The very first choice Donald Trump made for his diplomatic corps criticized his response to the incident in Charlottesville — albeit as diplomatically as he could. US ambassador to Israel David Friedman got buttonholed by a reporter from Channel 10 about Trump’s changing responses. At first Friedman tried to defend Trump by saying that the media was treating him “very unfairly,” but conceded that on this issue they might at least have a point:
— נדב איל Nadav Eyal (@NadavEyalDesk) August 23, 2017
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Wednesday criticized President Donald Trump’s reaction to events in Charlottesville.
Asked by a Channel 10 TV reporter about if Trump’s response to events following a white supremacist rally was “fine,” Friedman said, “I think that it was not fine,” and added he would rather not comment any further on the matter.
Friedman also said Trump “is being treated unfairly by the media. I think he’ll do a great job for America.”
In fairness to Friedman, this isn’t a question that he could easily shrug off. When it comes to vigorous opposition to the emergence of neo-Nazis, two of our allies have the biggest stake in the response — Israel and Germany. While the Israeli government certainly likes having Donald Trump in charge, they couldn’t have been too keen on his “all sides”/”many sides” condemnation, and the Israeli media and populace probably even less so. Friedman could have insisted on sticking with his original statement, but appears stuck when pressed in the clip above. Mike Pence certainly understands the art of responding to the question you wanted to be asked rather than the question you actually got, but Pence has been at this a lot longer than Friedman, too.
Will Trump let Friedman off the hook for this statement? He doesn’t have much patience for criticism from those he views as subordinates, especially public criticism such as this. It comes at a bad time too, when Trump is making a public case that the media has wronged him for his response to Charlottesville. Friedman is letting some air out of that argument, which can’t make Trump happy so soon after he hyped up his attacks on the media at the Phoenix rally.
Trump probably can’t do much about it at the moment, even if he was inclined to do so. He’s got his hands full in the Middle East already without adding a chance of envoy to the mix. A recent decision on human rights violations in Egypt has already resulted in a diplomatic snub for Trump’s peace negotiator, son-in-law Jared Kushner:
Egypt called off a scheduled meeting between its foreign minister and top U.S. presidential adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday after the United States decided to withhold millions of dollars in aid.
But President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi would meet the U.S. delegation led by Kushner later in the day as scheduled, Sisi’s office said.
Two U.S. sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington had decided to deny Egypt $95.7 million in aid and to delay a further $195 million because of its failure to make progress on respecting human rights and democratic norms.
“Egypt sees this measure as reflecting poor judgment of the strategic relationship that ties the two countries over long decades and as adopting a view that lacks an accurate understanding of the importance of supporting Egypt’s stability,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
There are bigger fish to fry than Friedman and his statement under pressure, even if Mike Huckabee is no doubt ready to take up the post if needed.