George W. Bush was famous for campaigning, back in his first presidential campaign in 2000, with the now (in)famous argument that he was “a uniter, not a divider.” (In retrospect, that may have been the first presidential “fake news” effort.)
In the real world, Bush’s comforting slogan turned out the exact opposite: The former Governor of Texas pursued an agenda that was very divisive domestically.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Bush managed to top this in the international arena. There, his performance proved explosively divisive. His completely unnecessary Iraq War, in particular, caused long-time allies of the United States to part company with the West’s leading power.
To cover that up, Bush and his team started to refer to his much smaller war-making cabal, which most prominently included the U.S.’s eternal sidekick, UK, as an “Alliance of the Willing.”
While Donald Trump did not exactly use those same words, there are plenty of occasions where Donald, as candidate and U.S. President, mouthed words to the same effect, including during his Inaugural Speech in January 2017.
Trump’s record in office, however, makes an even bigger mockery of the “uniter” claim on the domestic front than was the case for Bush Jr. From his first day in office onward, the new President has poured acid over the slogan.
Trump’s baseline reflex seems to be to ridicule the Democrats and any other political force that does not volunteer to be completely submissive to him.
The difference internationally
As it happens, the same is true on the international front, regarding the U.S. traditional “Western” allies. Where nations parted company from George W. Bush over Iraq, he was always trying to woo them.
In contrast, Trump heaps most foreign nations with a near-constant barrage of outright scorn. Europe, and Germany in particular, seems to be just one notch short of Iran on Mr. Trump’s list of rogue nations. (Apparently, Trump is seeking to balance that out by his sick admiration of Suck-up-Arabia, formerly ”Saudi” Arabia, and of buttering up China’s Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago).
Yet, there is good news to be reported — and for this Donald Trump definitely deserves credit. His many distastefully uninformed speeches and actions have had a salutary effect on Europe.
The EU is probably the world’s biggest beneficiary of Trump’s many “trumpist” (i.e., blatantly ignorant) moves. Individual EU nations are happy as well.
Look back just a year ago — and the entire European edifice was expected to be sacrificed on the altar of populism. Then, the shock of the Trump election happened.
How Trump helped Europe out of a real pickle
Donald Trump acted according to script and gave his a most effective impersonification of Mussolini-style temper tantrums. Europeans, who do remember their history, got a very direct lesson in the absolute downsides of populism.
Trump’s performance was much more effective in building up resistance forces than any amount of speechifying of establishment politicians or of endless reams of lead editorials written in most newspapers could ever have accomplished.
As a net result, the supposed EU “dominoes” — from the Netherlands to France — did not fall. Indeed, the triumph of Macron, aided by incredibly fortuitous timing, was aided by Trump being Trump.
The happiest result was effectively that Marine Le Pen was toast after the orange-haired President seized the world stage. Her Front National party may not even get enough seat in the new French Parliament to reach full party status.
The end of the older brother syndrome
Europeans have long realized, but never really acted upon the need to act more independently on the international stage. Donald Trump’s actions – not just on the Paris Climate Accord — make it impossible now for the EU not to grow up.
The EU has long argued, rather ineffectively to date, that it provides a useful shield for member nations if and when that is necessary. Trade will be one issue where this shield will come into play rather imminently, even for mighty Germany.
It will take a couple of decades for Europe to get where it must be as an international actor. But thanks to Trump, long-forgotten projects, like a de facto European Defense Union (first pursued in the 1950s, but then aborted) are back on the map.
Most importantly, Europe does not stand alone. Indeed, it already stands shoulder to shoulder with the enlightened part of the United States, including California.