Trump is, in fact a remarkably incurious president. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, isn’t in any hurry to find out, and yet still thinks he knows more about everything than anybody else. When it comes to the IC’s assessments of Saudi behavior, Trump resembles the character Sergeant Schultz in the show Hogan’s Heroes, who claimed that he knew nothing, saw nothing, and heard nothing.
Effective diplomacy requires presidents to gain the trust and confidence of their counterparts. Nonetheless, those personal relations cannot substitute for hard-headed and clear eyed thinking about America’s national interests. All too often, Trump has let his personal likes, dislikes and interests dictate his thinking and actions. His unwillingness to criticize Putin (whose own intelligence organization murdered Russian nationals with chemical weapons in Britain) suggests Putin may have something on Trump related to his business interests.
And there’s little doubt that Saudi fawning, feting and flattering of Trump, both rhetorical and monetary, largely accounts for his positive view of the wealthy Kingdom. Trump has boasted about the millions he has made from dealings with the Saudis, who continue to spend generously on his hotels here. It’s worrisome as well that he’s left his son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of managing the relationship with MBS, who once claimed that he had Kushner in his pocket.