The Daily Mail has obtained secret diplomatic cables in which one of the UK’s top diplomats describes President Donald Trump and his administration as “inept,” rife with infighting, and “I don’t think this Administration will ever look competent.” Sir Kim Darroch has been the UK’s Ambassador to the United States since 2016 and he presents a candid and bleak assessment of Trump.
In one cable, he said: “For a man who has risen to the highest office on the planet, President Trump radiates insecurity.” In another, he summarized that, “As seen from here, we really don’t believe that this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction-riven, less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”
While Trump has always decried reports of infighting within his administration as “fake news,” Sir Kim reported back to London that, “The stories about White House knife fights are, we judge, mostly true: multiple sources and confirmed by our own White House contacts. This is a uniquely dysfunctional environment.”
Advising on how best to approach Trump, he recommended three points: first, to “flood the zone” by making contact with as many of Trump’s key advisors (who Sir Kim separately calls the “Trump Whisperers”); second, to have more direct contact between the UK’s Prime Minister and Trump; and third, to use flattery and inflate Trump’s ego. Elaborating on the third point, Sir Kim said, “You need to start praising him for something that he’s done recently. You need whenever possible to present them as wins for him,” and to keep things “simple” and “even blunt.”
Assessing the effect of the scandals and controversy that surrounds the Trump administration, Sir Kim warns not to count out Trump’s re-election, saying that he could “emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like [Arnold] Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of The Terminator.”
Sir Kim’s dim view of Trump and his administration is not an outlier. In July 2018, Germany’s Foreign Minister said that he and other Western allies expect a “minimum degree of reliability” from Trump, adding, “It is, quite simply, extremely difficult to craft policies when the information or facts have a half-life of 24 hours. This will not work.” In June 2019, Chinese state-run media (an informal mouthpiece for the Chinese government) said that the US under Trump had become “the international community’s troublemaker.” In April 2019, the departing French Ambassador the US compared Trump to France’s infamous Sun King, Louis XIV, saying, “You have an old king, a bit whimsical, unpredictable, uninformed, but he wants to be the one deciding.” And despite the persistent claims that Russia either meddled in the 2016 election to benefit Trump or they only tacitly endorse his erratic behaviour, in September 2018, even the Russian Foreign Minister described the American administration’s foreign policy as “an onslaught of belligerent revisionism.”
Trump will, no doubt, blast Sir Kim’s views as “fake news” or uninformed. And Trump supporters may dismiss the criticism as just one man’s opinions. But when officials from a chorus of nations around the world all agree that Trump and his administration are chaotic, petulant, and fact-resistant, you have to stop and wonder when one man’s opinion becomes international consensus.