Foreign ambassadors to the United States have a variety of responsibilities, including an obvious one: reporting back to their home countries with honest and candid assessments about American developments and personnel.
By all appearances, that's precisely what Kim Darroch did. What the British ambassador did not know was that his private reports would be made public.
The U.K.'s top diplomat in the U.S. views President Donald Trump as "inept," "insecure" and "incompetent," according to leaked diplomatic cables.Kim Darroch, Britain's ambassador to Washington, D.C., made the highly critical comments about the president and his administration in a series of memos to London.NBC News has confirmed the authenticity of the documents. In a statement, a spokesperson for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said "a formal leak investigation will now be initiated."The leaks provide a rare insight into how a key U.S. ally views the Trump administration behind closed doors.
"We don't really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept," Darroch wrote in one of the leaked documents.
Not surprisingly given the circumstances, officials in the U.K. have scrambled to contain the diplomatic fallout and are working furiously to understand how and why the leak occurred.
Time will tell what the investigation uncovers, though it's likely the leak had less to do with Trump, per se, and more to do with a power struggle among British contingents dealing with Brexit. (If Darroch is forced to return to the U.K. in the wake of the leak, he can be replaced with a more conservative successor.)
But as important as those elements are to the broader story, and as easy as it is to feel sympathy for the British ambassador, what strikes me as most notable about the controversy is the degree to which Darroch's cables are unsurprising.
An experienced diplomat arrived in Washington, D.C., took stock of the new administration, and quickly discovered that the amateur American president is "inept," "insecure," and "incompetent"? Well, yes. Of course he did. I suspect the ambassador also noticed that the sun rises in the east.
Some truths are obvious and unavoidable.
The question isn't why Darroch prepared these private assessments for his superiors; the question is whether there are any ambassadors in the American capital who haven't made the same observations.
In Donald Trump's mind, his presence in the White House has done immeasurable good for the United States, its credibility, and its international standing. The Republican envisions a global landscape in which the United States was an international laughingstock before Jan. 20, 2017, but thanks entirely to how awesome Trump's awesomeness is, his country is now "respected again" around the world.
This was always a silly fantasy, belied by ample data, but Kim Darroch's cables pull back the curtain further, exposing an uncomfortable truth about just how embarrassing Trump truly is.