Republican lawmakers had mixed reactions to President Donald Trump and top White House aides lashing out at America’s closest allies — in particular, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — after last week’s G-7 summit in Quebec.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a frequent Trump critic, referenced the vitriol emanating from the administration in a tweet: “Fellow Republicans, this is not who we are. This cannot be our party.”
Speaking with VOA on Monday, another Republican senator, Alabama’s Richard Shelby, downplayed the seriousness of the spat and any impact stemming from it.
“I’m sure it’ll be fixed one way or the other,” Shelby said. “I’m sure we’ll work it out at the end of the day because we need each other. Europe needs us, we need Europe. Canada needs us, we need them.”
Strong language spewed forth on Sunday after Trudeau restated his opposition to U.S. tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel and promised retaliatory measures against American products. Trudeau called new U.S. tariffs “illegitimate and unacceptable” and said Canadians “will not be pushed around.” The Canadian leader did not attack Trump personally and expressed regret over the turn of events.
Hours later, Trump tweeted that Trudeau was “dishonest and weak,” and refused to endorse the communique issued at the end of the G-7 gathering. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow accused Trudeau of “betrayal” and said he “stabbed us in the back” with a “sophomoric political stunt.” Speaking on Fox News Sunday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said there is a “special place in hell” for Trudeau and accused him of “bad-faith diplomacy.”
Democratic lawmakers expressed shock over the outburst.
“I’m very upset that the president would approach this in such a way to cause extreme tension between the [G-7] parties and to start flinging insults at some of our closest allies,” New Mexico Senator Tom Udall told VOA. “I don’t think this portends well for the future.”
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California tweeted, “To my Republican colleagues: How long will you remain silent as President Trump lays ruin to our alliances and tears apart the very fabric of our democracy? Patriots do not stand mute when our country is in jeopardy, no matter what party occupies the White House.”
While not defending Trump’s choice of words in his tweets, some Republican lawmakers said the president is justified in pointing out trade imbalances with allies who have long benefited from U.S. military spending.
“I personally believe that the U.S. has borne more than its fair share of most international obligations,” Shelby said.
“I STRONGLY support trans-Atlantic alliance & wish @POTUS would have dealt with #China before turning to trade with allies. That said, some seem to forget that his first obligation is to the American people not to the alliance,” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted.
Democrats stressed that America’s alliances have been beneficial for all parties, including the United States.
“Since World War II, we’ve had a number of allies around the world, and they are especially represented at the G-7,” Udall said. “It’s very important, the progress we have made with the G-7… collectively working on our defense, improving the lot of all of our citizens, better trade agreements.”