Trump Kicks Off Foreign Trip in Urgent Need of Reboot
As controversy swirls and approval hits all-time low, president can find a reset abroad
President Donald Trump kicks off his first official foreign tour today, leaving Washington, D.C., after two miserable weeks for the White House.
Trump will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican City, Sicily, and Brussels.
“This trip could restore U.S. credibility and perhaps reset Trump’s presidency, especially if he delivers a strong pro-NATO, anti-Putin message at the [G7] summit.”
He will have meetings with G7 leaders in Sicily. He will meet with the pope. He will visit the Wailing Wall and the birthplace of Jesus Christ. He will address leaders from the nation’s Islamic nations in Riyadh, giving a big speech on Islamic terrorism. And he will discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace with leaders. It’s an ambitious trip, and it’s arguably the most important moment of Trump’s young presidency — one that gives him a critical chance to reset the tone at home.
For Trump, the trip comes late, but perhaps not too late. Most first-term presidents in the previous 50 years did not wait until May to take their first foreign trip. But the trip comes at an opportune time for Trump: It will take him out of the swamp of D.C., which has been trying to suck his presidency under.
“This trip is important because it’s his first major foreign trip as president and includes several stops in important countries, with security and trade issues on the agenda,” Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant based in Austin, Texas, told LifeZette. “The television images can help shift the news away from recent controversies toward foreign policy, where Trump has been more sure-footed.”
A Bad Two Weeks
Domestic politics, a hostile media and a rabid opposition party have badly snagged Trump in a series of firestorms.
Trump is still reeling from the fallout of his firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9. The rest of that week became a case study in how not to roll out big news. Then more came. On May 15, The Washington Post reported that Trump shared highly sensitive information, related to an ISIS plot to use laptops as bombs, with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador during his Oval Office meeting with them on May 10.
The White House was reeling, and tried to defend itself. But on May 16, within 24 hours, another bombshell: The New York Times reported that Comey had kept memos on his conversations with the president. One Comey "associate" read one such alleged memo out loud to a Times reporter, but did not share it with the reporter. In that memo, Trump allegedly said he hoped Comey would drop an FBI investigation.
Most legal experts agreed that did not cross the line, wandering into the territory of obstruction of justice, but the outrage from Democrats and the media erupted anyway.
The trip could be use to resuscitate Trump's ailing approval numbers.
Since the beginning of May, Trump's approval ratings have been falling as controversy crowded out the nation's good economic news.
On Friday, the Morning Consult-Politico reported that Trump had hit a new low in their tracking poll. Only 41 percent approve of his job performance, the poll found, while 53 percent disapprove.
Morning Consult noted Trump's approval rate was 44 percent on May 4, and then 42 percent on May 12.
The trip could be the tonic Trump needs, if he can stay on message and avoid engaging in flaps at home, say political observers. One foreign-policy expert wants Trump to also make clear the White House will stand up to Russia — a stance that could help define Trump as truly his own man.
"Internationally, this trip could restore U.S. credibility and perhaps reset Trump's presidency, especially if he delivers a strong pro-NATO, anti-Putin message at the [G7] summit," Robert Kaufman, a public-policy professor and foreign-policy expert at Pepperdine University, told LifeZette.
The Trump team is already feeling some confidence after a few brutal rounds in the ring with the media and the Democrats. Speaking at a Republican event last night in Sterling, Virginia, press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump always rebounds.
"The interesting thing about President Trump is when you look at his record, he's someone you don't want to bet against. He wins every time," Spicer said, according to the Washington Examiner. "The biggest bet that he has is on this country and our people, and they're going to win. Our country is going to win. Our businesses are going to win, because that's the bet that he has on us now."