|© RICHARD CODOR|
Donald Trump's most un-excellent European adventure is yet another reminder of a couple three things: The chronic inability of Americans to see ourselves as others see us, Trump's denial over his own atrocious standing abroad, and the grim reality that what should be the highlight of the trip -- the 75th anniversary of the epic D-Day invasion, which turned the tide against fascism in Europe -- will be lost on Colonel Bone Spurs, who never met an autocrat he didn't like and played tennis while 58,000 Americans perished in Vietnam.
Trump arrived in Britain with an entourage befitting a king, which of course is exactly what he considers himself. (And doesn't the Trump clan remind you of a royal family?)
As The New Yorker's Anthony Lane put it, the circumstance was fine; it's the pomp that grated.
Trump's visit to London prior to embarking for Portsmouth and later the French coast where 73,000 Americans and allied forces were to perish in the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 1944 and the ensuing weeks, wasn't quite the utter embarrassment it could have been. He didn't walk in front of Queen Elizabeth or use his salad fork to eat the steamed fillet of halibut with watercress mousse at a lavish state dinner, and his toast to Liz came off without a discordant note, which is saying something since this short-fused bully looked like a very dour walrus in his white tie, waistcoat and tails.
Not that he didn't try to be an utter embarrassment.
In the face of 75,000 noisy protesters, including a woman banging the bottom of a saucepan with a metal spoon and that adorable 20-foot tall diaper-clad Trump baby blimp, he did manage to make a fool of himself by declaring during a news conference with Theresa May, who is wrapping up her three-year charade of pretending to be prime minister, "Where are the protests? I don’t see any protests. I did see a small protest today when I came -- very small. So a lot of it is fake news, I hate to say."
The president did get in some quality tweeting time, calling London Mayor Sadiq Khan "a stone cold loser" and actress Bette Midler a "washed up psycho." Oh, and the noisy crowds "were those that gathered in support of the USA and me."
Trump did reaffirm his tone deafness for and disinterest in what Brits, in this instance, really care about in declaring that he wants the fate of their National Health Service to be on the table in any U.S.-U.K. trade deal and then refused to meet with Jeremy Corbyn, the "negative" Labor leader, in his words, who has pledged to oppose U.S. corporations taking over the largest national health service in the world "with every breath in my body."
As anyone with even the attention span of a royal mute swan knows, the NHS is more beloved than even the queen, if likewise criticized, and Trump might have just as well declared that he wanted to replace Big Ben with a flashing neon Chick-Fil-A sign. After all, that's what he likes to serve at the White House.
(Corbyn was unable to attend the state dinner -- something about having a conscience -- while Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, had a built in excuse. She was at home caring for baby Archie, thus avoiding an awkward ecounter with Trump, who called her "nasty" for criticizing his misogyny and then denied saying any such thing although he said that very such thing in a tape-recoded interview prior to crossing the big pond.)
For good measure, the man who has called global warming a "Chinese hoax" and pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement despite overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are methodically frying the planet, was unmoved by a 90-minute meeting with Charles, Prince of Wales, who has been sounding the global warming alarm for many years.
A subsequent interview with Piers Morgan on "Good Morning Britain" in the underground bunker where Winston Churchill led the British government during the Blitz and World War II was punctuated by multiple What the Fuck? moments.
Revealing the bottomless depths of his ignorance, Trump told the journo to not forget "it used to be called global warming. That wasn't working. Then it was called climate change. Now it's actually called extreme weather, because with extreme weather, you can't miss."
The president blamed China, India and Russia for polluting the environment, and said the U.S. was responsible for "among the cleanest climates," which was true enough until he defanged the Environmental Protection Agency and started rolling back regulations limiting fossil fuel emissions promulgated by Barack Obama and his predecessors.
"The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler," he helpfully added.
In another WTF moment, Trump dodged questions about the epidemic of gun violence and his opposition to doing anything about it by reminding Morgan that "In London you have stabbings all over. They said your hospital is a sea of blood."
But the big takeaway of the Morgan interview and the president's entire un-excellent European adventure, delivered with a glibness that only someone in a narcissistic fog could summon, came when he boasted he has "made amends" for ducking service in Vietnam by increasing the Pentagon's budget to $716 billion, in one fell swoop insulting the thousands of D-Day veterans, their chests bursting with medals for bravery, heroism and valor who were reuniting on both sides of the English Channel on a most solemn anniversary.
Explaining further, he told Morgan that he thought Vietnam "was very far away, and at that time nobody ever heard of the country. So many people dying, what is happening over there? So I was never a fan."
No one expected Trump to say or do anything of consequence while abroad, and his pledge of eternal togetherness with May and Britain is likely to last until . . . at least until Air Force One recrosses the big pond after stops in France and his money-losing country club in Doonbeg, Ireland, which . . . get this, is threatened by rising seas caused by global warming.
Still, his confessionals on climate change, gun control and military service were mind blowing for their overwhelming vapidity -- and his Vietnam confessional for its cruel shallowness -- even if we do understand that Trump is not a "normal" president.
The news media, however, was not paying attention.
The New York Times and The Washington Post, who by now should know better, for crying out loud, are covering him just like a "normal" president as he galumphs from country to country, while CNN diluted the callousness of his Vietnam confessional with a blah-blah analysis on how six U.S. presidents served in World War II but there is unlikely to ever be a Viet vet president.
Still, Trump cannot he blamed for America's descent from greatness. He has merely accelerated its free fall by standing for all the things that are destroying it from within while opposing the qualities that made it great.
These qualities, as your father or grandfather knows as he has privately grappled with the horrors and deprivations that his generation endured, included our historic and profoundly deep alliances with Britain and France, now in grave peril because of Trump, as well as the 12 other nations whose armies also stormed the beaches of Normandy so that a lad from Jamaica Estates in Queens could grow up with a platinum spoon in his mouth and someday become a kingpin, if not exactly a king, with a once great country as his plaything.