This just in — the White House announced it would honor a deal made with Australia to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. However, as he made this announcement Official White House Apologist Sean Spicer repeatedly mispronounced Prime Minister Turnbull’s name as “Trunbull.”
The backstory: You probably heard that yesterday Donald Trump managed to further embarrass the United States by insulting, and then hanging up on, the Prime Minister of Australia. Trump later doubled down on his “get tough with the Aussies” strategy. The Sydney Morning Herald reports,
President Donald Trump has defended his “tough” approach to speaking with foreign leaders in his first public remarks since details of his tense phone conversation with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull were revealed, even as criticism mounted over the president’s treatment of a stalwart US ally.
One senior Republican colleague, senator John McCain, even took the step of calling the Australian ambassador to reaffirm the alliance on Thursday.
Speaking at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Mr Trump strayed from his prepared remarks several times and addressed the intense media coverage of his phone call with Mr Turnbull – which turned sour during a discussion over an Obama-era agreement to take 1250 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention camps – as well as an equally controversial conversation with the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it,” Mr Trump said. “Just don’t worry about it. They’re tough. We have to be tough.”
Well, no, we don’t have to be tough. We can be nice sometimes, you know, especially with leaders of countries we’ve long had good relationships with and who do us favors sometimes.
Regarding the Mexican President — There was a report from the Associated Press that Trump also had called President Enrique Pena Nieto and threatened to invade Mexico, but Mexico is denying this is true. But then, the White House today said that yes, Trump did say something like that, but he was joking.
Anyway, Trump said we have to get tough with Australia. On the other hand, it seems Russia is testing the U.S. with new military aggressions in the Ukraine, and in that situation Trump is not being tough at all.
The Trump administration is facing its first major test on the international stage as volleys of Russian artillery and rockets continue to pound Ukrainian forces in the country’s contested east, reigniting the frozen conflict and killing about a dozen Ukrainian soldiers since Sunday.
The barrages, along with renewed pushes by Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces near the government-held industrial town of Avdiyivka, spiked dramatically on Sunday. The day before, Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin held their first phone call, reportedly talking about forming a new alliance against the Islamic State and working together on a range of other issues.
Trump possibly assumes this isn’t actually happening.
Poor John McCain is once again being called on to call for a return to the good old days when things were normal.
“That this surge of attacks began the day after he talked with you by phone is a clear indication that Vladimir Putin is moving quickly to test you as commander in chief. America’s response will have lasting consequences,” McCain said in a letter to Trump released by his office.
Washington has supplied aid to Ukraine including drones, radar, first-aid kits, night vision and communications gear as part Democratic President Barack Obama’s strategy of providing non-lethal military assistance while focusing on sanctions and diplomacy to end the war.
McCain urged Trump to use his authority under an existing defense policy law to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine.
“Vladimir Putin’s violent campaign to destabilize and dismember the sovereign nation of Ukraine will not stop unless and until he meets a strong and determined response,” McCain wrote.
Will Trump “get tough” with Putin? Are you joking?
Back to the Sydney Morning Herald — quoting Dear Leader, before he apparently caved under threat of Aussie derision, or something:
“It’s time we’re going to be a little tough folks. We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world virtually. It’s not going to happen anymore. It’s not going to happen anymore.”
The call with Mr Turnbull and a subsequent tweet from the president condemning the “dumb deal” on refugees was greeted with more confusion and condemnation in the US on Thursday.
Senator McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who has clashed with Mr Trump on issues of foreign policy before, described the president’s treatment of Australia as “harmful.”
“It was an unnecessary and frankly harmful open dispute over an issue which is not nearly as important as United States-Australian cooperation and working together, including training of our marines in Australia and other areas of military cooperation and intelligence,” he said during a doorstop interview in Washington DC.
WaPo says this is what happened with the phone call:
President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.
At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladimir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”
Did Donnie and Vlad talk about the Ukraine, I wonder?