European officials have resigned themselves to working around President Donald Trump by connecting straight to Vice President Mike Pence when they need to get things done, said Vanity Fair on Thursday.
“We are still trying to figure out what it exactly means, this ‘America First’ approach,” said a “senior European diplomat” to Vanity Fair‘s Abigail Tracy, adding that since Trump’s election, it has become “more complex” and “more challenging” to discern the U.S. foreign policy amid the slew of contradictory positions emanating from the White House.
“The early months of Trump’s tenure were defined by chaos and mismanagement at nearly every level, from the botched rollout of his travel ban, to his oddly hostile call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to his dangerously ambivalent commentary about support for NATO,” said Tracy. “Administration officials say that the White House is now a tighter ship under the stewardship of Chief of Staff John Kelly, but some links in Trump’s chain of command can’t be fixed.”
Cornered by investigators and riven by factionalism, Trump’s White House — with its competing interests in the form of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, national security adviser H. R. McMaster, embattled Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly — is seen by foreign officials as a place where calls aren’t returned and answers are only as reliable as the latest twist of the mercurial president’s moods.
Instead, Tracy said, “diplomats have turned to the one member of the Cabinet that Trump can’t oust: Mike Pence.”
A report from Foreign Policy magazine portrayed Pence and his staff as an island of efficiency and organization in a sea of mayhem.
Diplomats have praised Pence’s office to Foreign Policy as “amazing” and “super professional.” He and his personnel are often better informed on foreign policy than the State Department, said an unnamed European official.
Pence has been dispatched by the administration to calm the fears of allies concerned about Trump’s changeability, lack of focus and feckless attitude toward alliances like NATO. While it’s not unusual for a vice president to act on behalf of a presidential administration overseas, it’s is very rare, Tracy said, that a vice president is sent to calm allies about his own boss.
“That may be the new normal in Washington, where a notoriously mercurial president occupies the Oval Office,” she wrote. “For Pence, it also offers the opportunity for the former Indiana governor to begin laying the groundwork for a sort of shadow campaign: cozying up to a diplomatic community that is likely to outlast the president.”
However, as The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer wrote in her revealing profile of Pence, the former Indiana governor is a far-right Christian ideologue whose ideas about women, sex and sexual orientation are wildly out of step with mainstream America.