U.S. officials told NBC News this week that the Trump administration is launching "a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it's still illegal to be gay." The effort will be led by Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, who is also the highest-profile openly gay person in the administration.
Wouldn't a progressive goal like this face pushback from the White House's far-right base? Grenell told NBC News that the initiative has broad, bipartisan support. Asked specifically whether Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Trump himself were on board with his efforts, Grenell added that "decriminalizing homosexuality is something that people absolutely agree is a policy that we have to move forward on."
It was against this backdrop that the president fielded a question on the subject during a brief Q&A with reporters in the Oval Office yesterday.
Q: Mr. President, on your push to decriminalize homosexuality, are you doing that? And why?TRUMP: Say it?Q: Your push to decriminalize homosexuality around the world.TRUMP: I don't know which report you're talking about. We have many reports. Anybody else?
Occasionally, the president will try to be coy on a subject he's reluctant to talk about, but watching the clip, Trump seemed genuinely confused. He didn't appear to have any idea what the reporter was referring to.
On the surface, it might be tempting to mock the president for knowing so little about his administration's recently announced agenda. In fact, even if he'd never heard of the initiative, Trump probably should've been better able to fake it.
But I think there's a more substantive concern, too: if the administration is poised to impose diplomatic pressure on countries with brutal discrimination laws, and international audiences believe the American president doesn't really care about the campaign, they'll be less inclined to take the pressure seriously.