PARIS — European politicians and policy makers have begun to feel they’re watching a horror movie: the tale of an American administration with a split personality as sinister as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—the first perfectly reasonable and sociable, the other monstrous, unable, and unwilling to control its impulses. And all this as the very existence of the European Union and the credibility of NATO hang in the balance with far-right populists like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France potentially set to gain enormous power through upcoming elections.
The respected French daily Le Monde describes this administration as one where there’s “a civil war at the top” between “the rationals” and “the radicals.” And over the last few days “the rationals”—Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Gen. John Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Homeland Security Gen. John Kelly—have been in Europe trying to find ways to say that the president does not really mean what he has said again, and again, and again, and keeps on saying. No, the rationals insisted, NATO is not “obsolete.” Yes, the United States supports the European Union.
And the rationals might have succeeded in convincing their closest European friends that the U.S. commitment was as serious as it sounded—until Europe saw video of President Donald Trump soaking up adoration at a staged rally in Florida on Saturday, as if slobbering fans could vindicate his trademark incoherence.
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