Donald Trump's Successful Europe Trip Shows He's Truly Grown Into the Job

In the main, the American media do not think highly of our current president.

This matters. Whether they admit it or not, their personal views shape their reportage. They regard him as a pretender to the throne, an accidental occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who has done more to discredit his office than most any of his predecessors. In their eyes, he's a bombastic boor and a bumbler whose reckless disregard for the dignity of his office has cheapened the nation in the eyes of the world.

Not everyone holds that opinion. A goodly number of his supporters probably don't give a swivel-eyed tinker's dam, for example, about how he's seen in Europe. That's there and we're here. Yet in the world of statecraft, such things are important—which is why his just-concluded trip to the United Kingdom and France to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings is so important.

From almost all accounts, Trump acquitted himself well. An early spat with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, which had Khan calling the president a "poster boy" for the far right and Trump calling the mayor "a stone-cold loser," evolved into nothingness. Likewise, the appearance from across the Atlantic of a giant, inflatable "Baby Trump"—thought by some to be an embarrassment to the American leader—ended up something of a fizzle, especially after a pro-Trump supporter poked it with a sharp object, apparently causing it to deflate temporarily.

The president's trip, despite a momentary incident of bad tailoring, appears to have been something of a triumph. Martin Walker, the distinguished British journalist who for some time headed up The Guardian's Washington bureau, told me, "President Trump often behaves more discreetly abroad than he does at home, and the pomp and ceremony of the queen's welcome and the symbolism of the D-Day anniversary kept him on his best behavior."

Not only that, said Walker, but "his reading of FDR's prayer was inspired and moving, and he was considerate and courteous to the lame-duck Prime Minister Theresa May," a task even some of the better politicians in the world might—at this juncture—find difficult.

Walker's opinion is shared by many, critics and supporters alike. Sarah Elliott, the chairman of Republicans Overseas in the United Kingdom, described the visit as "a massive success" that "completely dumbfounded his foes and detractors here."

Elliott added that those detractors "could only grasp on to the fact that when asked if the NHS was on the table for negotiations," referring to Britain's National Health Service, "he said 'yes'—because as a businessman, everything is always on the table." Trump may have failed to understand the domestic implications of his answer or the intention behind the question, but in any event, he has since made what the Brits like to call a "U-turn" on the issue.

Still, the president is not without his detractors in America, especially those who seem to find fault with everything he does. Writing for The Bulwark, a new website that is largely center-right in its outlook but also anti-Trump, Mollie Jong-Fast observed, "This week the Trump kids went royal in the hopes of laundering their brand and enjoying some of the fruits of their father's high office. We should have known that the president who made up a fake coat of arms would be all too happy to bring along his four adult children to hobnob with what he considers to be their British counterparts."

Snarky enough perhaps, but she then went further: "As royal families go, the Trumps aren't the Windsors. Or the Bushes. Or the Kennedys. Or the Kardashians, even. The Trumps are more like the Habsburgs—at least where their facial structure is concerned." The reference, alas for her, probably went well over the head of most readers.

Elliott, who is American-born, was far more cheerful.

"What we saw in Donald Trump was a statesman: a man humbled in the presence of Britain's longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and a gracious man to a failed prime minister. This was a personal highlight and triumph for Donald J. Trump," she told me.

Trump D-Day
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the main ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the World War II Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy at Normandy American Cemetery on June 6. Trump's trip to Europe, Peter Roff writes, was viewed as a success. Getty/Sean Gallup

Walker, who shared his views with me during a tour to promote the latest in his series of mystery novels featuring Bruno, a character modeled on the chief of police in the provincial French village where he now spends much of his time, is not what one would call a Trump supporter. But he is an accomplished student of history who covered events in Moscow during the Glasnost period and was embedded with British troops during the second Gulf War. His assessment of the Trump visit, therefore, in a fair world should carry some weight.

Trump, he said, "did better than his friends had feared and his critics had hoped."

Faint praise? Perhaps. Or a recognition, possibly grudging, that the president is growing into the job as his successes mount. The roof hasn't fallen in, unlike so many of his foes predicted even before he won the presidency. America and the world still stand, proud, prosperous and secure.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International and other publications. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.