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A low point for America overseas

Queen Elizabeth II speaks with President Donald Trump

Queen Elizabeth II speaks with President Donald Trump during an event to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Portsmouth, England on June 5, 2019. Credit: AP/Matt Dunham

President Donald Trump may have hit a new low as he lied, seethed, intruded and blundered his way through his trip to Britain. Beginning with his taunting the mayor of London, Trump seemed unaware and unconcerned that his vengeful tweeting about the media ("Haven't seen any protests yet, but I'm sure the Fake News will be working hard to find them."), which is commonplace at home, when sent from overseas underscores how unserious, uncouth and uninformed he really is.

Moreover, at the center of the Western alliance, where civil liberties and the rule of law are foundational values, Trump once more showed he doesn't understand the country he leads. He tweeted threats to AT&T, the corporation that owns CNN: "I believe that if people stoped [sic] using or subscribing to @ATT, they would be forced to make big changes at @CNN, which is dying in the ratings anyway. It is so unfair with such bad, Fake News! Why wouldn't they act. When the World watches @CNN, it gets a false picture of USA. Sad!"

Queen Elizabeth II, as if to underscore a desperation to educate him about the "special relationship" between the United States and Britain, delivered a pointed gift: an abridged first edition of "The Second World War," written by wartime prime minister Winston Churchill. Perhaps someone will read it to him. Prime Minister Theresa May also showed him a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Alas, they will find it just as impossible to educate him about our shared values as so many Americans have found.

His trip took a semi-disastrous turn at his news conference. The Post reports:

"Trump may have inadvertently played into some of Britons' worst fears about their post-Brexit future when he suggested that Britain's National Health Service (NHS) could be a part of a U.S.-Britain trade deal.

" 'When you're dealing on trade, everything is on the table - so NHS or anything else, and a lot more than that,' the president said when asked about the position of Britain's health system in a trade deal. 'Everything will be on the table, absolutely.'"

Very possibly, Trump has no idea what the National Health Service is or how it might figure into trade talks. Since the world plays along with the fiction that he is serious about what he says (as opposed to a man who bluffs, blunders and lies his way through life), that alone set off a firestorm.

The president also lied about small things (his approval among Republicans; "thousands" of Britons cheering him; the massive protests) and about his own record (e.g., predicting Brexit - which he did not do). He again insulted the mayor of London and waded into domestic British politics by dubbing Labour Party chief Jeremy Corbyn a "negative" force. He acknowledged he wasn't supposed to weigh in on the issue of May's successor, but then offered his opinion of several of the contenders.

All in all, it was a dreadful performance, showcasing Trump's ignorance and dishonesty. His news conference on Tuesday was the perfect example of how he has eroded respect for and the influence of the United States on the world stage.

So where are the 2020 Democratic contenders? The Center for American Progress's Brian Katulis suggests they explain to Americans why the president's conduct matters, and the reaction need not be terribly detailed. "We are much better than this" would be one point, Katulis suggests. Moreover, Katulis said, "We need to stay true to who we are - and Trump doesn't show our best face." And most important, he added, Democrats should communicate that Trump "is a man without a plan and the whole world knows it."

In sum, Trump's cringeworthy visit should remind us of the urgency of getting him out of office. It should also remind 2020 candidates that they'd better offer a reasoned critique and present themselves as a preferable option for commander in chief.

Jennifer Rubin wrote this for The Washington Post.


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