The past four U.S. presidents, when making their first trips abroad, traveled to either Canada or Mexico. Donald Trump, by contrast, will go to Saudi Arabia—to meet not only with the Saudi leadership but with other Gulf and Arab leaders.
This is a move by the anti-Obama. The former president’s relations with America’s traditional regional partners were strained, so what better way to advertise that you’re not the former president than to embrace them whole-heartedly—despite some of the pointed things you yourself said about them on the campaign trail.
As I have previously written, the Gulf Arabs are still excited about Donald Trump, even as the president’s position among his own people continues to collapse following a weeklong artillery barrage of bombshells on everything from the president’s firing of the FBI director to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Predictions are always dangerous, and the last time I predicted something, it was that Trump would not strike Syria, but throwing caution to the wind yet again, here goes: I think Trump is going to have a very positive trip to the Kingdom.
The Saudis with whom I have spoken are prepared to roll out of the red carpet for the visiting U.S. president, and he will eat up their hospitality. As long as they keep the bilateral engagements short and do not subject the president to a procession of long-winded speeches by others, Trump will leave Saudi Arabia wishing he could spend more time in such places where people afford him more respect than the Washington press corps. For my part, I’ll be playing in the U.S. national rugby championships this weekend and am thus very disappointed to miss Toby Keith’s sure-to-be-amazing, men-only concert in Riyadh accompanied by an Arab lute player.