By most measures, Donald Trump’s second trip as president was a disaster, though the White House chooses not to see it that way. The New York Times reported:
[F]rom the perspective of Mr. Trump’s team, the trip to Poland and Germany turned out to be a surprising early high point in his presidency, providing a brief but welcome respite from the forever wars in Washington.
That’s certainly one way to look at it. On the other hand, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent, and a veteran reporter who’s covered a great many presidential trips abroad, concluded over the weekend, “I can’t think of a worse summit since Reykjavik.”
The comment referred to Reagan’s failed nuclear talks with the then-Soviet Union in 1986 – more than three decades ago.
The assessment hardly seems hyperbolic. While the president of the United States used to be seen as the leader of the free world, and the United States used to be the dominant force at international gatherings like these, Trump and his team were isolated at the G-20 gathering, leaving our allies unsure of what the world will look like now that the United States doesn’t want to lead.
Over the course of a few days, Trump delivered a nationalistic, and at times ugly, speech in Poland that seemed wholly indifferent to American ideals; he raised eyebrows around the world by skipping a symbolic visit to Warsaw’s monument to the Jewish Ghetto Uprising; he was the target of an international rebuke on climate change; he participated in a ridiculous meeting with the Russian president who orchestrated an attack on the United States; and he raised the specter of a trade war with our allies.
If this represents “a surprising early high point in his presidency,” the rest of Trump’s term has been a catastrophe.
The Washington Post reported that by the time Trump left Germany, officials abroad were left “fearing for the future.”
The scale of disharmony was remarkable for the annual Group of 20 meeting of world economic powers, a venue better known for sleepy bromides about easy-to-agree-on issues. Even as negotiators made a good-faith effort to bargain toward consensus, European leaders said that a chasm has opened between the United States and the rest of the world. […]
The divisions were most bitter on climate change, where 19 leaders formed a unified front against Trump. But even in areas of nominal compromise, such as trade, top European leaders said they have little faith that an agreement forged today could hold tomorrow.
A New York Times report added that to much of the rest of the world, “the gathering underscored the administration’s growing distance with, and isolation from, the other G-20 members.”
Trump saw the trip as a “great success,” leading to an obvious follow-up question: for whom?