The US was left alone and humiliated on the world stage as European allies collectively dunked on Trump’s ‘America First’ policy at a major security conference

  • President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach keeps isolating the US from its closest allies.
  • World leaders slammed the approach at the Munich Security Conference, saying the US is rejecting the international community.
  • This left US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo trying to defend the US’ relationship with Europe but unable to convince many leaders, Politico reported.
  • The entire conference was themed around the idea of the Western alliance fading, leaving Republicans who attended “taken aback” and defensive, according to Politico.
  • Tensions are again spiking between the US and Europe, particularly the UK, historically its closest ally.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US was once again left alienated from its European allies at the world’s biggest security conference as they rubbished President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach and painted a picture of an isolated country.

The Munich Security Conference in Germany, which was established in 1963, has long been a meeting of minds between nations. This year’s summit ended last Sunday.

But since Trump became president, the US has been pushing for the withdrawal from global agreements – such as the Paris climate accord – creating new tension between him and other world leaders, nations, and global institutions, particularly in the West.

This gulf has long been illustrated in global conferences, such as last December’s NATO summit, where a group of world leaders appeared to mock him at a party.

And over the course of the Munich summit, European leaders used a series of public speeches and private conversations to lament the US’ change in commitment as a longstanding ally, causing the US to hit back, Politico reported.

Macron

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Foto: French President Emmanuel Macron at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020.sourceAndreas Gebert via Reuters

In the conference’s opening speech, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “Under its current Administration, our closest ally, the United States of America, rejects the very concept of an international community.”

“Every country, it believes, should look after itself and put its own interests before all others. As if everyone thinking of himself meant that everyone is being considered,” he said, according to an official transcript.

“‘Great again’ – even at the expense of neighbors and partners,” Steinmeier said, referring to Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

According to Politico, French President Emmanuel Macron also told the conference that “what Europe wants is not quite the same as the US.”

He has frequently sparred with Trump over foreign policy, publicly fact-checking him at the December NATO summit and slamming Trump’s Syria policy in a November interview with The Economist.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, also said of the US’ gradual military withdrawal according to Deutsche Welle: “For too long, we Europeans have shut our eyes to the uncomfortable reality of what a withdrawal of the US from military engagement and from international treaties means for us.”

munich security conference 2017

Foto: A dinner at the Munich Security Conference in 2017.sourceohannes Simon – Pool / Getty

While Trump himself was not there, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit back at Steinmeier and others’ comments, quoting them before saying: “I’m here to tell you the facts. Those statements do not reflect reality,” according to Politico.

He also noted the resources the US gives to global alliances and how many trips he has personally made to those countries, saying according to Politico: “Is this an America that rejects responsibility? Let’s be straight up: The US is out there fighting for sovereignty and our friends.”

But most European representatives were unswayed by Pompeo’s rebuttal, and felt that his speech was designed to appease Trump rather than the international leaders in the room, Politico reported.

Mike Pompeo Heiko Maas

Foto: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Munich Security Conference on February 14, 2020.sourceMichael Dalder/Pool via Reuters

Republicans believe the event centered on attacking the US

The three-day event, which brings together world leaders, military chiefs, and CEOs and can be considered more important than the World Economic Forum in Davos, ended on Sunday.

It was very much a global event, with speeches this year from leaders and foreign ministers of countries including Azerbaijan, China, India, and Iran, as well as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

But the focus this year was on Western alliances.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Westlessness”: what organizers called “a widespread feeling of uneasiness and restlessness in the face of increasing uncertainty about the enduring purpose of the West.”

According to Politico, this title frustrated Republicans – Trump’s party members – who viewed it as a jab at the US and the idea that it stepped back from its traditional leadership role.

Mike Turner, a Republican congressman from Ohio and long-time conference attendee, told Politico that he was “a little taken aback by the tone” and how he felt the US had to defend its commitment to Europe.

Zuckerberg

Foto: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020.sourceAndreas Gebert via Reuters

The presence of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the conference, and a quote by prominent Democrat Joe Biden on the conference website’s main page also suggested a European appreciation for Democrats rather than Republicans.

(Biden’s quote, which is prominently featured on the conference’s homepage, says: “Like no other global forum, Munich connects European leaders and thinking wth their peers from across the world.”)

And last year, when US Vice President Mike Pence brought greetings from Trump to the conference, he was met with several seconds of silence. Conference members then also openly criticized the president.

Trump campaigned on this idea of changing America’s role on the global stage, and relations between him and other world leaders have strained since he entered office.

Tensions are also now flaring between the US and the UK – two countries that have long touted their “special relationship” – particularly after Britain decided to go ahead with a 5G deal with Chinese telecoms company Huawei, in what some have seen as a sign in the decline of US influence.

Join Our Twitter Chat: Technology’s Implications for the Workforce

Join MIT SMR on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT to discuss how tech is changing organizations and their workforces.

Everyone’s talking about “the future of work” — but is that future already here? We’re hosting this chat because we’re interested in discussing what the future means for companies and their workforces. Every field has been touched by digitalization, and new technologies promise to increase efficiencies by automating routine tasks and giving customers immediate access to new experiences. (Uber and Lyft wouldn’t exist without the smartphone, after all.) What does this mean for companies? How is work changing? And what does this mean for employees? Let’s talk about the new mindsets, skills, and career trajectories people need to continue cultivating to contribute to their organizations and find meaning in the work they do.

We hope you’ll join us Tuesday, Feb. 25, for this conversation.

To participate, head over to MIT Sloan Management Review’s Twitter feed (@mitsmr) at the chat start time, or search Twitter for the hashtag #MITSMRChat to follow along.

Add this event to your Outlook or iCal calendar.

Questions we’ll discuss include the following:

  1. Do you think employees want different things from their jobs and workplaces than they did in the past?
  2. Do you feel that companies are helping their employees develop and maintain the skills they need in order to be successful in the future?
  3. How is technology changing how work gets done?
  4. When technology is used to automate or augment certain tasks, what opportunities does that create for workers?
  5. How should organizations think about workforce planning over the next one to three years?

In advance of this chat, consider reviewing the following content from MIT SMR:

How Will Digital Trends Shape Your Career?

Take this short self-assessment to see how new ways of working are transforming organizations and what that might mean for your career.

Revisiting the Jobs Artificial Intelligence Will Create

MIT SMR’s Paul Michelman interviews authors Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson about new categories of human jobs that have emerged as a result of advancing technologies.

Redefining Work for New Value: The Next Opportunity

Authors John Hagel, Jeff Schwartz, and Maggie Wooll suggest that the automation of routine tasks can free up workers to focus on new opportunities for value creation.

Leisure Is Our Killer App

Take six minutes or so to explore why letting our minds wander fuels creativity — and gives us an edge over machines.

The New Disrupters

By entering the market with products and services that are every bit as good as those offered by legacy companies, a new breed of disrupters is making it harder than ever for traditional businesses to compete.

Clayton Christensen’s Theory of Disruptive Innovation first came to public attention 25 years ago. Christensen presciently explained that fast-moving disrupters entering the market with cheap, low-quality goods could undermine companies wed to prevailing beliefs about competitive advantage. In the last decade, however, the profile of disrupters has changed dramatically. The critical difference is that they now enter the market with products and services that are every bit as good as those offered by legacy companies. Their ascendance doesn’t undermine Christensen’s theory. In fact, they expand its reach and vitality — and make it harder than ever for traditional companies to compete.

The Classic Theory of Disruption

Before we look at how things have evolved, let’s briefly review why Christensen’s theory proved so influential and, indeed, disruptive to existing ideas of competitive advantage.1 Traditional strategy had been anchored on the notion of “generic strategies” in which a company could compete at the high end by differentiating, at the low end by pursuing cost leadership, or focus on serving a specific niche exceptionally well.2 Christensen illustrated a way for new entrants to cheerfully ignore these basic strategy dynamics. He showed how a new kind of dangerous competitor could wreak havoc by entering at the low end of a market, where margins are thin and customers are reluctant to pay for anything they don’t need.

The new entrant comes in with a product or service that’s cheaper and more convenient but that doesn’t offer the same level of performance on the dominant criteria that most customers expect from incumbents that have been working on the technology for years. The incumbents feel they can ignore the newcomer. Not only are its products inferior, but its margins are lower and its customers less loyal. Incumbents choose instead to focus on sustaining innovation — making improvements to the features that have been of most value to their high-end customers.

Christensen showed the downside of ignoring the newcomers. Eventually, as these upstarts improve, they become pretty good at the old dominant criteria. They also develop such solid innovations at the low end that they bring new customers into the market. Having doubled down on what has always worked, the incumbents fail to notice two things.

Shaq is trying to sell his $2.5 million Los Angeles mansion on Instagram, and he’s just the latest celebrity homeowner using social media to entice potential buyers

Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has taken to Instagram to market his multimillion-dollar home in Bell Canyon, California.

The five-bedroom, five-bathroom home has been on the market for 86 days, according to Zillow. The home was initially listed with the real-estate brokerage Compass, but as of February 7, it was moved to The Agency.

That same day, O’Neal posted a video tour of the $2.5 million mansion on his Instagram account.

“The house is walking distance from the community center, state of the art gym, and tennis courts. It can be all yours for $2.5M. For SERIOUS buyers please send an email to [email protected] for more information,” he wrote in the caption.

So far, the post has nearly 3 million views and over 16,500 comments. The home is located in Bell Canyon, a gated community in Ventura County where the median home value is $1,541,904. Along with over 5,000 square feet of interior space, the property boasts a range of perks including a pool and a master suite with two walk-in closets.

In January 2019, Shaq was also selling a lakeside Florida mansion, with an asking price of $22 million. Per Zillow, that property listing was removed from the market as of June.

O’Neal isn’t the only celebrity that has advertised a home on Instagram

Back in October 2019, Justin Bieber posted a series of photos of his Beverly Hills mansion on his Instagram account saying he was thinking about selling the place.

“I’ll sell it with all the furniture. MAKE AN OFFER,” Bieber wrote as one of the captions.

While the photos got over one million likes each, it’s unclear how serious the pop star was about seeking out a buyer for the 6,132-square-foot property. According to a report by TMZ, at least five prospective buyers have contacted Bieber with serious offers, but it’s unclear whether any are being considered.

The authors of a new Trump-world book ‘Sinking in the Swamp’ discuss the ‘stupidity’ of the current political era

  • Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay, White House reporters for The Daily Beast, wrote their new book “Sinking in the Swamp” with a focus on mid and low-level Trump associates. 
  • The authors modeled their profile of President Donald Trump‘s administration on “Wiseguy” — the true crime book upon which the classic mobster film “Goodfellas” is based.
  • Insider spoke with them about their peculiar White House beat, including Rudy Giuliani prank-texting Suebsaeng because he was bored, and White House aides using a fake email account to troll reporters. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Of the umpteen books written about President Donald Trump‘s administration, “Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump’s Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington” is the first to focus on the mid and low-level associates that give Trumplandia it’s darkly absurd flavor. 

Written by Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay, White House reporters for The Daily Beast, “Sinking in the Swamp” seeks to fill a void left by other books on the Trump administration that the authors believe lack the “necessary combination of horror, tar-black humor and gleeful disregard for ‘respecting the office’ for which we believe the occasion has called.”

They are unsparing in their descriptions of the president, at one point describing his half-hearted attempt to dictate a statement renouncing his past support for Obama birther conspiracy theories as a “seven-minute, meandering spat of word-mouth vomit.” 

The authors don’t let themselves off the hook for their participation in the madness either. The book’s first chapter recounts the night a highly-buzzed Suebsaeng tried to coax the famously straight-laced former FBI Director James Comey into doing some “fireball shots” at the Trump International Hotel. 

Insider spoke with Suebsaeng and Markay prior to the release of “Sinking in the Swamp.” The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Insider: How did you guys start working as a team?

Markay: I think we started writing together when we collaborated on a story about [former Deputy Assistant to President Trump] Seb Gorka.

Suebsaeng: Seb Gorka brought us together. 

Markay: In May 2017, we ended up writing a few different stories about Gorka. And through that, I dragged Swin fully into the realm of White House reporting. We still look back on May 2017 as the absolute fucking month from hell in White House coverage. 

Suebsaeng: That month lasted two years. 

Markay: Comey getting fired. Trump giving Sergei Lavrov classified information in an Oval Office meeting. All these crazy things kept happening. So by default, our editors told us, “You are now on the beat of White House insanity.”

Asawin “Swin” Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay
Asawin “Swin” Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay, authors of “Sinking in the Swamp”
Lachlan Markay

Suebsaeng: I don’t think I ever had any ambition to be a White House reporter for any administration. Up until early January 2017, like right before he was inaugurated, I don’t think I was presenting myself as someone who would even want to go to the White House for anything, really. 

I started covering Trump for Mother Jones magazine, which was my previous job where I was a politics and culture reporter. I basically was covering how Hollywood and politics intersected. So The Daily Beast saw this and they hired me to do exactly that. [Then] Donald J. Trump comes along and launches his campaign, which in my mind and the minds of a lot of other people, was the logical conclusion, if not logical extreme, of where politics and pop culture in America radically intersected. 

So months turn into a year and a half, and what do you know, Hillary Clinton manages to s— the f—— bed and Donald J. Trump beats her to become leader of the free world. So I was accidentally slotted into this role as a Trump White House reporter.

Markay: The funny thing about this administration is media reporters and Hollywood reporters  are just as qualified to cover it as politics reporters, both because Trump is such a ridiculous figure, but also because those worlds have never had a larger impact on how policy gets made than they have right now. 

‘We would have sucked at covering any other White House’

Insider: Something that popped out at me was that the model for this book was “Wiseguy” [the book upon which the classic mobster film “Goodfellas” is based]. But to me it almost reads like if Hunter S. Thompson wrote a true crime book about politics. 

Markay: Didn’t he do that? 

Insider: Kind of, yeah. What I mean is in a lot of ways Thompson became the story itself. Was there a conscious choice to make yourselves characters in the book? 

Markay: Yeah, I think there was. I don’t want to toot our own horn too much. I mean, we’re not calling ourselves world-class journalists when I say that the manner in which we stumbled into this was kind of a microcosm of how Trump himself has changed some of the dynamics in Washington. 

I remember reading a piece back in 2013 about how the White House beat was sort of this cushy, boring, mostly staid place for veteran reporters to go and not really do a lot of work and go to press briefings and mingle with powerful people. But it wasn’t considered a particularly exciting beat. Not much news came out if it. And then that changes very dramatically right at the outset [of the Trump administration]. 

We felt there was a lot of coverage and even some books coming out about the administration that tried to approach it the way you would approach previous White Houses. Clearly that’s not the direction we went in. And the way The Daily Beast approached it in assigning both of us to the White House sort of tacitly understood that. 

So the fact that the two of us — who didn’t have a minute of White House experience between us — were given this beat and told to just kind of run wild with it, is a microcosm of how things have changed in the Trump era, how media has changed in the Trump era.

We are sort of inescapably part of the story a bit in that we would have sucked at covering any other White House and we wouldn’t have enjoyed it like we do this. So I don’t want to call it a memoir or anything like that, but I think there needed to be a first-person element because the absurdity of this era is illustrated partly in the fact that we are covering it.

donald trump white house lawn
President Donald Trump talks to the media on his way to the Marine One helicopter, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, as he leaves the White House in Washington, en route to Texas.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

‘A lot of bush league, cartoonish, Adult Swim-style ratf——‘

Insider: It’s no secret that this White House leaks like a sieve. Can you talk about the leakers that have been most useful to you and the ones that have been the least useful to you? 

Markay: The challenge was everyone was leaking for sometimes selfish and sometimes duplicitous reasons. We recap in the book getting fed these absolute 100% bullshit anonymous tips by someone who claimed to be a high-level administration insider, who we subsequently discovered was multiple people inside the White House who were just trying to ratf— us by giving us bulls— tips and seeing if we’d run with them.

Insider: And that was the fake “swampydcinsider” email account. 

Markay: “Swampydcinsider,” exactly. 

Suebsaeng: Among the White House press corps in the Trump era, “swampydcinsider” is something that you just say to them and they’ll start giggling. I think it’s something that multiple people had eye-rolly interactions with back in 2017.

Markay: And they would feed you just enough to make it seem like it was real. Or they would read something you wrote to figure out a tip that you had, and then give you some bulls— tip that sounded like it could be plausibly aligned with that, and then hoped you would run with it. 

So it was actually kind of clever, but it was pretty clear it was bulls— and a less scrupulous reporter might have just printed it in full. But that was the kind of stuff you’d have to deal with, especially in the first year of the Trump administration.

Suebsaeng: There’s a lot of ratf—— in every single administration. (“Ratf——” became a common euphemism for political dirty tricks following the publication of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s seminal Watergate book “All the President’s Men”).

But there was a lot of bush league, cartoonish, Adult Swim-style ratf—— in the first year of the Trump era. As we recount in the book, it was one of those professional inconveniences that also became the professional laugh line. 

Markay: That’s another reason we decided to add a first person element to this, [because] this happening to us was just so comical that recounting it in the first person really gives you a sense of just how ridiculous the experience of covering this White House was. 

Suebsaeng: There’s several anecdotes in the book that fall under that category. Such as Rudy Giuliani prank-texting me right around the time of Christmas 2018, pretending that he was trying to liberate hostages on an airplane. He was doing that because he was bored, like bored out of his mind on a plane stuck on the tarmac. 

And one of my favorite parts in the book was during the tail end of the 2016 campaign when the actor Jon Voight called me thinking I was Steve Mnuchin, who at the time was Trump’s finance chair for his presidential campaign. Some weird s— like that. So we thought, we can’t really put that in the book without making it first person. 

‘It’s hard to overstate the stupidity of this political era’

Insider: What are some new names to watch on the Trump 2020 campaign that may have not been household names we knew from 2016 or from their work in the White House? 

Suebsaeng: A good example of that is a woman named Jenna Ellis. Maybe she’ll be in the paperback version. She’s a senior legal adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign, so she doesn’t work in the White House, but she advises Trump and the campaign. 

Markay: She’s very much of the Christian right, she’s very opposed to gay rights and just a total culture warrior. She got involved in the legal strategizing around impeachment and has become a go-to surrogate and pundit to hit up all the Fox shows to defend the president whenever he needs defending.   

Suebsaeng: We asked several senior Trump people both on and off the campaign, do you personally know Jenna Ellis? Because she was starting to become a pretty prominent figure among Trump folk. None of them, across the board, knew her. She really did just kind of rocket out of nowhere. 

But suddenly she’d become a player in Trumplandia in large part because the president saw her on TV, this Washington Examiner blogger, and liked her style and liked how much she was defending Donald J. Trump against all these nasty libs.

It goes back to Lachlan’s earlier point about how if you are a media reporter covering political media and the Trump era and engines such as Fox News, you were almost as qualified as anybody else to cover the Trump administration properly. 

Because as stupid as it sounds and as numb to it as we are because it’s so commonplace, the president really does get so much policy advice, and now apparently legal advice, from his favorite TV shows. And he will not just call up these people for private counsel or take their counsel directly through the TV, but tap them for very senior positions on his campaign or in his administration.

The fact that “Fox and Friends” has a gigantic sway over the direction of [Trump administration policy] — again, we’ve become numb to it — but it’s relentlessly true and relentlessly stupid same time. 

It’s hard to overstate the stupidity of this political era, at least in my opinion.