Even the most rabid haters of President Donald Trump have to admit the man understands the American media.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Trump’s prediction about media coverage of one telling statement this week by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was right on target.
Just maybe not exactly the way it might have been expected.
At a chilly breakfast meeting Wednesday in Belgium, Trump treated the NATO chief to a very public dressing down about the way the United States is tired of being taken for granted by its partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which have spent almost 70 years under the shelter of American military protection.
Trump, like previous presidents, demanded that NATO countries pay a greater share of their gross domestic product on military needs over the social programs liberals love.
At one point, Stoltenberg told Trump that NATO countries were getting with the program.
“After years of cutting defense budgets, they have started to add billions to their defense budgets,” Stoltenberg said. “And last year was the biggest increase in defense spending across Europe and Canada in that generation.”
“Why was that, last year?” Trump asked.
“It’s also because of your leadership. Because of your carried message.”
“They won’t write that,” Trump said, waving dismissively in the direction of the news cameras.
Check it out here. (It’s all worth seeing, but the “leadership” exchange starts about the 18-second mark.)
What Trump meant likely was that the Western media – and American media in particular – wouldn’t cover a story about a European official like Stoltenberg – a man who was twice the prime minister of Norway – giving Trump any credit for “leadership” of the NATO alliance.
And Trump, as usual, was right.
A “fact check” published by The Associated Press acknowledged Stoltenberg’s remarks, but credited former President Barack Obama for the new NATO spending. The AP’s reasoning, apparently, was because the NATO countries had agreed in 2014 to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, it was Obama’s firm hand and visionary appeals that made them do it.
Unfortunately for the AP’s analysis, talk is cheap. No matter what the NATO countries agreed to in 2014, as Stoltenberg put it, “last year was the biggest increase in defense spending across Europe and Canada in that generation.”
At the Washington Post, it was even worse. Likening Trump to a schoolyard bully, national political writer Greg Sargent called the exchange an example of Trump’s “bad faith.”
“The trouble is that Trump won’t even acknowledge what our allies are actually doing in this regard,” Sargent wrote. “He keeps claiming that other NATO countries have fallen short of their defense budget commitment, but this is false: In fact, this target is a future one that NATO members agreed upon.”
That’s true enough. But the reality – and Sargent probably knows it even if he is a self-proclaimed liberal – is that the Europeans have not been willing to prioritize spending on their own defense — no matter what “future target” might be agreed upon.
It’s not “bullying” to make sure they know they’re being held to their word. And might have even more asked of them in the future. It’s the European countries that are being defended here. Is it too much to ask that they pay for it?
The United States has been guaranteeing the safety of Western Europe since the end of World War II, and the Western European governments have known American presidents would complain loudly about the American burden, but would never – if push came to shove – let the alliance down.
Trump isn’t likely to let allies down either, but his determination to force the NATO “partners” to pick up more of their share of the load is already showing results.
Stoltenberg openly acknowledged that fact when he told Trump European and Canadian defense spending had increased “because of your leadership. Because of your carried message.”
Trump predicted the American media wouldn’t write that simple fact.
And as usual when it comes to the media, he was dead on.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.