C’mon. If you’re going to lie, spend three minutes on making the lie believable. Americans expect their leaders to lie. Just don’t be lazy about it.
Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
When, for diplomatic reasons, you can’t publicly blame Theresa May or the British people for the cancellation, blame Obama. Except, notes Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale, it wasn’t Obama who made the decision to move the U.S. embassy to an “off location” in Nine Elms. It was the Bush administration, towards the very end of Dubya’s presidency. And it wasn’t moved because Bush was a sucker willing to accept “peanuts” for the old embassy. It was moved because the feds feared that the old site couldn’t be properly secured against terrorist attacks. Even if everything Trump tweeted were true, how insulting would it be for the president to snub the U.S. diplomatic staff in London just because he didn’t like the site of the new embassy?
Fortunately, there’s no snub. It’s not true. As recently as a month ago Trump’s own ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, was expecting him to visit. If Trump had some issue with the embassy or its new location, that would have been made clear long ago. We all know the real reason the trip’s been postponed:
Donald Trump has cancelled a visit to Britain next month to open the new US embassy in London, amid fears of mass protests…
The prime minister invited Trump for a state visit when she became the first world leader to visit the president in the White House a year ago. Activists immediately pledged to stage protests and MPs have said they would not give the president the opportunity to address parliament…
Instead of a state visit, it had been expected that Trump would make a brief, less formal “working visit” in February to cut the ribbon on the embassy in south-west London, and hold meetings with May. Officials had also been examining plans for the president to meet the Queen without the pomp of a full-blown state banquet.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who’s been in an intermittent war of words with Trump for months, spiked the football on Twitter:
Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he’s finally got that message. This reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place. pic.twitter.com/lNaQGx9iBw
— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) January 12, 2018
How many “incidents” between Trump and the British government have there been since he took office? Things started well with May’s visit to the White House a week after the inauguration but it’s been all downhill from there. He’s accused Khan, a Muslim, of being soft on terrorism, had his press secretary repeat a dubious claim that Britain’s NSA wiretapped his campaign, retweeted anti-Muslim videos posted by a British fascist, then scolded May after she publicly disavowed them. He accused Scotland Yard of having had a terrorist in their sights and failing to stop him from attacking. His intelligence bureau leaked sensitive photos of the device used in the Manchester bombing to the New York Times. The House of Commons has openly debated whether his invitation to visit should be withdrawn and, if it isn’t, whether he should be barred from addressing the chamber. The bad vibes here aren’t a secret.
But if all that doesn’t convince you that he’s worried, justifiably, about an embarrassingly chilly reception, just look back to the alleged transcript of a call between him and May that leaked in July:
A transcript of the chat, seen by senior diplomats, reveals his touchiness. Mr Trump says: “I haven’t had great coverage out there lately, Theresa.”
She replies awkwardly: “Well, you know what the British press are like.”
He replies: “I still want to come, but I’m in no rush.
“So, if you can fix it for me, it would make things a lot easier.
“When I know I’m going to get a better reception, I’ll come and not before.”
I don’t know what he thought May could do to “fix” it for him, especially with Khan egging people on to show that he’s not welcome. But if there was any remaining doubt that the optics of the visit would be bad, Sh*tholegate probably removed it. “I seriously wonder whether President Trump will ever again visit the capital city of any democratic US ally,” said David Frum this morning. He will, for sure — but maybe not until that ally needs something badly from the United States. Until then, where can he visit that *wouldn’t* raise mass protests? Israel, probably. Japan? The entire continent of Europe may be out for now. His upcoming trip to Davos should be fun.