In the days since I last posted, the country has moved on: a presidential speech in the heart of Wahabbist Saudi Arabia, presumed terrorist attack in England, a lover's spat between the House Speaker and the President, and the President reportedly urging the DNI and the director of the NSA to deny collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. Additionally, Politico reports
Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev asked the prime minister whether he had any concerns about intelligence cooperation with the U.S., according to the White House press pool.
“The intelligence cooperation is terrific,” Netanyahu told reporters. Trump paused for a moment and halted the press from leaving the room. “Hey, folks,” he said. “Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel.’ Never mentioned it during that conversation.
He looked toward Netanyahu as he gestured toward the pack of reporters. “They were all saying I did,” the president said. “So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word ‘Israel.’”
It wasn't much of a secret at that point and was largely an unnecessary whine from a guy who has almost raised whining to an art form. But it was yet another example of Donald Trump doing what the cowardly specialize in: playing to his audience.
The National Review's Andrew McCartthy laments that in Riyadh
As prepared, the text had the president calling for “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires” (emphasis added). But when he actually delivered his remarks, Trump departed from the script, speaking instead of “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds.”
Trump's aides later insisted that the President had confused the terms "Islamist"- favored by doves- and the more confrontational "Islamic" even though, as The Hill explains
The expression “radical Islamic terrorism" became a centerpiece for Trump’s presidential campaign, with the business magnate claiming the term was a pivotal point in addressing modern threats.
Trump repeatedly criticized the Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent for president, for not using the phrase when talking about the fight against terrorist threats.
“I am going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” Trump said at a rally in Ocala, Fla., in October, adding that Clinton “won’t even use the term."
During the campaign, Trump gave his supportive, even rapturous, crowds the red meat they had come for.
But now his tune- at least in front of the Saudis- has changed. "In addition to ancient wonders," the President commented, "the magnificent kingdom of Saudi Arabia "is also home to modern ones—including soaring achievements in architecture." He saluted the new Terrorist Financing Targeting Center "co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia," and argued "Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030 is an important and encouraging statement of tolerance, respect, empowering women, and economic development."
The speech marked approval by the Administration of the sale of $110 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia, promulgated as Riyadh continues to slaughter civilians in Yemen. An advocate of "religious freedom" domestically, the President chose not to acknowledge that Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia and no other religion may be practiced publicly. Those scimitars wielded by Saudis and Donald Trump demonstrating the traditional sword dance are the Kingdom's weapons of choice for execution for crimes ranging from blasphemy to murder. Public display of crosses, Bibles, and other non-Islamic religious articles is banned and participants in religious worship outside of Islam may find themselves imprisoned. Freedom!
The speech in Riyadh displayed Donald J. Trump at his pandering best, the most inauthentic President ever revered for his authenticity. Trump yearns for approval of his audience and bearing the strength of no convictions, backs down routinely. It's why he choked before President Nieto of Mexico, why James Comey found out only from television that he had been fired, and why he touted the "shared interests and values" with the nation deeply involved in the greatest terrorist attack in American history.