As the latest NATO summit got underway in the U.K., Donald Trump’s first day at the international gathering could’ve been better.
The Republican clashed with American allies. He claimed to have “taken” Syrian oil. He was caught lying, repeatedly, about matters large and small. As one observer noted, he also threw the alliance “into a state of chaos, contradicted his own administration on multiple occasions and caused a plunge in the stock market.”
It was, even by Trump standards, an embarrassing display – both for himself and the country he ostensibly represents. But all things considered, I suspect this report from Canada’s CBC will be the development that stands out most for the American president:
It was intended as a show of unity after seven decades as allies, but the NATO summit in London has, if anything, brought the divisions among nations into sharper focus.
After parading those divisions in public in London on Tuesday, the leaders of the 29 member states take their arguments behind closed doors at a luxury golf course and resort near Watford, on the outskirts of the British capital.
At a Buckingham Palace reception, a misery-loves-company moment involving Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, among others, was caught on video.
The clip features parts of a conversation between the three foreign leaders, and though Trump’s name isn’t explicitly used, it certainly appears the men were referencing – and mocking – the hapless American president.
Trudeau, in particular, took note of U.S. officials and their “jaws dropping to the floor” during one of Trump’s rants.
At a certain level, this isn’t too surprising. Many have long assumed that world leaders privately ridiculed the American president’s buffoonery, so it hardly comes as a shock to see video proof of the kind of private conversations that seemed inevitable.
But that doesn’t mean the footage is irrelevant. On the contrary, Trump will almost certainly learn of this footage and, if recent history is any guide, lash out at those who dared to deride him.
It’s important to remember that in the Republican’s mind, there is nothing more offensive than being laughed at. It’s been a point of preoccupation for Trump for many years, which makes it all the more likely the CBC report will enrage him.
Indeed, Trump has spent much of his presidency insisting that he personally, thanks to how awesome his awesomeness is, has created an international landscape in which the United States is finally “respected again.”
It’s among the Republican’s most preposterous boasts. There’s unambiguous data pointing to a sharp decline in global respect for the United States since Trump took power; there was a United Nations speech in which international officials literally laughed out loud at the American president’s boasts; and now there appears to be video evidence of leaders from some of the United States’ closest allies privately ridiculing Trump’s embarrassing antics.
Trump assured Americans a couple of years ago, “We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be. They won’t be.”
It’s painful to realize the degree to which he got this backwards.
Update: Here’s a helpful round-up of other instances in which world leaders have laughed at Trump.