I’m not terribly familiar with British politics, but I know this: President Trump has a 72 percent disapproval rating in Britain, and Theresa May herself is unpopular, while the Tories seems to be falling apart while trying to negotiate their exit from the EU.
Given that situation, what the hell is Theresa May doing? Trump came barrelling into Britain as he did with the NATO meetings and kicked things off by giving an interview to The Sun that was critical of Theresa May, of her mishandling of Brexit, and of the immigration policies in the UK, saying that Europe was “losing its culture” because of immigration (which is basically a white supremacist position).
In a way, that should have been a weird blessing for May, right? She’s got an opening. She can stand up to Trump and maybe win back some respect from her own people, right?
But that’s not what happened. In a 40-minute press conference this morning, Theresa May basically just stood there and ate Donald Trump’s shit. She did not push back. She let him speak for her on several occasions. She stood idly by and said nothing while Trump mischaracterized NATO meetings, took sole credit for forcing NATO to do exactly what they had already promised to do before the meetings, and shat on the press (in fact, May offered only polite British laughter when Trump made fun of the media and called CNN and NBC fake news).
Trump’s performance at that press conference was typical Trump: Rambling, narcissistic, untruthful. It was nothing that we haven’t come to expect from the President. But Theresa May was, well, just kind of pathetic. But that’s how it’s been with most world leaders: They choose to mollify Trump instead of standing up to him. They allow themselves to be bullied, and then politely accept his mischaracterizations. Trump was effusive about May during the press conference, after bad mouthing her to the press yesterday, and it felt exactly like the metaphor you are thinking of right now.
And maybe this is how it has to be done. Maybe other world leaders have no choice but to be civil to the bully in the room because maybe they are afraid of what will happen if they punch him in the nose (figuratively speaking). But Jesus, this is exactly what the press does, too (except for Jim Acosta over on CNN, who Trump won’t even let speak). They accept his flattery; they let him provide them with non-answers; and they just kind of nod appreciably, feeling special because the President called on them in class.
Occasionally, a world leader will say something after the President has left, but no one wants to challenge him to his face. Everyone is so hellbent on being cordial that they allow themselves to be steamrolled over and over again, and it probably looks great to Trump’s base: They get exactly what they want. A President who bullies world leaders but also claims to have relationships that are stronger than ever, while the Pentagon goes into “damage control” to try and salvage our alliances.
Will no one stand up to this guy? It doesn’t take much to beat Trump at his own game. Just look at North Korea. King Jong-un has made a fool of Trump, but Trump is so intent on saving face that he continues to treat that situation as though it’s going swimmingly. I assure you that if Theresa May had actually stood up to the President and challenged him on his many, many lies that he’d tuck tail, go back home, and pretend that everything was better than it’s ever been.
But no one — world leaders, Republicans, the media — seems to be willing to take on the President to his face and so he just keeps on bullying, because he’s been given no reason to stop.