"The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men around him.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, political philosopher and author (1469-1527)

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Last week President Donald Trump gave himself a thumbs-up and proclaimed his first international trip a “home run.”

Indeed there were some successes in the nine-day trip that included Saudi Arabia, where the president received a royal welcome and signed a multi-billion-dollar arms deal.

His meeting in the Vatican met with a more tepid Pope Francis and didn’t go as well. It seemed cordial and professional, but there seemed certainly a hint of the past that haunted the meeting, making for some tense-looking photos. When the Pope called out candidate Trump for his stance on immigration during the campaign, Trump called Francis a “disgraceful” human being for questioning his faith (in response to Francis' suggesting that it was unchristian to build walls to keep immigrants out).

Trump then went to Israel and seemed to conduct himself with dignity; at least no duststorm was apparent as he said that a peace agreement was essential, yet offered no plan on how to get to a Middle East peace plan that has eluded his predecessors. Trump the deal maker exuded the confidence that he could lead the way; time will tell.

His meetings with our strongest allies and NATO did not go very well. The new French president got into a handshake battle of tug of war; supposedly a pro-active act to counter Trump's well-known grip and bring-in strategy that establishes him as the alpha. You also saw Trump’s alpha at work as he pushed the (apparently, to Trump) insignificant prime minister of Montenegro aside at the NATO Summit to get ahead of him and to the front of the line for a photo-op. In the video, after the push, shove  and step ahead, Trump is seen puffing out his chest (really), and tugging his suitcoat in a manner that looks one step short of a pounding of the chest.

In his speech to our allies, he threatened them that the United States might not abide by the “all for one, one for all” provisions of the treaty if the country attacked was not paying its fair share, 2 percent of gross national revenue, as their budget for their own military.

In another speech, Trump publicly slapped Germany on the hand, saying the Germans are: “bad, very bad,” before walking it back later and saying that he was not referring to the people, rather their trade policy that keeps America’s cars out of Germany.

While away, after the terrorist attack in Manchester, United Kingdom, our firmest ally, England, stopped sharing intelligence with us because, Prime Minister Theresa May said, it can’t trust us. The White House blamed it on leaks that continue to plague the Trump administration, which Trump and his staff have vowed to put an end to.

It continues to be diversionary strategy for the Trump staff, as they blame it on the leaks and the traditional media ("fake news"). These leaks, while bad for national security, perhaps, provide clear windows into what is happening, and what has occurred in the past in terms of the Russians' manipulating our election process and our government. Let the independent counsel do his work and let’s just see where the truth comes down.

As usual, Trump and his administration continue to blame others and try to change the direction of the narrative, rather than acknowledge any culpability; no surprise, as Trump has never apologized for anything. Even when he backed off the “Obama was born in Kenya” conspiracy which he had claimed hard evidence to support (fake news, I guess). Never did he admit to being wrong or apologize to anyone for his insistent statements that Obama and his presidency were illegitimate.

This is at the crux of where we are at as a nation. Two schools of thought which put us at a cross walk with parallel paths to choose from.

One vision sees America as kind and inclusive, the other as protective and self-righteous.

While some of Trump’s message is fine, his boorish attacks are not “saying it like it is,” as is the mantra of his admirers; rather, it is bullying – if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

Demanding that our NATO neighbors pay their fair share is a fair point, but diplomacy is the way to get it across, whereas belittling, embarrassing and calling out our friends in a hostile way is a lousy strategy. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

If pushing our way to the front of the line is the plan, count me out – this does not make America great again, and never did. When Harry Truman said “the buck stops here,” he meant accountability; apparently Trump did not get the memo. Instead, “the buck stops here” seems to mean that lining his own pockets with bucks is more important than helping the American people; until he shares his tax returns and puts his businesses in blind trusts, common sense suggests this might be true.

Obama might be the next conspiracy theory 101; he just might be responsible for all the leaks – perhaps … before leaving the White House, he bugged the Oval Office and all the places he, like nobody else, knew were the places where secret meetings would take place and national security issues discussed. Treason, for sure; Obama and Hillary belong in jail – if you want to know if it’s true, don’t look to the “fake” mainstream media (you can’t trust the New York Times and Washington Post). Look instead to Fox News and Sean Hannity; he and his cohorts have all the facts and they are willing to share with you everything that the left-wing activist liberals don’t want you to know …. not … .

President Trump told us we would be “winning so much our heads would be spinning”; if this is winning, I’ll sit on the sidelines and wait it out until it’s time for the next game to begin, because winning without integrity is not winning. Plain and simple.

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