You have to feel sorry for Roy Moore in the Philippines. One wrong click and suddenly, he’ll be accused of sexual harassment. A similar situation happened with Theresa from Bognor in the UK who was mistaken by Trump to be Britain’s Prime Minister. Even worse, she was being delivered a rebuke for apparently criticising Trump’s retweets of a far-right group with ties to the murder of a British MP.
Let that sink in for a moment. The President of the United States, the frontman for one of Britain’s biggest alliances and the most powerful man in the world, delivered a public rebuke to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Even worse, his first Tweet caught the wrong Theresa! Trump essentially attacked a mother of two, an ordinary citizen by mistake!
The fallout over Trump’s retweet of anti-Islam videos from far-right organization Britain First has intensified in the UK as Parliament brought first an urgent question over the matter. The question over Trump’s state visit, a highly contentious issue, rumbled on. While 10 Downing Street didn’t cancel the visit, there are suggestions that it will be postponed for at least a year.
Once again, Trump continues his undeniable talent for making enemies out of his friends and puts Theresa May in a difficult position. On the one hand, leaving Europe means that Britain needs a good trade deal with the USA. On the other hand, how do you deal with a man like Donald Trump?
Theresa May was one of the first world leaders to meet with President Trump and the planned state visit came about surprisingly quickly. The visit was hailed as a coup for the embattled Prime Minister looking to strengthen US-UK relations amid the confusion of Brexit.
Since then, relations have gone from bad to worse after a number of interventions in British politics including false claims after UK terror attacks, promoting his travel ban after an attack on London Bridge and a number of public spates with Sadiq Khan, the current Mayor of London and the first Muslim elected to the post.
Theresa May insisted that the state visit was still happening as planned and that US-UK relations would endure, but even her muted criticism of Trump retweeting material from a far-right group promoted a frankly astonishing response from the President.
.@Theresa_May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2017
With friends like that, who needs North Korea?
Of course, leaders come and go but relationships endure. Even the frosty relationships between Prime Minister and President don’t destroy a long-standing diplomatic relationship. Trump is someone who threatens the political and economic relationship that Britain and America generally have. Trump wants Britain to succeed, but he wants America to get a good deal. His political reputation is based on driving hard bargains and trade deals can take years, even decades, to finalize.
Theresa May has been eager to de-escalate the incident, hence the postponement of the state visit. While canceling isn’t off the table, the last Britain wants to do is sour relations further by causing a full-blown diplomatic incident. America and Britain know that they need each other.
Perhaps it won’t matter in the end. Trump has no morals, no decency and no respect for anyone other than himself. He praises his enemies, degrades his friends and tramples on any notion of respecting democracy and freedom of speech. His retweeting of Britain First not only amplifies his rhetoric of division but gives credence to a group who praise the killer of an elected representative.
Imagine if, under Obama, David Cameron wrote a Facebook post on how the KKK is actually doing the right thing and how they’re misunderstood people in funny costumes. Imagine if he also retweeted Breitbart News about Syrian refugees. Would you respect him?
The relationship between the US and the UK will survive, but after such a rocky period and the promise of more troubles to come, it will be a long time before Downing Street can trust the White House and its occupants. The fact that a diplomatic spat can be triggered in less than 280 characters is disturbing and a constant challenge to one of America’s staunchest allies.
Individuals come and go, but they can define the nature of a relationship.