Was it only a year ago that President Donald Trump, on his second trip to Europe, delivered in Warsaw one of the most outstanding speeches ever given by an American president?
Given at the monument to the Warsaw Uprising, the address had the marks of Trump’s distinctive rhetorical style. Speaking of the twin invasions of September 1939 – Nazis to the west, Soviets to the east – he said, “That’s trouble. That’s tough.”
Not exactly Churchillian at that point, but the oration as a whole was a soaring hymn to the power of the spirit, of witness to truth, in the history of Poland’s proud fight for freedom, for independence, for their nation and for God.
That was then. The recent European comedy of errors was not strictly speaking, theatre-wise, a comedy. It did not end well. But it was full of moments of buffoonery and slapstick, the principal one of which was the president meeting the Queen. Let Peter Hitchens – permit me to quote him at length – set the scene:
“For many of us here in Great Britain, the supreme moment of President Donald Trump’s visit came when he attempted to inspect a parade alongside our Queen. Somehow it went mildly but definitely wrong, with Mr. Trump first surging ahead of Her Majesty, then halting unexpectedly to gaze at the assembled Coldstream Guards, as they sweated frightfully in their scarlet tunics and bearskin hats. The tiny 92-year-old monarch, who spends large parts of such visits concealing a keen sense of the ridiculous behind a mild frown, could be seen peering around her towering, bulky, and clumsy guest, trying to work out which way he might veer next.
There was, it seemed to me, a slight but real danger that, if she miscalculated, he could knock her down, even trip over her. She looked as if she was assessing a large and rare marsupial, not exactly dangerous but skittish and unpredictable, with which she had just been presented by a loyal tribe of subjects. You could almost see her thinking, “What does one do with this? What does it eat? Will it be noisy?” We were all very proud of her.
She was, as it happens, untroubled by this sort of thing and will already have put it to one side. Mr. Trump’s disruptive, loud presence had no power to upset or dismay her. She is the last surviving representative of an England which was once so rich, so powerful, and so unshakably stable that it regarded all foreigners as funny and temporary.”