Trump humiliates his own supporter
AS YOU savour your Saturday, spare a thought for Carla Sands.
The former soap actress and chiropractor was a loyal supporter of Donald Trump throughout the 2016 election campaign.
She hosted a fundraiser for him at her mansion, personally donated hundreds of thousands of dollars, and helped him secure the Republican presidential nomination as a delegate at the party's national convention.
Her reward was a cushy posting to Denmark, where she has served as the US ambassador since December of 2017 - and where she is now expected to clean up Mr Trump's horrendous diplomatic mess.
Early on Wednesday morning AEST, Ms Sands cheerfully tweeted that Denmark was ready to welcome Mr Trump for his scheduled state visit.
A couple of hours later, the President posted a pair of his own tweets, abruptly announcing he had cancelled the trip over Denmark's refusal to consider selling him Greenland.
He has since called Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen "nasty" for shooting down the idea. Her response has been twofold: first, that the colonial era is over and countries don't buy and sell pieces of each other anymore; and second, that Greenland is semi-autonomous from Denmark anyway, so it wouldn't be hers to sell even if she wanted to.
We could discuss, at quite some length, how balls to the wall insane it is that the US President ditched a meticulously planned state visit over an idea so absurd that most people thought it was a joke before eventually realising he was serious.
Mr Trump is meant to visit Australia in the near future, perhaps as soon as December. What are we going to do if he takes a sudden fancy to Tasmania?
But let's put that aside for a moment.
I want to highlight something else - Mr Trump's unfortunate habit of humiliating his own supporters and underlings for no good reason.
When Ms Sands hit publish on her tweet, she clearly had no idea the trip was off. Which means her boss, Mr Trump, didn't even bother to warn his top diplomat in Denmark before tweeting the news to the entire world.
He made Ms Sands look like an idiot, and now she is the one who has to fix America's damaged relationship with a country that is usually a very reliable ally.
This is not the first time Mr Trump has blindsided his own officials. Far from it.
Last December, for example, the President suddenly announced - again on Twitter - that he was immediately withdrawing all US troops from Syria.
No one knew that hugely consequential foreign policy decision was coming. Not America's allies, nor its generals, nor Congress, nor Mr Trump's own defence secretary James Mattis, who resigned in protest the next day.
Once officials actually got a chance to talk to Mr Trump about the decision, he agreed to walk it back and keep some troops stationed in Syria indefinitely. In a normal administration, those conversations of course would have happened before the announcement.
In March of last year, Mr Trump managed to blindside his White House staff twice in two weeks, first by declaring he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminium, and then by agreeing out of nowhere to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Hours before that second announcement, secretary of state Rex Tillerson had told reporters negotiations with North Korea were "a long way" off and the idea was not yet "realistic".
In July of 2017, Mr Trump tweeted that he was banning transgender people from serving in the US military - shortly after reassuring his senior aides that he would wait to discuss the idea with them first.
The month before, during a trip to Europe, Mr Trump's closest national security advisers expected him to use a speech in Brussels to reaffirm America's commitment to mutual defence in the NATO alliance.
They had good reason to expect exactly that, because as Politico reports, they had seen the final draft of the speech.
But Mr Trump removed the relevant line, at the last minute, without telling any of them. They literally did not find out until they watched him deliver the speech live and he didn't say it. As a result, they were caught completely unprepared for the inevitable diplomatic fallout.
We could keep going with these examples, but you get the idea. Mr Trump routinely announces massive policy changes without consulting or even warning the people who are supposed to implement those changes.
Making matters worse, he often contradicts what his staff have been saying publicly, making them look stupid in the process.
The best thing you can say about those incidents is that they are not malicious.
Maybe Mr Trump is impulsive. Maybe he wants to avoid hard conversations with his officials, so cuts them out of the process. Maybe he is simply too self-absorbed to give a damn about his staff.
But Mr Trump also has an even nastier habit of humiliating his underlings for no better reason than his own anger or amusement.
The classic example is former attorney general Jeff Sessions, who endured more than a year of personal and very public criticism from the President before Mr Trump finally mustered the will to fire him.
Mr Trump called Mr Sessions "disgraceful" and "weak", labelled his department "a total joke" and repeatedly said he should never have given him the job.
Ironically, Mr Sessions had been one of Mr Trump's earliest and most loyal supporters in 2016. He endorsed Mr Trump's presidential campaign long before most Republican politicians accepted him as a serious candidate.
However, even Mr Sessions wasn't as loyal as former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Mr Christie became Mr Trump's very first high profile endorser a few weeks before Mr Sessions in February of 2016, shocking the political establishment and giving Mr Trump's candidacy a legitimacy it had previously lacked.
His support sent an invaluable signal to other Republicans - they were free to jump on the Trump bandwagon, if they wished.
Mr Christie's reward was to be treated with utter contempt.
Mr Trump frequently used him for cheap laughs at his rallies, making fun of his weight and pointing out that Mr Christie was following him around the country instead of doing his actual job as governor of New Jersey.
One particularly unkind leak from within the campaign claimed Mr Trump had made Mr Christie fetch his McDonald's order.
But the peak of Mr Christie's humiliation came after he introduced Mr Trump to a crowd in Arkansas. He leaned in to thank the candidate and shake his hand. Mr Trump replied by barking something into his ear - and a microphone caught it.
"Get on the plane and go home. It's over there," Mr Trump told him, with the unmistakeable tone of a boss speaking to a subordinate.
The media started to refer to Mr Christie as a "manservant", "errand boy" and "lapdog". When he returned to New Jersey, where he was previously a popular governor, newspapers labelled him an "embarrassment".
Through it all, everyone assumed Mr Christie was enduring the torment for one reason alone - because he wanted to be Mr Trump's vice president.
Mr Trump didn't even give him a job in the Cabinet.
Mr Trump's supporters love the way he enrages, and yes, sometimes humiliates his political opponents. But just as often, whether by Mr Trump's own design or through his negligence, they themselves become the victims.
This week it happened to Ms Sands. It happens every day to the surrogates who have to go on TV and enthusiastically defend the latest weird presidential brain fart.
And increasingly, America as a country is suffering the same humiliation.
"Sometimes it is hard to believe that what Trump is saying and doing on the world stage is actually happening," Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to NATO, told Vanity Fair after the Greenland saga.
"I realise this is yet another bizarre and humorous Trump moment for the late night talk shows here in the US. But for the rest of the world, particularly our allies, it is simply shocking how far America has fallen from grace in their eyes.
"We were once a great democratic nation, the world leader. Part of what made us great is that we led with dignity. Our past presidents treated our allies with respect. He has made us a laughing stock."
That may be true. But for something to be a laughing stock, it has to be funny, and this joke is wearing thin.
Sam Clench is news.com.au's political reporter. Continue the conversation @SamClench
....The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct. I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2019