With typical bluster of a real estate dealer, US President Trump claimed this week that his administration was a "finely-tuned machine." A nervous Europe and a disappointed Russia suggest something more precarious.
The business magnate turned president claims that the corporate news media in the US and Europe are determined to disparage his month-old administration as "chaotic." He has a valid point too.
Trump says relentless allegations of a "Russian connection" to his political aides are a "ruse" contrived by the media opposed to his presidency. The resignation of his top National Security Adviser Michael Flynn last week over allegations that he talked with a Russian diplomat before Trump's inauguration on January 20 was, in the president's view, a case of media-driven crisis.
Trump has rebuffed media claims of chaos in his administration as overblown and betrays an agenda to undermine his presidency. He counters by pointing to a stream of executive orders signed during the first weeks of office as evidence that his presidency is achieving more than any other administration towards the stated goal of "making America great again." Trump is adamant, with hallmark brusqueness, that he's running a finely-tuned machine.
However, unofficial news seeping out of the White House tells a different story. A NPR correspondent this week quoted an insider in the West Wing as saying that the administration was a "train wreck." Empty desks, disenchanted staffers, lack of leadership were said to be taking a toll on efficient running of Trump's administration.
The resignation of Michael Flynn and the debacle of a successor, Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turning down the National Security post is an outward expression of bedlam at the White House.
When Trump hosted Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu this week at the White House it was obvious that the president was not adequately briefed. His non-committal quip of "I like whatever solution Bibi and the Palestinians like" was a cringing admission that Trump was clueless. And that cluelessness stemmed from not having a National Security Adviser to get him up to speed on the issues.
That was just one of several practical examples in the foreign policy realm that raise questions about the Trump White House and whether it will derail sometime soon.
"Mixed signals" is perhaps a charitable way to describe a Trump presidency in turmoil. The number of countries unnerved by Trump's mercurial style range from allies to foes alike, from Mexico, Canada, Japan, South Korea, to China, Venezuela and Iran.
Not least unnerved are the Europeans who supposedly share a much-vaunted "transatlantic bond" with America, manifested in the NATO military alliance.
The dominant foreign policy theme last week could be dubbed "America's reassurance tour of European allies." US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence were all in European capitals, each keenly trying to calm anxieties elicited by Donald Trump's earlier critical comments about the European Union and NATO.
Mattis and Pence separately addressed the Munich Security Conference and gushingly told delegates that President Trump was fully committed to NATO and the "transatlantic bond."