Some of our most thrilling celebrities are threatening to abandon America, our beloved politicians are boring the rest of us to death in nightly pie-throwing contests, and "foreign leaders" are pulling the bedcovers over their heads in terror. This must be another American presidential campaign.
Ringling Brothers, ever on the scout for the latest wild man from Borneo with two heads and three feet, should move the greatest show on earth into the Big Top and charge admission. Everybody wants to watch, even if the faint of heart complain that the sight of it all makes them leave the tent with wet pants.
Reuters, the British news service, reports that foreign diplomats are alarmed by the Donald's "inflammatory and insulting public statements." The folks in Foggy Bottom, who are trained to view with alarm and never have to learn to point with pride, are stumped for what to tell them. "As the Trump rhetoric has continued," one of the officials tells Reuters, "and in some cases 'amped' up, so too have concerns by certain leaders around the world." Three officials who were willing to talk about the shortage of fainting couches in the frightened precincts of the world, declined to say exactly where these precincts are, but conceded that some of them might be in India, South Korea, Japan and Mexico.
But leaders in Britain, France and Canada have indeed gone public with their not-so-private fears. The economics minister of Germany, who you might think would be devoting full attention to the swarms of migrants from the Islamic world threatening to make Muslims of Germans, says the Donald threatens peace and prosperity.
A spokesman for the Mexican embassy wouldn't confirm that any Mexican diplomat had complained to anyone in Washington about Trump fatigue, but observed that its top diplomat, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, had called Mr. Trump "ignorant" and, of course, "racist," and his plan to build a wall to keep Mexicans at home was "absurd." The president of Mexico compares the Donald to Mussolini and Hitler. The fear of such a wall is that it might actually work, as such a wall has worked in Israel, and hamper the dumping of an excess of Mexicans.
Foreign governments in the past have always kept their criticisms of American elections muted. There's something of an agreement among the gentlemen (and ladies) in striped pants. If the prime minister of Lower Slobbovia, for example, won't say anything in public about a scary candidate in America, maybe an American president won't say anything about the mayhem and abuse in Lower Slobbovian elections.
Foreign criticism is thus mostly hyper-ventilation; diplomats must have someone to complain to, and to report that he said something in what used to be called "cables" to the home office. Now everything is sent via email, secure or, in the case of a famous former American secretary of state, not so secure. However, diplomats from countries where everyone must mind his tongue lest it be removed with a rusty knife, never quite learn how America works, and think the U.S. government can control what a candidate, like everyone else, is allowed to say.
Donald Trump scares these foreign diplomats because they think he might mean what he says about forcing the rest of the world to do their share of the heavy lifting required to keep the free world more or less free. In fits of candor, some diplomats concede concerns that the United States might become "more insular" under President Trump, who has threatened to repeal or revise trade agreements and push allies to take a larger role in facing up to the radical Islamic threat in the Middle East.
"European diplomats are constantly asking about Trump's rise with disbelief and now with growing panic," a senior NATO official tells Reuters. "With the European Union facing a [serious] crisis, there's more than the usual anxiety about the United States turning inward when Europe needs American support more than ever."
Gen. Philip Breedlove, the senior U.S. commander in Europe, says he's getting more questions than usual about how American elections work. "And I think they see a very different sort of public discussion than they have in the past." Indeed they do, and if these foreign diplomats in Washington had been paying closer attention to what's going on in the United States, particularly in the fly-over country that is as foreign to American elites as it is to the rest of the world, they would have seen the phenomenon of 2016 coming. Donald Trump did not come out of nowhere, like a summer squall that ruins the picnic.
The great Republican unwashed feel betrayed. So do many Democrats, as Bernie Sanders could tell you. The wheel that goes around comes around, and it may be about to crush anyone who doesn't get out of the way. That's a message for Lower Slobbovia.