The contrast could hardly be more stark. From the chaos, recriminations and tribulations of the Trump presidency on American soil has emerged a president who, through a wildly ambitious foreign adventure, has earned respect and stature on the world stage that he has been denied at home.
Indeed, in a remarkably bold and brilliantly choreographed itinerary that took the 45th president on his maiden voyage from Riyadh to Tel Aviv to the Vatican to NATO headquarters in Brussels and finally to the G-7 summit in Sicily, Donald Trump may well have changed the face of his presidency.
An enlarged sense of purpose is, of course, contingent upon the president adapting a newfound sense of sobriety (in the figurative sense, of course). But it is hard to imagine otherwise, given the breadth and magnitude of his mission to: honor the world’s three major religions, build an international coalition against Islamo-fascist terrorism, challenge the leaders of NATO countries and resist the stampede on climate change at the G-7. And timing being everything, the trip and mission were critically punctuated by a terrorist attack in England which shook all of Europe and lent added urgency to the very mission he set out to accomplish – just as he was set to arrive on the European continent.
Putting aside the silly microscopic issues magnified by the press – Melania’s hand movements, Trump shoving the guy from Montenegro, the bizarre picture of Trump and two Arab leaders with the orb – there is little debate, even among Democrats, their sycophants in the estalishment media and perpetual nevertrump Republicans, that this trip – this mission – has been a triumph – the kind Trump has yet to experience in his own land.
Consider what has transpired, both on the ground and symbolically. The mainstream Muslim world has been directly, forcefully and publicly challenged by Trump to join in an international war on terrorism. Trump closed the largest arms deal in American history – worth a cool $110 billion – with Saudi Arabia. Iran has been further isolated by the coalition of Gulf states and the reinforced opposition of Israel. The seemingly impenetrable barrier between Arab allies and the Jewish state was removed with Trump’s first-ever flight directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel. And after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump moved on to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and undoubtedly brought the message that even the dozens of Muslim leaders gathered in Riyadh agree that the time has come, finally, for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And that was just the middle eastern portion of the trip.
Once in Europe. Trump met with a higher level of skepticism or resistance. But he forged a relationship with the leader of the world’s one billion Catholics – in a meeting which by most accounts began frostily and ended warmly. And much like the Muslim leaders in Riyadh, NATO leaders were challenged publicly by the President, who called on them to do something U.S. presidents have been urging for decades – step up and meet the financial obligations to defend themselves which they have ignored for decades. Finally, Trump refused to bow to the pressure of every other G-7 country anxious to double down on their commitment to the economy-crushing Paris Climate Change accord.
Due to both the mission and the turn of events in its midst, this trip has also accomplished one other thing that has received scant attention. Having expended as much political capital on terrorism as he did on this trip reinforces the argument that Trump’s relationship with the Russians is based on exactly what he has claimed all along – no, not colluding with them to rig the election, but enlisting any support he can get from them in the war on terrorism, and implicitly driving a wedge between them and their allies in Iran.
So the question becomes not whether Trump will change, but how he will change when he returns home after connecting meaningfully with dozens of allies and world leaders who have now witnessed his resolve face-to-face, and many of whom appear ready for an actual reset of the world stage.
Trump is famously averse to all things small, and all about things huuuge, and this trip was exactly that. It was a Trump-style audacious gamble that has paid off and been widely applauded. But with big-ticket like items healthcare and tax reform far from settled as he returns to the swamp, the question now becomes whether he can consolidate his newfound stature on the world stage into success on the domestic front.