Hands Across the Water, Then a Slap in the Face

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Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and President Trump at a NATO summit in Brussels in May.

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Pool photo by Matt Dunham

No sooner had Britons found some sorely needed trans-Atlantic cheer in the engagement of their prince charming to an American actress than President Trump dashed it all with his baffling retweet of vile anti-Muslim propaganda from a British neo-fascist group. When Prime Minister Theresa May remonstrated, he compounded the insult with a childishly insolent retort. Britain reacted with rare all-but-unanimous fury, with members of Parliament denouncing the president as stupid, racist and even fascist.

Obviously this is not how the “special relationship” should be conducted, and, as the Telegraph newspaper said, there’s only one real question: “Why?” After a year of the Trump presidency, we have become accustomed to the regular eruption of his inane, self-pitying, aggressive tweets.

But that doesn’t really explain what Mr. Trump was doing Wednesday rummaging through the deceptive tweets of videos posted by a tiny, viciously anti-Muslim group called Britain First, known for staging outrageous provocations against Islamic targets in Britain, and what possessed him to share three of them with his 43 million followers. The justification proffered by the president’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to the effect that the videos expose a real threat, was typically beside the point, which is that the president of the United States was helping spread the propaganda of a hate group.

Nobody in Britain was fooled. “I’m very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do,” declared Ms. May. Parliament held a special debate on the retweet, at which Mr. Trump was excoriated by one member after another, many demanding that a state visit by the president be scrapped. Even Nigel Farage, the euroskeptic who campaigned for Mr. Trump last year, urged Mr. Trump to “Put your hands up, say ‘I got this wrong.’”

By contrast, Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, who posted the videos, was so elated that she tweeted: “GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!”

And still the question, why? Why does the president of the United States embarrass his country, undermine a venerable and critical alliance, insult and alienate all Muslims, including those…

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