But of course there’s an element of fatal self-absorption to it all. In Washington, it’s as if the city is permanently turned inward on the escalating distractions of the Trump Presidency, the investigations that threaten him, and the Democratic political contest to defeat him. Meanwhile, the rest of the world wonders what to make of a President who chides his closest allies and speaks warmly of its foes. There are real consequences to this; new survey data from the Pew Research Center found that Europeans are now more likely to trust Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s leader Xi Jinping than Trump in world affairs, and by a significant margin.
Last Friday morning, the former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt appeared on a panel in Munich about the Iran nuclear deal and the U.S. decision to pull out of it. When the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, arrived late, he immediately began lecturing Bildt and other Europeans about how they needed to fall in line with the Administration’s policy and withdraw, too. “It went downhill from there,” Bildt told me later. “You are damaging the interests of your country,” Bildt, a longtime U.S. partner, remembered telling Grenell. And so it has come to this: Europeans now see themselves as stewards of a vision of American leadership in the world that America’s leader no longer subscribes to. Indeed, Grenell, a particular favorite of Trump’s since his days as a combative Fox News pundit, may soon be in line for a promotion. He was reported to be in the White House on Thursday, once again in the running to become America’s chief diplomat at the United Nations.