Donald Trump just returned from his first trip abroad and White House watchers hope he learned a lot during the week.
Not about the Middle East and Europe, but about the value of acting presidential.
On its face, the trip seemed to placate lawmakers, adversaries and even supporters who worried about the say-anything president at large on the world stage.
But Trump — known for making unforced errors large and small — largely stuck to script, giving no press conferences, ignoring most shouted questions from reporters, and even keeping quiet on Twitter.
On the ground in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium no utterances of “James Comey” or “Russia” came from Trump — leaving news on those issues to break on the home front without the president adding extra fuel to extend the coverage.
When NBC News exclusively reported Thursday that son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is under scrutiny in the FBI’s Russia probe, Trump, who was in Sicily when the news broke, stayed uncharacteristically mum.
The man who campaigned on the “Muslim ban” was greeted warmly by Muslim and Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, talked up Middle East peace in meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, carried a tough (though somewhat awkward) message to NATO allies that they needed to boost their contributions on defense, and he survived a white-knuckled handshake from newly minted French President Emmanuel Macron.
“It’s clear that they were looking to reduce risk and reduce any likelihood of an unscripted moment,” said former President Obama Press Secretary Josh Earnest, an NBC News and MSNBC political analyst. “That clearly was one of their goals going in.”
The White House celebrated the trip as a win after weeks of negative news cycles and the drip, drip, drip of Russia-related news reports consumed the administration.