Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trust Or Accuse

Early on St. Patrick's Day (and not "St. Patty's Day;" Patrick was a man), Charlie Pierce would write (asterisk his)

This is an administration that is putting the country (and the world) in a very difficult position. The only people in it that seem to know what they're doing are the ones that have been put in place to demolish things on purpose. The rest of them demolish things by accident.

Angela Merkel dropped by on Friday to chat with the president*. Run for your life, Angela. We'll get back to you when and if things settle down.

If this seemed a little alarmist, it turned out to be unrealistically reassuring, for

Near the end of his meticulously formal, utterly impersonal news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump finally sought a sliver of common ground with his guest: They both, he said, had been wiretapped by former President Barack Obama.

Ms. Merkel did a barely perceptible double take, busying herself by shuffling her notes. She smiled thinly and said nothing, as if she had resolved not to get drawn into Mr. Trump’s political dramas.

It was like that throughout Mr. Trump’s first meeting with Ms. Merkel on Friday, an awkward encounter that was the most closely watched of his young presidency and took on an outsize symbolism: the great disrupter confronts the last defender of the liberal world order.

Worlds apart in style and policy, Mr. Trump and Ms. Merkel made a show of working together, as they stood side by side in the East Room of the White House. But they could not disguise the gulf that separates them on trade, immigration and a host of other thorny issues.

I don't believe Angela Merkel would be pleased at being associated with anything "liberal," but as the the de facto leader of the Free World by default, a little discomfort must be tolerated.

The Obama Administration never admitted that the C.I.A. had spied- probably without the President's approval- on the German Chancellor, but when the report of the wiretap appeared in October 2015, Merkel responded "We need trust,... Spying among friends is never acceptable...."

"As far as wiretapping," Trump quipped at the news conference, "I guess by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps." And now the leader of the Free World has been reminded of an unpleasant incident she and Obama probably had agreed to put behind them.

Imagine if a best friend reminded your Facebook contacts that your previous best friend had once enjoyed a torrid love affair with your wife. No one had admitted anything, life had gone on calmly, and now he reignites the issue. Patience, Madame Chancellor.

Trump's smart-ass comment may not have been his worst wiretapping remark. The President did not retract his claim of collusion between the United Kingdom and President Obama, nor did he deftly bat away the question. Rather

President Donald Trump defiantly refused to back down Friday from his explosive claim that Barack Obama wiretapped his phones, and sidestepped any blame for the White House decision to highlight an unverified report that Britain helped carry out the alleged surveillance.

Evidently, the British are not amused, though whether any less pleased than Merkel with the man who occupies the seat once most responsible for upholding the trans-Atlantic alliance is questionable. "Trust needs to be rebuilt," remarked Merkel upon hearing of the alleged wiretapping a year ago October. Publicly charging an ex-President with spying on one ally, and trying to implicate another ally in in another episode was not a good start.

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