Over the past two weeks, I have been asking the same question to my friends in the Middle East: Do you feel as good about the president’s trip to your region today as you did two weeks ago?
So much of significance happens daily with this president that it’s sometimes tough to even remember what happened a few short weeks ago. But, even accounting for the generous curve against which this president is graded diplomatically, the president’s critics should acknowledge that Donald Trump had a successful trip to both Saudi Arabia and Israel. He managed to reset strained relationships with the Gulf allies in Riyadh, and in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu was bound and determined that Trump would be welcomed with a warmth seldom afforded to the previous occupant of the White House.
But boy, did it all go downhill from there.
The second half of the president’s trip was miserable. The president declined to back the NATO alliance and alienated his fellow G-7 members on everything from Russia to climate change. Air Force One had barely left the European continent before an exasperated Angela Merkel loudly suggested Europe could no longer count on the United States to lead.
Since returning to the United States, meanwhile, the president has announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate accords—a decision that confounded strategists across the political spectrum since the accords themselves were designed in such a way as to impose few real costs on the United States. The primary effect of Trump’s decision—especially when taken together with his lukewarm feelings toward NATO and his earlier withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership—has been to abdicate American leadership on the global stage.