Friday evening, Donald Trump leaves for his very first foreign trip as president. The first stops on his itinerary are Saudi Arabia, to give a speech about Islam and meet with more than 50 Muslim leaders; Israel, where he’ll visit the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as well as the prime minister; and the Vatican, where he’ll meet with the pope.
If going to symbolic centers of three of the world’s major religions — Islam, Judaism, and Christianity — on his first trip abroad sounds like a risky agenda, it is. And expectations aren’t high for how well he’ll be able to pull it off without a major gaffe.
One striking quote puts that fact in stark relief. CNN’s Oren Liebermann asked an unnamed Israeli politician about his expectations for Trump’s visit to the country. His response is priceless.
"Something will go wrong. That we know, but we don't know what," the politician said, “half-jokingly,” according to Liebermann. "A successful visit right now is for it to be over."
Needless to say, Israeli politicians don’t typically expect disaster on an American president’s first trip to their country. The comment, even half-jokingly, perfectly illustrates why everyone is so nervous about Trump’s trip.
Trump talking about religion and politics: what could go wrong?
Talking about religion sensitively is really hard for any politician. Talking about religion and politics is even harder. And it’s harder still when it’s done in a high-profile venue in a foreign country.
Trump is perhaps the least sensitive man ever to occupy the Oval Office. He’s infamous for saying offensive stuff and going off script. How could leaders in these countries not be nervous that Trump will say something that could spark a minor crisis?
This is a man who:
- Has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”
- Once told a room of Jews that “I’m a negotiator, like you folks”
- Failed to even mention Jews at all in a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day
- Publicly feuded with the pope about the Mexico border wall in February 2016
- Referred to the New Testament’s Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians” in a speech to devout Christians.
Hence why an Israeli politician is willing to tell a reporter that success looks like Trump leaving. The risks of him being in the country are so high that they’ll be happy if he makes it out without causing a major incident.