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Trump just can't help himself

Debra Saunders on

LONDON -- On Wednesday, President Donald Trump abruptly left a NATO summit near London and canceled a scheduled press conference after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught on camera amusing fellow big shots as he marveled at Trump's long-winded sessions with the press. Trump exhibited a classic case of being able to dish it out but not take it.

Foreign policy guru Ian Bremmer tweeted out the video with a comment: "This happens at every NATO summit with Trump. Every G7. Every G20. The US President is mocked by US allies behind his back."

Having watched the video repeatedly, I think Trudeau wasn't so much mocking Trump as commiserating with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. All three have had their own experiences playing minor characters with bit speaking parts as Leading Man Trump delivers soliloquies to the press pool.

It's common for leaders to take a couple of press questions at these meet-and-greet sessions. But Trump likes to hear himself talk so much that his press availabilities with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron and Trudeau lasted about 52 minutes, 39 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively. If Trump talked for another hour, they could have winded up on Gilligan's island.

Trump tweeted he canceled the presser because "we did so many over the past two days." Like that's ever stopped him before.

Foreign policy types call the meetings "bilats" -- or bilateral meetings -- but with Trump, bilats have the feel of extended monologues.

 

In the military, they'd call this asymmetrical warfare. Trump says whatever he likes, and the other leaders cannot protest in kind lest they tick off the prickly leader of the free world.

And unlike the other heads of state, Trump is unencumbered by his past pronouncements.

Tuesday morning as Trump welcomed Stoltenberg, he went after Macron for making "a very, very nasty statement" about NATO. (Macron called NATO brain dead in an interview published last month in The Economist.) But as a candidate, Trump called NATO "obsolete." At his first NATO summit in 2017, while participating in a dedication ceremony for a memorial to 9/11 and NATO's mutual defense pact, he berated NATO leaders for not paying their fair share. Diplomats would call his dressing down in Brussels inappropriate.

How dare Macron do as Trump did?

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