No, Vlad Putin isn't the only virtuoso. Nor is China's Xi Jinping. We have just seen a performance which demonstrates beyond question that Saudi Arabia also is somewhat accomplished.
That nation is the seat of the fanatical Wahabi sect of Islam responsible for so much of Islamic extremism. It doesn't like the fact that Qatar serves as a kind of regional counterbalance to it, a rival for leadership in the region. So when Mr. Trump tweeted a call upon the nations in the region to stop funding "radical ideology," the Saudis agreed that yes, Qatar is really terrible. So terrible, in fact, that shortly thereafter they broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar because of its encouragement of Islamic terrorism.
To be fair, Qatar is the home of al-Jazeera, which might be thought of as the Fox News of radical Islam and is profoundly unfriendly to the Saudis as well as to the United States. It also has ties to Hamas- ties which it has used in the past to influence that organization to moderate its position on a theoretical two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. For economic and geopolitical reasons, its relations with Iran are considerably warmer than one might expect from an American ally. None of these make Qatar quite the devils the Saudis would like to pretend. And a case can be made that none of them implicate Qatar in Islamic extremism not nearly as deeply as Saudi Arabia itself is implicated, despite its generally friendly attitude toward the United States.
Both nations are among America's closest allies in the region, Qatar, you may recall, was the base from which Operation Desert Storm was launched. Its cooperation with the United States in the war against terror has on the whole been exemplary enough that Mr. Trump himself recently singled it out for special praise.
Clearly, the smart move for the United States would be to pour oil on troubled waters and to try to ease relations between two such close American allies. Instead, as Secretary of State Tillerson worked to do precisely that, President Trump took to Twitter again to side with the Saudis and attack Qatar!
The easiest way to fix the mess Mr. Trump's impulsive ignorance created would be for him to apologize. That, of course, is not going to happen, because by the president's own admission he never does anything he needs to apologize for.
So it's left to the grownups who are more or less his caretakers to try to sort the mess out, for the Saudis to join the Russians in laughing at our president behind his back, and for the rest of us to wistfully remember the days when the President of the United States had some clue of what the hell he was doing.