President Donald Trump has only just begun his first road trip outside the United States, and he’s already “exhausted,” according to one of his own advisors. This may or may not be true, since anything either Trump or any of his spokespeople say at this point has to be taken with a grain of salt ― especially considering the “exhausted” comment was given as an excuse for a Trump gaffe (more on that in a bit). But this week’s calendar for Trump seems to have been constructed on the theme of: “Any Trump campaign promises left unbroken? Well, let’s see how many we can break in a single week!”
Let’s begin with Trump’s reported exhaustion. Trump apparently tried to cut the length of his first trip in half, because nine days on the road was just too much to ask. On Day Two of his trip, he’s already got an advisor explaining a gaffe away because of exhaustion. That doesn’t exactly bode well for the rest of the trip, does it? Especially since he made so much political hay on the campaign trail over the issue of how manly he was ― as compared to “low energy” Jeb Bush and “no stamina” Hillary Clinton. This is all pretty amusing in hindsight, after Trump’s Day Two exhaustion.
The gaffe in question was how Trump described the terrorists he’s fighting. Again, on the campaign trail, he berated President Obama for not using the manly term “radical Islamic terrorism,” which was supposed to be some sort of magic phrase that caused them all to melt into a puddle of water when uttered. Obama used terms like “jihadist terrorists” which is essentially the same thing (”jihadist” is a term specific to Muslim terrorists, after all), but to Trump and his supporters nothing short of “radical Islamic terrorism” would do.
Some within his administration have been pushing to soften this term, since Islamic partners have always been necessary to successfully defeat the terrorists. So Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia, as prepared, was supposed to change this to the more-nuanced “Islamist terrorism.” But either Trump didn’t get the memo or he just isn’t all that good at reading his TelePrompTer, because he read it as “Islamic terrorism” anyway. Or maybe he’s just exhausted, as one of his advisors explained. It was a long flight, and Trump stayed up reading newspapers rather than sleep.
The irony in all of this is that Trump was giving this speech inside one of the most “Islamist” countries on the planet. Iran is the most Islamist Shi’ite country around, and Saudi Arabia is the most Islamist Sunni country around. But Trump saved all his criticism for Iran (where, unlike in Saudi Arabia, women are actually allowed to drive). And then one of his advisors noted approvingly of the absence of protesters on the streets ― apparently not realizing that protesting the royal government can literally get your head chopped off, in the Saudi kingdom.
Trump used to have some very harsh words about the Saudi form of government ― their treatment of gays and women, in particular ― but none of that was on display while he was there. Trump used to berate Hillary Clinton for donations the Clinton Foundation received from Saudi Arabia, which is where he’d usually point out their woeful human rights record. Trump used to call for Clinton to give back all the Saudi donations, in fact. Which made the news that the Saudis will be giving $100 million to a fund championed by his daughter Ivanka all the more surprising. But then again, it was “let’s break all our promises” week, right?
Two other things that both Trump and a whole lot of other Republicans got explosively irate about when President Obama visited the Saudis were Michelle Obama’s refusal to cover her hair and Barack Obama bowing to the Saudi king. So, of course, Melania Trump left her hair uncovered and Donald Trump bowed to the Saudi king. Because it fit right in with the “everything I said while campaigning was a lie” theme of the week.
Then Trump was off to Israel, where he had already broken a key campaign promise. Before he arrived, the White House had already announced Trump had rethought his promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. This was probably a wise move (it would be an incredibly provocative act), but it still has to be chalked up as another unkept promise, for Trump.
Today’s big gaffe came out of the blue. Trump, while talking to reporters, added an afterthought, answering a question that hadn’t even been asked. Here’s what Trump had to say:
Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel. Never mentioned it during that conversation. They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.
This requires some unpacking, to fully understand the stupidity of it all. First, Trump wasn’t even asked about “that conversation” ― the meeting he had with two top Russian officials in the Oval Office where he shared secrets to brag about the intelligence he got on a daily basis. Second, nobody has ever accused Trump of leaking the fact that the intelligence secrets he shared with the Russians was from Israel. Not one news story made this claim. The damage Trump did was to reveal what city in Syria the intelligence came from, which gave the Russians a big clue as to which country’s intelligence assets were involved. Far from “they’re all saying I did” ― in fact, nobody said Trump did this. He’s the one who got the story wrong. But the biggest stupidity of all was the fact that by bringing this subject up unprompted, while in Israel, Trump has now completely confirmed that Israel was in fact the country involved. Prior to Trump’s statements, it had been an unverified leak to the media, but now it is all but a certainty. Meaning Trump didn’t just blow things when talking to the Russians, he also compounded his error while standing next to Israel’s prime minister.
Remember back during the campaign when his crowds would chant “Lock her up!” and Trump would make the case that Hillary Clinton couldn’t be trusted with the nation’s secrets? Yeah, those were the days. Maybe he’s just exhausted, or something.
Back home, Team Trump is not napping during Trump’s trip. They’re also on track to break as many campaign promises as humanly possible. The official Trump budget will be rolled out this week ― on the same day the Congressional Budget Office releases its analysis of Trumpcare 2.0 (the final bill which passed the House of Representatives). So Wednesday will bring a cornucopia of broken promises! Trump’s budget slashes all the safety net spending that he spent his entire campaign promising he wouldn’t touch, just for starters. And Trumpcare was supposed to be better and cheaper for everyone, but instead the mess that Paul Ryan passed will kick millions off their insurance and hike the prices through the roof if you’ve ever even previously gotten a hangnail. Both Trumpcare and his new budget are in fact breathtaking in the scope of how many Trump promises they’ll break.
Meanwhile, Michael Flynn is attempting to stand on his Fifth Amendment rights by refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents to a congressional committee. He may very well be breaking the law by doing so (”taking the Fifth” doesn’t normally mean you can refuse to produce documents), but it remains to be seen whether Congress will go after him for the crime. But this just brings up the many times Trump berated Hillary Clinton aides for taking the Fifth, because (as Trump explained) if you take the Fifth, it means you definitely have something to hide. So chalk up one more big broken campaign promise, as the first Trump administration official (but likely nowhere near the last) takes the Fifth rather than explain to the American people what Trump and his administration have been up to.
All of this, and it’s only Monday. Trump’s got a full week ahead of him out on the road, so in a few days all of this might seem to be small potatoes. Who knows what Trump will do or say next that’ll get him into trouble? Maybe he’ll question the Pope’s Christianity? Wouldn’t surprise me, at this point. Or perhaps he’ll kindly explain to the Pope that the whole “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” parable actually meant that Jesus was for massive tax cuts for rich people? Nah, that’s too deep for Trump, most likely.
Trump will also meet with NATO, where they’ve been briefed to try as hard as possible not to bore Trump. No, really. Maybe they’re afraid that Trump will return to his campaign rhetoric about them ― back in the campaign NATO was “obsolete,” remember. Trump already broke this promise weeks ago (he declared them “not obsolete” in a fit of magnanimity), but who’s to say he won’t flip-flop again? I could just see him tweeting: “NATO not just obsolete, but BORING too! Sad!”
Trump has only just begun his first road trip. He’s apparently already exhausted, and saying things he shouldn’t (in both countries he’s visited so far ― a perfect record!). He seems determined to break as many campaign promises as possible this week, but that’s mostly good news (because most of his campaign promises were so inane to begin with). It should be an interesting rest of the week, that’s for sure.
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant