Over the weekend, President Obama spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner where he directed jokes at all kinds of folks, friend and foe, though he seemed to especially enjoy mocking presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“The Republican establishment is incredulous that [Trump] is their most likely nominee – incredulous, shocking,” Obama said. “They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. But, in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan….”
The point, obviously, is that experience with beauty pageants is a poor substitute for actual foreign policy experience. And with this in mind, it was striking to see Trump’s latest interview on Fox News late yesterday, where life imitated art. Mid-way through the interview, Bret Baier brought up Russia:
BAIER: About Russia, you were asked yesterday if you’ve ever spoken to Vladimir Putin, and you said, “I don’t want to say.”TRUMP: Yeah, I have no comment on that. No comment. I was in Russia –BAIER: But one of the things people like about is to answer any question.TRUMP: Yeah, but I don’t want to comment because, let’s assume I did. Perhaps it was personal. You know, I don’t want to hurt his confidence. But I know Russia well. I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago – Miss Universe contest – which is a big, incredible event, and incredible success. I got to meet a lot of people. And you know what? They want to be friendly with the United States. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got with somebody?
The obvious point of concern here is that Trump seems to think he has relevant experience with Russia – experience that would help him if he were elected president – because of his role with a beauty pageant held overseas a few years ago.
But let’s also not brush past the fact that Trump refuses to say, for reasons he refuses to explain, whether he’s even spoken to Russia’s controversial leader. When was the last time a major-party presidential candidate had some kind of relationship with a foreign autocrat, only to say “no comment” when asked about it?
To the extent that Trump has a foreign policy, his approach towards Putin’s Russia has to be among the most problematic aspects of his international platform.