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Ahead of D-Day, Trump storms into Europe

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By Jonathan Allen

LONDON — President Donald Trump arrives here Monday for a pomp-and-ceremony-heavy visit to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day already having achieved some measure of success in his twin quests: for disruption, and acceptance.

Before departing, Trump injected himself into British domestic politics, endorsing nationalist-leaning former London Mayor Boris Johnson in the dozen-candidate Conservative Party race for prime minister and urging the country to exit its “Brexit” negotiations if its demands aren’t met by the European Union.

In the U.K., Trump is a deeply controversial figure — some politicians on the left are boycotting him — which means his decision to wade into the intra-party prime minister fight could be helpful to Johnson now, but an irritant for British swing voters in the long run.

He also referred to Meghan Markle, the duchess of Sussex and a grand-daughter-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II, as “nasty” in an interview with a British newspaper — a comment he denied making despite the existence of a clear audio recording.

And yet there is so much on the line for a beleaguered Britain right now — destabilized by the paralysis following its “Brexit” vote three years ago to leave the European Union — that Trump can still expect the literal and figurative royal treatment from Queen Elizabeth and her family. While it has been on the books for some time, Trump’s first official “state visit” to the U.K. couldn’t come at a more auspicious moment for British officials eager to show their “special relationship” with the U.S. is as strong as ever.

In short, they need him, and he knows it.

That could make for some more interesting theatrics, both in terms of Trump’s forays into British politics and in his willingness to talk about his leverage in the bilateral relationship. But it might not amount to much in terms of deal-making, even though Trump could benefit from showing progress on the international stage amid trade disputes with China and Mexico, the resurgence of North Korean nuclear testing and heightened tension with Iran.

“I do think this trip is going to be heavy on ceremony and light on substance,” said Amanda Sloat, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who previously worked on U.S.-Europe relations in President Barack Obama’s State Department. That’s in large part because Prime Minister Theresa May, who will meet with Trump Tuesday, is stepping down Friday.

In some cases, Trump seems to relish adding to the atmosphere of upheaval. His interviews with newspapers founded by right-wing publisher Rupert Murdoch in the days leading up to the trip produced a steady stream of headlines in the U.K. that roiled local politics and culture — from his endorsement of Johnson to his thoughts on “Brexit” to labeling Markle with a word, “nasty,” that he’s also used in conjunction with his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris.

Beyond the sensational, Trump has been talking about a possible U.S.-U.K. trade deal for more than a year, and some in Britain think his presence here could be important for another topic that gets less attention but is very important: international security.

“We want to have that direct conversation with the president on everything from China to Iran to North Korea,” said a former adviser to ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting his current employer. “One of the reasons that direct contact with this president is so crucial is that it’s the only way of really trying to know what the administration game plan is. All the usual structures and processes of diplomacy really don’t work with this administration because of the president’s personal style.”

In addition to May and the royals, Trump plans to take a quick trip to Ireland to meet with Taioseach Leo Varadkar, who is head of that nation’s government, and sit down for a one-on-one with French President Emmanuel Macron.

All of it will play out against the backdrop of the anniversary of D-Day — June 6, 1944 — when Allied forces launched a surprise attack, establishing a beachhead at Normandy, France, and turning the tide of World War II in Europe. At the time, the the U.S. and U.K. were joined in their efforts to stop the expansionist nationalism of Nazi Germany.

Trump is expected to participate in ceremonies celebrating the anniversary Wednesday on the British side of the English Channel and Thursday at Normandy.

American officials say the timing of Trump’s trip, though long-planned, serves to illustrate that it’s the bond between the countries — not the personalities — that matters.

“Even in the most difficult times, where you may have political upheaval and uncertainty,” a senior administration official said, “we need to stand together shoulder to shoulder.”

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Politics

Democratic 2020 hopefuls tout their pride at Iowa LGBTQ forum

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Ten Democratic presidential candidates gathered at Coe College on Friday night to make their pitches to LGBTQ voters in the nation’s first caucus state. Candidates were largely united on passing the Equality Act, addressing violence against transgender women, and undoing president Trump’s ban on transgender military service.

The LGBTQ Presidential Forum was the first such forum since 2007. The candidates spoke in tight, ten minute segments. Here’s a rundown of what each had to say.

Marianne Williamson

First on stage was Marianne Williamson, a candidate who has struggled to register in opinion polls.

The Advocate’s editor-in-chief Zach Stafford quizzed Williamson about her writing that “love” can heal sickness, such as AIDS. “I believed that with love for each other, we could get through it,” Williamson said of her sister’s fight with cancer.

Williamson said as president she would “speak very loudly” about the Equality Act, a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act, banning conversion therapy, and would advocate for repealing the ban on transgender people serving in the military.

She said that while some believe diversity is like “an incredible garden,” a “panoply of diversity,” others disagree — sometimes violently. “Some people find that entire idea as psychically annihilating to their identity,” Williamson said, noting that LGBTQ opponents are politically active and do vote. “You make me president, I’ll have your back,” Williamson said.

Joe Sestak

Second up for the night was Joe Sestak, another long-shot candidate who has struggled to register in opinion polls. Sestak was quizzed by Keenan Crow, director of Iowa LGBTQ advocacy group One Iowa. Sestak touted his experience as a navy officer who was “deeply opposed to the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy from the time of its inception.”

Sestak spoke about how sailors on aircraft carriers “didn’t care” about the gay servicemembers, whose surreptitious service under “don’t ask, don’t tell” was widely known by their peers. He was quizzed in detail about how he would undo Trump’s transgender military ban. “What you need to do is have those types of mandated reports that they do have,” he said, “and then hold the admirals and generals to task.”

“You really must inspect, and when you have the result, go back and hold the military accountable” if there is still discrimination against transgender service members, Sestak said.



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Labour coup to oust Watson after he plotted to be PM in anti-Brexit Government

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THE sneaky bid to oust Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson was sparked by suspicions he was scheming with Tory rebels and Liberal Democrats MPs to become prime minister of a caretaker Government.

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Booker says it's time for his campaign to 'grow or get out'

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MSNBC’s Vaughn Hillyard asked 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., about a memo that says his campaign needs to raise support or he may drop out of the race.

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