Western allies. Under the Trump administration, however, the U.S. has become a tone-deaf symbol of nepotism and extremism in the eyes of European leaders, and it’s hard not to believe that this is exactly what Vladimir Putin wanted.
First, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dined earlier this week with right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has been noteworthy for his corruption and attacks on press freedom and the rule of law. A Washington Post editorial noted that Orbán “has become a virtual pariah in European capitals because of his embrace of ‘illiberal democracy.’” The newspaper added that, “As practiced in Budapest, that includes the suppression of independent media and civil society groups, corrupt cronyism, and demagoguery that drips with xenophobia and anti-Semitism.” Sound familiar?
This weekend, at the security conference, Vice President Mike Pence was repeatedly given the silent treatment during an asinine keynote speech aimed more at Donald Trump than at his European colleagues in the audience. As Politico noted, Pence concluded the speech, which followed a much better one by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the words “God Bless the United States of America.”
Pence thought he’d get a round of applause when he said, “I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.” Instead, he got crickets.
Then the vice president disrespectfully lectured European leaders about NATO spending and their ongoing commitment to the Iran nuclear deal. Instead of applause and admiration, another line in which Pence threw down the gauntlet drew more crickets: “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security, and freedom they deserve.”
Pence’s head twitched slightly as the audience watched in silence.
Merkel, on the other hand, drew a standing ovation when speaking just before Pence. The German leader unmistakably criticized the Trump administration while Ivanka Trump sat in the audience expressing her disapproval.
“If we’re serious about the transatlantic partnership, it’s not very easy for me as German chancellor to read … that the American department of commerce apparently considers German and European cars to be a threat to the national security of the United States of America,” Merkel said, according to Politico. “Look, we’re proud of our cars and we should be allowed to be. And these cars are built in the U.S. The biggest BMW factory is in South Carolina, not in Bavaria.”
The audience applauded that line, while Ivanka, who for some reason wasn’t wearing translation headphones on her head like everyone else, sat stone-faced. It’s not even clear why she was there in the first place.
As the Post editorial noted, many European officials wondered why Pence had made little reference to Russia, “the major security concern for many of the conference’s attendees” and the country that attacked U.S. elections. It’s a valid question that we probably already know the answer to.
Thankfully, former Vice President Joe Biden was there to clean up the mess.
“The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world or our closest allies,” Biden said, according to the Post. “The America I see cherishes a free press, democracy, the rule of law. It stands up to the aggression of dictators and against strongmen.”