President Trump's slash-and-burn actions in his first week have been dramatic, but dangerously lacking in a consensus of support, even within his own administration. The risks were evident in the collapse of a planned meeting with Mexico's president and in Trump's embrace of torture tactics rejected by his secretary of defense and CIA director.Trump's "tweet from the hip" style produced its first real foreign rupture Thursday, when Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a planned visit to Washington. That followed Trump's tweet that he should stay away if he wasn't ready to pay for the often-proclaimed border wall.
Though the line of attack never made sense, Republicans spent years investing enormous energy into the idea that President Obama hurt the United States' international standing. The opposite was true, but GOP officials nevertheless argued, with unnerving vigor, that America had forfeited the admiration of the world.During the Republican presidential primaries, for example, Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, “We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends." Around the same time, Scott Walker and Donald Trump had a chat about “how poorly” the United States is now “perceived throughout the world.” Mitt Romney added, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.”It's almost amusing to think of these quotes while reading David Ignatius' latest Washington Post column.
And that followed yet another tweet this morning in which the U.S. president took another shot, complaining, "Mexico has taken advantage of the U.S. for long enough."Remember, Mexico is our ally, our neighbor, and one of our most robust trading partners. One week into the Trump era, the new president, after campaigning on the idea that he could improve international respect for the U.S., has gone out of his way to trash this relationship.Of course, it's not just Mexico. As recently as last weekend, on Trump's first full day as president, protesters around the world took to the streets to participate in women's marches, eagerly expressing their contempt for the new American president.I imagine for much of the right, the reaction to developments like these will be, "Who cares if our allies turn against us? What difference does it make if the United States loses its global standing?"But it's a little late for that -- because Republicans just spent eight years droning endlessly about how outraged they are that we have "lost the trust and confidence of our friends."The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza added this morning, in reference to Trump's antagonism towards Mexico, this "showed that with his impulsive use of Twitter to make foreign-policy statements, Trump is turning American diplomacy into a series of personal relationships unguided by strategy or forethought. He praises foreign leaders who flatter him, such as Vladimir Putin, and marginalizes those who criticize him, like Pena Nieto, without regard to the strategic value of the relationship. He is turning foreign policy into a version of professional wrestling, where alliances and rivalries shift based on petty personal factors. At any moment, Trump is a tweet away from creating an international conflagration."There is an upside for the White House, however. NBC News' Richard Engel reported the other day, "There is something of a Trump-Mania in this country."Engel was in Moscow at the time.