President Trump is not a diplomat. He has direction internationally, and ideas that need to be put into policy, but he is not the one to take the message to the international public. This was clearly evident with his performances at the NATO meeting and the Helsinki Summit. He does not have a diplomatic bone in his body. He obfuscates his messages in the worst way. At NATO he slammed the organization for being “freeloaders”, and subsequently slammed the EU for their unfair trade practices. This brought the relationships to new lows, and the confused messaging had NATO members wondering if the USA will live up to their obligations, and had the EU upset about a path to rectify trade differences. Whats even worst, it had the potential to give the “green light” to Russia for more aggressive behavior on the continent, sending that message to Putin right before the Helsinki Summit. This was bad messaging, bad politics, and could have been avoided.
At Helsinki after the Summit, the President gave a joint news conference with President Putin. The conference was put to shambles with the President focusing on his domestic problem with the Mueller investigation, which was not even a topic for discussion. This was initiated by a rambunctious AP reporter that asked pointed questions to both Trump and Putin about Russian interference and collusion in the 2016 election, and frankly the questions were stumbled over by Trump, and Putin’s denials were no help. One couldn’t help but to see Putin as the one in control at the news conference. The entire Summit was put into disrepair with those visuals, and once again, it did not have to happen.
President Trump has no talent for diplomacy. He most likely will never acquire that talent. He has many initiatives on the international front that he wants to implement, many good ideas to share with both our allies and our competitors, but he is not the one that should be singularly communicating these initiatives. That is what professional diplomats are for. These are people that have been in the international system for awhile, and know how to express themselves succinctly and without any perceived animus. These are people that understand the motivations of their target audiences, and tailor their presentations for maximum effect. They are good at it. Our President is not.
Mike Pompeo has an impressive resume. He is a veteran, a businessman, lawyer, congressman, and CIA director. At the CIA he proved himself to be adept at dealing with international leaders, and subsequently was appointed to be Secretary of State. He has a team of diplomatic veterans that work with him, and is very capable of representing the President and the USA in the diplomatic field. This is the man that should control how the messages are communicated. Mr. Trump should use Secretary Pompeo and his team to his benefit. If he does so in the future, these embarrassments will not again rear their ugly head.