Trump’s Embarrassing Visit To The United Kingdom

Not surprisingly, the President's visit to the United Kingdom wasn't exactly diplomatic, or even borderline polite.

Hours after arriving in the United Kingdom yesterday, Donald Trump blasted his host in an interview with a Rupert Murdoch owned tabloid that released the interview just as the President was sitting down to dinner with Prime Minister Theresa May:

Near the end of the gala dinner Mrs. May was hosting for Mr. Trump on Thursday night, word emerged that he had given a newspaper interview in which he criticized her handling of the Brexit negotiations and appeared to boost the fortunes of a political rival.

If Mrs. May persists in seeking a so-called soft exit from the European Union, Mr. Trump reportedly told The Sun, she can forget about a separate pact with the United States. He described her approach as “very unfortunate.”

“If they do that,” the paper quoted him as saying, “then their trade deal with the U.S. will probably not be made.”

He had much warmer words for Boris Johnson, the ambitious British politician who just quit as foreign minister in an open break with May.

Mr. Johnson, he said, would “make a great prime minister.”

The bombshell interview may give Mr. Trump and Mrs. May something to talk about on Friday — when they are to meet for lunch.

More from The Sun:

Donald Trump today accuses the PM of wrecking Brexit — and warns she may have killed off any chance of a vital US trade deal.

The US President delivers his incendiary verdict on her negotiating strategy in a world exclusive interview with The Sun.

In an extraordinary intervention timed to coincide with his UK visit, Mr Trump said Theresa May ignored his advice by opting for a soft Brexit strategy.

And he warned her any attempts to maintain close ties with the EU would make a lucrative US trade deal very unlikely.

Mr Trump said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.”

His comments, damaging to the Prime Minister, come as he delivers his most brutally honest verdict yet on Britain in which he also:

(…)

Theresa May’s new soft Brexit blueprint would “kill” any future trade deal with the United States, Donald Trump warns today.

Mounting an extraordinary attack on the PM’s exit negotiation, the President also reveals she has ignored his advice on how to toughen up the troubled talks.

Instead he believes Mrs May has gone “the opposite way”, and he thinks the results have been “very unfortunate”.

His fiercest criticism came over the centrepiece of the PM’s new Brexit plan — which was unveiled in full yesterday.

It would stick to a common ­rulebook with Brussels on goods and agricultural produce in a bid to keep customs borders open with the EU.

But Mr Trump told The Sun: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.

“If they do that, then their trade deal with the US will probably not be made.”

Mr Trump made the bombshell intervention during a world exclusive interview with The Sun — the only British media outlet he spoke to before his arrival in the UK for his first visit as President.

It will pour nitroglycerine on the already raging Tory Brexiteer revolt against the PM.

And in more remarks that will set off alarm bells in No10, Mr Trump also said Mrs May’s nemesis Boris Johnson — who resigned over the soft Brexit blueprint on ­Monday — would “make a great Prime Minister”.

A big US-UK trade deal, long promised by Mr Trump, is cherished by Leave campaigners as Brexit’s biggest prize.

But the President said Mrs May’s plan “will definitely affect trade with the United States, unfortunately in a negative way”.

He explained: “We have enough difficulty with the European Union.

“We are cracking down right now on the European Union because they have not treated the United States fairly on trading.

“No, if they do that I would say that that would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States.”

The reaction from the British press and politicians was about what you’d expect it to be, but both Trump and May tried to put the best face on things after their meeting and lunch today:

LONDON — President Trump on Friday tried to repair the diplomatic damage he caused with an explosive interview blasting his host, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, by praising her leadership and calling their two countries’ relationship “the highest level of special,” even as he continued to publicly question her decisions.

During a news conference at Chequers, the prime minister’s 16th-century official country residence, Mr. Trump was by turns defiant, fawning and dismissive about the interview. He first tried to deny he had criticized the prime minister and blamed the embarrassing episode on the news media. When that rang hollow, he then tried to compensate by lavishing Mrs. May with compliments and, in the end, claimed that the slights were so insignificant that she had waved off his attempts at an apology.

The contortions followed a report in The Sun newspaper late Thursday night that quoted him criticizing Mrs. May’s approach to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, the process known as Brexit. He said her business-friendly plan would leave Britain closely tied to the bloc, ultimately killing the prospect of a trade deal between the United States and Britain. He then proceeded to praise perhaps her most prominent rival, Boris Johnson, who resigned as foreign secretary last week in protest over her Brexit plan.

“I didn’t criticize the prime minister; I have a lot of respect for the prime minister,” Mr. Trump told reporters during an outdoor news conference after he and Mrs. May had met for talks. He blamed “fake news,” falsely claiming the report — in a right-wing, pro-Brexit, Murdoch-owned tabloid — had omitted any praise of Mrs. May.

“I think she’s doing a terrific job, by the way,” Mr. Trump added, calling her “tough” and “capable.”

He also used the news conference to lay out an ambitious agenda for his Monday meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, saying he had low expectations but high hopes for progress on nuclear arms control issues, Syria and Ukraine. He said he would ask Mr. Putin about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, but he said he did not expect his Russian counterpart to acknowledge his role.

“I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it, you got me,’ ” Mr. Trump said, adding that there would not be a “Perry Mason moment,” a reference to the old TV courtroom drama. “I will absolutely, firmly ask the question.”

And Mr. Trump made it clear that he considered the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference, and whether his campaign worked with Moscow in the effort, an impediment to a warmer relationship that he was eager to forge.

“We do have a political problem where, you know, in the United States we have this stupidity going on — pure stupidity,” Mr. Trump said. “Anything you do, it’s always going to be, ‘Oh, Russia, he loves Russia.’ I love the United States, but I love getting along with Russia. And China. And other countries.”

Even as he tried to pivot away from his criticism of Mrs. May, Mr. Trump did confirm perhaps the most damaging element of the report in The Sun, which quoted him saying that the prime minister had rejected his advice about how to approach Brexit and was therefore headed down a damaging path. He said he still believed Mrs. May should follow his advice.

“I did give her a suggestion — I wouldn’t say advice — and I think she found it maybe too brutal,” Mr. Trump said. “As far as negotiating the deal, I probably would have done what my suggestion was to the prime minister, but she can always do that. At some point, she can do what I suggested.”

Mr. Trump said that the first thing he had done upon his arrival at Chequers on Friday was to offer a mea culpa to Mrs. May but that she had assured him none was necessary, joining him in pinning the drama on the news media. “I said, ‘I want to apologize, because I said such good things about you,’ ” Mr. Trump said of Mrs. May, adding, “She said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only the press.’ ”

Mrs. May, for her part, denied that she had felt undermined by the article, pivoting repeatedly to her insistence that the Brexit plan she is pursuing will, in fact, pave the way for an “ambitious” bilateral trade deal.

Notwithstanding the diplomatic niceties that were exchanged during the post-lunch press conference today, it’s hard to understate just how extraordinary and mind-boggling Trump’s comments to The Sun were, the potential damage they’ve likely done to a U.S.-U.K. relationship that has helped to guide the world since at least World War Two, and potentially the future political survival of Prime Minister May and her government, which is teetering on the edge after the resignations earlier this week. Traditionally, American Presidents have declined to comment on internal political battles in other nations, especially when it comes to allies and most especially when it comes to American allies and even more especially when visiting those foreign nations. It’s a practice that President Obama and all the Presidents preceding him stretching back decades have largely adhered to except perhaps in extraordinary circumstances, and foreign leaders of friendly nations have generally refrained from commenting directly about American politics. This is why Prime Minister May’s public response was rather muted even though what Trump said easily deserved the kind of dressing down she reserves for critics in the House of Commons during Question Time. As Daniel Larison notes, “U.S. presidents should refrain as much as possible from commenting on or speculating about political developments in another country, especially an allied one. It is even more important to avoid giving offense to the host government when the president is there on an official visit. ” Instead of following that sensible advice, though, President Trump relied on the ‘bull in a china shop’ approach that has been a hallmark of his Presidency, and it’s likely to have a negative impact on the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom as much as his attacks on Justin Trudeau before and after the G-7 Summit last month have negatively impacted the relationship between the United States and Canada.

As if Trump’s initial comments to The Sun weren’t bad enough, his comments and conduct at the press conference with Prime Minister May this afternoon just helped to add to the disaster. With respect to a question regarding the interview itself, Trump accused the reporter who interviewed him of not accurately reporting what he said, even though the interview itself was recorded and one can hear Trump say exactly what the report in The Sun says that he said. He also called the report “fake news,” as he has done with all negative coverage of him by the American news media and even refused to take a question from CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, calling his entire network “Fake News” and deciding to take a question from John Roberts of Fox News Channel instead.

I’d say that this latest behavior by Trump is appalling, atrocious, and outrageous, but the reality of the situation is that it’s really just standard Donald Trump. We’ve seen him behave like this at home for the past eighteen months, and we’ve seen it during past foreign trips to Europe, Asia, and even our neighbor to the north Canada. Nobody should be surprised by this behavior by now, and we should expect to see more of this in the future. All of this, including Trump’s behavior and rhetoric at the NATO conference in Brussels that preceded his visit to the United Kingdom, comes just days before his summit meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin. If past behavior is any indication, it’s unlikely that he will be nearly as confrontational with the leader of a nation that is an obvious adversarial power as he has been this week with the leaders of our most important allies. That, too, will be entirely consistent with his past behavior, and it will likely do even more to erode American influence and credibility in the world to add to the damage he’s already done. Whoever succeeds this man is going to have a lot of relationship mending to do.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Europe, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    If a president of the United States was a sock puppet for the Kremlin, this is exactly how he’d act. Cui bono? It’s indisputable: everything Trump has done on this trip has benefited Russia and Vladimir Putin.

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  2. teve tory says:

    ironic that trump complained about the US apologizing for stuff, because his successors are going to be apologizing for years.

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  3. Lounsbury says:

    Well it might have reinforced Madame May via reverse logic effect….

  4. Jen says:

    He is quite simply uncouth, tacky, and clueless. He has NO idea what he is doing. There is a clip of him on the BBC wherein he is asked a question about Brexit. His response is jaw-dropping, meandering, incomprehensible, even by Trump standards. He somehow–and it’s still baffling how he managed to get from Brexit to this–works in his electoral college victory (of course) and blathers on about how he won Wisconsin and even St. Reagan didn’t win Wisconsin, as though votes are stagnant and there is no chance for a population change between then and now, and frankly I’ve just checked the maps from 1980 and 1984 and REAGAN DID WIN Wisconsin. In both 80 and 84.

    He is utterly contemptible and a nincompoop.

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  5. drj says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    everything Trump has done on this trip has benefited Russia and Vladimir Putin.

    To be scrupulously fair, it’s not like Putin has never done anything for Trump.

    For those who don’t want to follow the link: pretty much immediately after Trump publicly called on Russia to find Clinton’s “missing emails,” the GRU was on it.

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @drj:
    The GRU’s faster than Amazon.

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  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Lounsbury:
    Sure, he likely hurt Boris and helped Mrs. May. As well as ensuring that no one in NATO can call for more spending without being derided as a Trump lackey.

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  8. Peter Spence says:

    And of course he takes a JD Roberts question to make sure Fox play his lies straight up for his followers. Fox will show him talking tough to Britain and then denying it all at once, with completely straight faces, and their viewers will never figure it out.

    (I’m sorry, I can’t call him John Roberts, I was a teenager in Toronto when he was a VJ for Much Music doing the Power Hour. He was JD then, so for me he will always be JD).

  9. KM says:

    What a perfect example of the boorish and stupid American stereotype, subspecies Stubborn Boomer. All he needs is a scooter with some beer and a tiny flag to putter around Windsor in….

    Redneck Nation, Represent!

  10. drj says:

    @KM:

    Why so negative? Trump drew huge crowds. The biggest, actually.

  11. Ben Wolf says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yes, Trump is so crafty he knew that demanding Germany spend more on military readiness would prevent Germany from spending on military readiness. Just like Obama did when he insisted the Germans spend more on military readiness.

    Oh those sneaky Russians. Someone tell a cheeto joke to stop them.

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  12. Kathy says:

    Words just aren’t enough for this. I’ll just point out this was America’s most important and closest ally.

    Imagine if a US ally visited Washington, criticized Dennison’s tariffs, claimed Dennison did not heed his advice, then said Pence or Mattis or Tillerson would make a great president. Twitter would collapse as a result.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    What are you talking about, Ben? Did I imply intentionality on Trump’s part?

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  14. JohnSF says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    It’s not what you ask, it’s the way that you ask them.

  15. JohnSF says:

    What? We had a visitor?
    Sorry, missed him, was out.

  16. Timothy Watson says:

    I am old enough to remember when the GOP claimed the “post-colonialist” Obama didn’t appreciate and wanted to destroy our special relationship with the United Kingdom.

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  17. CSK says:

    Trump claims he has a tape recording of the entire interview with The Sun, and avers that the paper left out all the good things he said about May. (This despite the fact that he described the interview as “fine.”)

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Trump claim he had tapes of his discussion with Comey, and that Comey better hope he didn’t release them for public consumption? Did he ever release them? No. Do they exist? Of course they don’t.

    So…why doesn’t he release the recording he alleges he has of The Sun interview? Hmmm? Why not? Surely it would clarify any misunderstanding.

    Do it, it you orange bucket of decomposing lard.

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  18. Mister Bluster says:

    This woman was hired to be Donald Trump’s speech coach just for this tour.
    I must say that there is more substance in her 2007 presentation than in anything Pud said in England today.

  19. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Et alors?
    More NATO spending is a silly American fetish.

    Else, I note Andrew Sullivan’s comment (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/did-trump-just-help-stop-brexit.html)

    It was also, in my immediate view, a serious Brexiteer blunder. Trump is despised in Britain, as he is across Europe. His endorsement of the Brexiteers at this critical moment is humiliating for May but potentially a boon for her as well. If Donald Trump is now the face of Brexit in Britain, Brexit is in trouble. And Brits will not take kindly to their own prime minister being dictated to and humiliated by an American president, as he lands on British soil. That he is also touting Boris will only deepen the reaction.

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  20. grumpy realist says:

    Interesting comment thread over at EUreferendum. Go down to the piece by Prof. David Honig (Indiana University) on Trump’s confusing distributive with integrative bargaining. (Basically, win-lose vs. making the pie bigger). Great explanation of why Trump has and will continue to screw up so much.

    Trump is utterly convinced that his experience in a closely held real estate company has prepared him to run a nation, and therefore he rejects the advice of people who spent entire careers studying the nuances of international negotiations and diplomacy. But the leaders on the other side of the table have not eschewed expertise, they have embraced it. And that means they look at Trump and, given his very limited tool chest and his blindly distributive understanding of negotiation, they know exactly what he is going to do and exactly how to respond to it.

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  21. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Anyone who could run the Eastern Airlines Boston/NY/DC shuttle (operating profitably and successfully from 1961-1989) into the ground in less than three years couldn’t manage a two-car funeral.

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  22. Joe says:

    @Lounsbury:

    I had assumed that Trump was despised in Britain only like he is here – by a 55-60% majority, while loved by a 35-40% vocal minority. I have always looked at Brexit and Brexiteers and being about the same at Trumpaloons. I would also have assumed that hard core Brexiteers would love Trump and therefore be buoyed by Trump’s criticisms of soft Brexit.

    Not true?

  23. grumpy realist says:

    @Joe: If you go over to the Telegraph (a.k.a. Torygraph) you will indeed see the split like that when reading the comments. Most of them ADORE Trump and continually fantasize about “how Trump would totally crush the EU in negotiations!”

    They have about as much connection to reality as the Trumpenproletariat here in the U.S.; that is to say, not much.

  24. Kathy says:

    @teve tory:

    ironic that trump complained about the US apologizing for stuff, because his successors are going to be apologizing for years.

    If his successor is republican, they’ll be apologizing to the US as well.

  25. Lounsbury says:

    @Joe:
    His appeal is to the UKIP types and why you would think he would be loved by many in UK escapes me.

    For the record, the most recent polling indicates a 77% unfavourable view: http://www.itv.com/news/2018-07-12/77-of-british-public-have-an-unfavourable-view-of-donald-trump-ahead-of-his-visit-to-the-uk/
    Half the public would prefer he not even meet the Queen.
    From YouGov itself on the same poll

    Two thirds of Britons think Donald Trump has either been a “terrible” (44%) or “bad” president. Just 16% think he has been “average” and even fewer people rate him as either “good” or “great” (13%).

    There is a more favorable view of the bloody French President than Trump.

    That is a special kind of achievement.

    So, no, Sullivan has it right, Trump pushing on Brexit is an own-goal for the bungling Brexiteer wing.

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  26. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “The GRU’s faster than Amazon.”

    Well, let’s not get crazy here…

  27. wr says:

    @Ben Wolf: If only we had Jill Stein in the oval office. Then everything would be good again!!!

  28. wr says:

    @Joe: Trump’s at 11% in Britain.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: I’m lost on this subject, so can you explain what the appeal to Trump and others with a hard Brexit is? I mean, beyond the appeal that it has by sounding like the same Juche nonsense that has made North Korea the economic juggernaut that it has become.

  30. Sleeping Dog says:

    As I read this post and the comments, I began thinking of the 60’s movie, “The Ugly American,” paraphrasing Wikipedia.

    American ambassador President, Donald Trump travels to Europe on a diplomatic mission. Torn between rival factions, EU and NATO is at a critical moment. But Trump’s powers of analysis allow him to view the political situation only in the simplest terms: as a struggle between the USA and everyone else.

  31. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    There is an article on DeustcheWelle in Portuguese where Trump is being compared to the “Tio do Pavê”, a common Brazilian phrase about the Uncle that is always annoying relatives with bad jokes during family reunions.

    The article says that there is the risk that people are not going to take Trump seriously anymore. At least internationally, that it is.

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I think it’s a combination of wanting to weaken/break up the EU and a belligerent chip on the shoulder of “we can do anything we want”/”Britain rules the waves 2.0”. Totally ignorant of the fact that a) if the EU broke up and went back to the way it was the U.K. would be having to deal with 27 different requirements for marketing just within Europe, and b) standards have coalesced around the world and the U.K. will still have to deal with that no matter what they want to do.

    Bluntly, the days when the U.K. could do whatever it pleased are now gone, and it’s going to have to learn how to get along with everybody else.

    (At work I’m constantly being asked to reformat quantities in U.S. patents into SI units for applications in other countries. No one cares about inches and feet except the US and the Brits.)

  33. An Interested Party says:

    The article says that there is the risk that people are not going to take Trump seriously anymore.

    Oh? When was this idiot ever taken seriously by reasonable, rational people…

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: Thanks! I was afraid that’s what it was, but it is comforting (sort of) to know that even though I’m still ign’int, I’m not as clueless as I was afraid I was getting.

  35. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    No one cares about inches and feet except the US and the Brits.)

    The Brits have gone metric. It’s only us, Burma, and Liberia.

  36. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @An Interested Party: That’s the problem. He is supposed to be the leader of the Free World, not the crazy uncle of family gatherings that no one takes seriously.

  37. Lounsbury says:

    @gVOR08: Semi metric.
    Imperial system measures are still prevalent in popular usage.

  38. teve tory says:

    The Scotsman just wrote “A Denunciation of Donald Trump”. They’ve not done that sort of thing in 193 years.

  39. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: I remember my mother rolling her eyes at the plethora of different units she had to deal with when grocery shopping. Vegetables were weighted in pounds, except for potatoes, which were weighed in stones, but meat was weighed in grams….

  40. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @grumpy realist: I’m never used to the Murican System. I have to make conversions to know whether 70 degrees Fahrenheit temperature is really hot or if a 6’0″ feet person is taller than me.

  41. Blue Galangal says:

    Whoever succeeds this man is going to have a lot of relationship mending to do.

    My instinct is that no one is going to “succeed” this man. There may be a democratic America 2.0 at some point in the future (just as we may colonise Mars), but as long as the Russians control the American voting process, our first democratic experiment is over.

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  42. rachel says:

    Remember last year’s NATO summit when he barged in front of Prime Minister of Montenegro?

    Trump’s walk with the Queen: Like ‘wandering up and down a golf course’

  43. teve tory says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    My instinct is that no one is going to “succeed” this man. There may be a democratic America 2.0 at some point in the future (just as we may colonise Mars), but as long as the Russians control the American voting process, our first democratic experiment is over.

    Pfft. That’ll never happen. That would require Trumpers to energetically support Trump when he does things on Putin’s behalf that are clearly intended to undermine america and the wider west Oh jesus christ we’re fucked.

    The Good Germans here like Florack/Bunge/JKB/Guarneri etc. are already on board. Here’s hoping the incompetence successfully tempers the malevolence.

  44. Lounsbury says:

    @rachel: Well all around the orange creature is a staggering blunderer.

  45. An Interested Party says:

    Here’s hoping the incompetence successfully tempers the malevolence.

    Again, that’s the one saving grace about this idiot…he’s a lazy incompetent moron whose evil is tempered by his numerous inadequacies…

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @An Interested Party: Like everyone says, if Trump hadn’t been born to someone who provided him with the cash and connections, he would have ended up as a used-car dealer convicted of turning back the odometers and knowingly selling counterfeit parts for repairs.

  47. Guarneri says:

    We interrupt this program…….

    Today’s Europe is something of a Lockean dystopia: It is composed of individuals concerned mainly about their own hedonic enjoyments, who want the government to protect them from want and disease, but have no desire whatever to defend their nations, which are on a slow boat to extinction in any event.

    It is refreshing to hear an American president call the Europeans out for the sybarites and deadbeats they are, rather than repeat the old cant about the glories of the Atlantic Alliance and the gallantry of America’s allies.

    We now return you…..

  48. JohnSF says:

    @Guarneri:
    Ehh? Wassat?
    Something rouses me from my deadbeat, sybaritic Sunday afternoon (The best kind IMO).

    “…want the government to protect them from want and disease…”

    Well, yes. Speaking as a conservative (British/European variant thereof) that’s sort of one of the main functions of a government. Behind external security, internal order, and justice, but still rather important.

    But come sir, enlighten me as to what a “Lockean dystopia” is, when it’s at home.
    And why, compared to, say, the rest of the human race, and indeed all extant biota, Europeans are “on a slow boat to extinction”.
    And perhaps also why exactly a continent that musters more military personnel than that epitome of virility, Russia, and has defence expenditure greater than China lacks any desire to defend itself.

    Till then, it’s back to hedonic enjoyment for me.

  49. wr says:

    @grumpy realist: This. Trump without money is William Macy in Fargo.

  50. wr says:

    @Guarneri: So, pleasure bad, slavery until death good, is that the essence of your philosophy?

  51. An interested Party says:

    Europeans are “on a slow boat to extinction”.

    Oh you know why that is, don’t you? The evil Muslim Hordes are returning! Why, it’s the latest version of the Crusades, only this time, it’s all about extending the Islamic Caliphate to the whole of Europe…