What's it like to stand stark naked on the world stage? Ask Donald Trump

Richard Wolffe

You know that classic nightmare where you’re at work and everyone is talking but none of them say the obvious: you’re stark naked.

Donald Trump is living that hellacious dream every time he steps in front of the women and men who make up the world’s leaders.

Stripped of his usual protections inside the White House, Trump exposes himself on the world stage at every conceivable opportunity. This week’s Nato summit in London was no exception, adding itself to the long list of denuded nonsense that erupts in front of every international figure.

First he attempted to joke with President Emmanuel Macron of France about Isis. “Would you like some nice Isis fighters? I can give them to you. You can take everyone you can,” said the man pretending to be the leader of the free world.

“Let’s be serious,” said Macron, dispensing with a translator as he shut down the clown show. “The very large number of fighters you have on the ground are Isis fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq, and the region.”

Photograph: Francisco Seco/AP

You don’t have to be a world leader at a Nato summit to know that Isis fighters and jihadist sympathizers pose a serious threat to the streets of Europe’s capital cities. You just have to be a grownup who pays attention to the news, such as the fatal stabbings on London Bridge just last week. But that may be asking too much of the man-baby who watches TV somewhere close to the Oval Office.

The widespread expectation that Trump will embarrass himself does not make his nakedness any less shocking. Even after all these years of bare-faced tomfoolery.

So it was Macron and his French-speaking ally Justin Trudeau, accompanied by a jolly-hockey-sticks Boris Johnson, who all seemed to be dumping on Donald at Buck House on Tuesday.

“You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” Trudeau said, dropping his hand towards floor in a performance that also seemed to involve a glass of beer.

It was hard to know what Trump-induced jaw-dropper he was talking about. There are so many to choose from.

Was it the head-wrenching answer a few minutes after his comments on Isis fighters, when Trump was asked if he supported the protesters in Iran?

“I don’t want to comment on that. But the answer is no. But I don’t want to comment on that,” said Trump, contradicting himself twice in the space of just 20 words.

Then again, maybe Trudeau was talking about the way Trump explained how he betrayed his Kurdish allies in Syria by pretending that “we’ve captured the oil and taken the oil”.

Or maybe he was talking about the way Trump explained at a Nato summit that he understood why Turkey was buying Russian missiles.

“So, you know, there are two sides to the story,” claimed the president who consistently prefers the Russian side of the story.

Of all the threats facing the world – the climate crisis, the rise of Putin-style politicians, refugees, terrorism – none have played on Trump’s mind quite as much as the thought that the world might be laughing at America.

“We need a President who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire World,” Trump tweeted two years before he became just that. “We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!”

Sadly, Trump never became the second half of his own tweet, no matter what he sees in the mirror each morning.

Instead he became the kind of leader who bragged to the United Nations how awesome his administration was. To be specific, he told last year’s general assembly that it was more awesome than “almost any other administration in the history of our country”. At which point, the massed ranks of world leaders started guffawing.

“I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” he said.

It’s never OK for this fragile snowflake of a tough guy. When asked about Trudeau’s laughter on Wednesday, Trump melted once again.

“Well he’s two-faced,” he said. “And honestly with Trudeau, he’s a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy. But you know the truth is that I called him out on the fact that he’s not paying 2%. And I guess he’s not very happy about it.”

Yeah, that must be it. Totally nailed him on that one.

Sitting beside him, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was surely impressed with the savage indictment of the size of Canada’s military spending. But she subtly masked her admiration by looking like an anxious patient expecting a bad prognosis.

There was plenty to feel queasy about. Trump once again heaped praise on himself for carving up the Kurds, in alliance with the Russians, Syrians and Turks. “Maybe someday they’ll give me credit, but probably not,” he whined. “But that worked out well. They’ve been trying to do this for a hundred years. That border is a mess for a long time.”

It worked out less well for America’s Kurdish allies, but hey.

Perhaps someday they’ll also give him credit for his Greenland gambit, which he suggested would be part of his forthcoming talks with the Danish prime minister.

“Do you still want to buy Greenland,” asked one cheeky reporter.

“She must be in the real estate business,” said the non-laughingstock president. “That’s a very good question.”

After all those good questions about his genius at strategy and winning, Trump wimped out of his final press conference. “I think we’ve done plenty of press conferences,” he said. “Unless you’re demanding a press conference, we’ll do one, but I think we’ve answered plenty of questions.”

For a split second, Boris Johnson gulped hard at the thought of one more chance for Trump to blow the British general election.

And so the naked emperor declared he would get dressed, unless you thought he was already wearing something fancy, in which case he’d stay happily inside his birthday suit. Respect!

  • Richard Wolffe is a Guardian US columnist