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Trump’s UK trip illustrates why people worried about a Trump presidency

Bad tweets, ill-advised statements, ignorance — it’s all on display.

President Donald Trump walks beside Queen Elizabeth at a formal gathering in the UK.
Trump and Queen Elizabeth II on Monday.
Victoria Jones- WPA Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom began with him firing off tweets from Air Force One calling London Mayor Sadiq Khan “a stone cold loser” and culminated with him posting tweets at 1:30 am London time on Wednesday denigrating actress Bette Midler as a “Washed up psycho.

In between, the president called Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “a creep” and urged his supporters to boycott AT&T because of his displeasure with how CNN covers him. He also did a television interview with Piers Morgan in which he demonstrated appalling ignorance about climate science and attempted to walk back a comment he’d recently made about Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle being “nasty” — by calling her “nasty” again.

Trump was accompanied to the UK by his adult children and their spouses, despite the fact that only two of them (Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner) actually have official government roles. The New York Times responded by describing the Trump family as “the American answer to British royalty.”

Then, at the end of his three-day state visit, Trump left England to travel to Doonbeg, a tiny coastal town in Ireland that is home to a golf course he still owns and profits from.

Ahead of his arrival in Doonbeg, Trump had a brief meeting in Shannon, Ireland, with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. During a photo op, a reporter asked him, “Is this trip for you just about promoting your golf club?”

“No. This trip is really about great relationships that we have with the UK,” Trump replied. “I really wanted to do this stop in Ireland. It was very important to me because of the relationship I have with the people and your prime minister.”

While the White House won’t confirm if Trump plans to play golf at his course, he is widely expected to do so before returning to the US on Friday.

None of this is normal by the standard of any other president

The trip is a perfect illustration of what people feared from a Trump presidency: an immature, impulsive bully leveraging his office to demean his enemies and promote his business interests.

But the fact that Trump’s behavior barely registered on the news radar also reflects the extent to which it has become normalized. And it goes beyond his propensity to post tweets and say things during interviews that diminish the office of the presidency.

During a joint news conference with outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday, Trump waded into controversy when he indicated that Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) would be “on the table” as part of a potential trade deal. The comment seemed to indicate Trump intends for profit-driven US companies to gain access to the largest single-payer health system in the world. Unsurprisingly, it was quickly denounced by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But the hesitant way Trump made the remark suggested that, as has been the case when he’s attempted to discuss policy in the past, the president didn’t really know what he was talking about.

Alas, during the subsequent interview with Morgan, Trump walked it back — and in the process made it clear that, yeah, he totally didn’t know what he was saying during the presser.

“I don’t see [the NHS] being on the table,” Trump said. “Somebody asked me a question today and I say everything is up for negotiation, because everything is. But that’s something I would not see as part of trade. That’s not trade.”

Trump met with Nigel Farage, the controversial leader of the United Kingdom’s Brexit Party and a frequent Fox News guest, but refused to meet with Corbyn.

Thousands of anti-Trump demonstrators took to the streets of London to register their opposition, but Trump tweeted, without evidence, that the crowds “were those that gathered in support of the USA and me.”

As he prepared to depart England on Wednesday morning en route to his golf resort in Ireland, Trump tweeted that his trip so far has been an “incredible success.” But instead of making a case of his own, he cited commentary made on Fox News by host Laura Ingraham.

Meanwhile, back at home, the New York Times and Washington Post covered the trip as though Trump is a normal president, with the Times describing Trump’s news conference with May as “a restrained performance.” It’s the latest illustration of how Trump continues to lower the bar.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.