The White House has been in crisis since inauguration. Advisers and aides switch positions on issues by the hour, while President Trump, as evidenced by his shotgun press conference last week, thinks he is the only effective messenger for his platform.However, the choice of then Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his Vice Presidential candidate was made to soften the brazen tone that surrounded the Trump campaign. And it was particularly helpful in courting the evangelical vote, as well as establishment Republicans not sold on candidate Trump.
Now, the Vice President is playing a similar role with international allies.
Pence spent the Presidents’ Day weekend in Europe attending the Munich Security Conference and having meetings with the European Union and NATO. The Veep loudly noted the administration’s support for the EU and the NATO alliance, while also reiterating President Trump’s call for increased defense spending.
European leaders openly voiced the importance of the visit, particularly in light of disturbing comments from President Trump, both on the campaign and in the early weeks of his presidency.
"Thank you for this meeting. We all truly needed it," Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council said on Monday. "Too much has happened over the past months in your country, and in the EU. Too many new and sometimes surprising opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations and our common security for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be."
Pence appears to have assuaged European fears of a United States that seems more isolationist — and of a presidency that views economic and military alliances in Europe with less caution and friendship than past administrations.
Despite Pence’s comforting words at both the EU and NATO, there are varying opinions emanating from the White House.
A Reuters exclusive reported that chief White House strategist Steven Bannon spoke with a German diplomat in Washington a week before Pence's visit and expressed doubts about the future of the EU. Bannon said he supports the populist movements in Europe and thinks Europeans “don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union.”
The lack of coherent messaging to international allies could be a function of the disorganization within the administration. The appointment of Mike Dubke as communications director might correct these inaccuracies.
Or, Bannon wants to promote his own agenda from the shadows of the West Wing, while other White House officials operate in a more conventional vein. It will take time to understand exactly how the Trump White House will address its relationship with our European allies.
As of now, the messaging is convoluted and unconvincing -- and our European allies are worried by the potential for a souring relationship within the pan-Atlantic community.
Thomas Matussek, senior adviser at Flint Global and a former German ambassador to the Britain and the United Nations, told Reuters the Trump administration's support of right-wing populists in upcoming European election campaigns would trigger a "major transatlantic crisis."