UK isn't welcoming Donald Trump with open arms

Story highlights

  • Trump is heading to Scotland to officially open one of his golf resorts
  • The Republican candidate has already ruffled feathers in the UK

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump travels to the UK and Ireland later this month to officially open one luxury golf course in Scotland and visit others, a break from his blitzkrieg campaign that carries risks and opportunities.

Presidential candidates have long used foreign travel to project a statesman-like image, burnish their foreign policy credentials, divert an unpleasant media storyline or take a break from the hyper-vigilant coverage at home.
    But for every triumph, there are often pitfalls. Trump faces the prospect of a hostile Irish Prime Minister when he makes a stop in that country. Scotland's First Minister has already announced she won't meet him. And people might not care he's there: He's arriving the day before a crucial political turning point for the UK that will determine its future.
    While then-presidential candidate Barack Obama basked in the roaring approval of 200,000 Berliners in 2008, Republican nominee Mitt Romney's 2012 trip to the UK was a laundry list of gaffes -- including questioning Britain's ability to adequately secure that summer's Olympic Games -- that left him mocked and maligned.
    Trump's global real estate holdings, his ownership of the Miss Universe pageant -- not to mention his private Boeing 575 -- means he has international experience in at least 18 countries as far-flung as the United Arab Emirates, Panama and the Republic of Georgia. But it is also far from the traditional foreign policy-oriented background that elected officials seeking the highest office often have.
    So like others before him, the presumptive Republican nominee is participating in the ritual of foreign trips by presidential candidates, a practice meant at least in part to provide photos in exotic locations symbolizing a candidate's ease with foreign issues. It's a particularly important message in a campaign cycle when foreign issues such as Russian aggression in Ukraine, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea and international terrorism has gripped voters.
    Trump will formally re-open the Turnberry golf resort in southwestern Scotland on June 22, he announced in a tweet. He'll then travel to Aberdeen to visit Trump International Golf Links, which he called @TrumpScotland.
    He'll round out the visit with a stop at his "magnificent" Doonberg, Ireland, golf resort, he also tweeted Thursday.
    In what could be a stark and unflattering contrast for Trump, he will be in Ireland at the same time as Vice President Joe Biden. The most prominent American Irish Catholic politician, Biden is beloved in Ireland for his success, his warmth and his frequent public celebrations of his heritage. He'll be feted as a U.S. dignitary, possibly overshadowing Trump, who is unlikely to get the same sort of reception and won't have the same reservoir of goodwill to draw upon.
    Just days ago, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny denounced Trump in parliament for making remarks that he said were "racist and dangerous."
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    New York Magazine has reported that Trump is also considering a trip to Israel before the July GOP convention, where he is due to become the Republican Party's formal standard-bearer.
    "Candidates often make trips during a campaign, usually for strategic reasons," said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's governance studies program. She notes that many candidates make a trip to Israel.
    "Usually there's some sort of tie-in to something they want to say back home," she said.
    But candidates' trips can backfire, as happened in 2004 when Democratic hopeful John Kerry was pilloried for speaking French too well while abroad, or last year when Republican candidate Ben Carson returned from a trip to Jordan and called refugee camps there "really quite nice."
    Trump's trip is "kind of weird, because this is basically a commercial trip," said Kamarck, who pointed to another potential risk.
    "It undercuts his seriousness," she added. "He's not going over there to make a foreign policy address at Oxford. He's going over there to promote a golf course."
    The trip -- which will last for three days and include two stops in Scotland and one in Ireland -- will be Trump's first overseas since he became the presumptive nominee, but he has racked up passport stamps in the past.
    Trump's aides say he generally travels internationally 15 to 20 times a year, adding that the exposure gives him an understanding of the security and financial situations in many different countries that prepares him for the presidency.
    The likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, blasted that argument in a foreign policy speech Thursday in California.
    Trump "says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia," Clinton told a laughing crowd in San Diego, throwing in the fact that during her tenure as secretary of state, she visited 112 countries.
    "The stakes in global statecraft are infinitely higher and more complex than in the world of luxury hotels," Clinton said. "We all know the tools Donald Trump brings to the table -- bragging, mocking, composing nasty tweets."
    A CNN count shows that Trump has traveled to at least 18 countries, including Brazil and Australia.
    Clinton's criticism reflected the fact that a presidential candidate draws infinitely more scrutiny than a businessman and that the host of issues and decisions a real estate developer has confronted don't match that of a policymaker.
    Trump, who has drawn support from some conservative European politicians, has already ruffled feathers in the UK with statements he's made during his campaign. His comments about Mexicans and Muslims have affected the fortunes of the Turnberry golf course and hotel he'll visit June 24 and drew a rebuke from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has already announced she won't meet Trump when he comes this month.
    The timing of the New York real estate mogul's visit may offer him some protection from hostile or probing coverage, though.
    He's arriving a day before a June 23 referendum that will decide whether the UK should stay in the European Union, a vote with huge implications for the political future of Prime Minister David Cameron, who backs EU membership, and more importantly for the country, which could be wrought by divisions over the results.
    UK officials, speaking anonymously to discuss internal government business, said that the British Embassy in the U.S. has been in contact with Trump's campaign and those of the other candidates. But they said that it's unlikely that Cameron would make time to meet the GOP's presumptive nominee because his status hasn't been formalized yet and because of the potentially rocky aftermath of the crucial Brexit vote -- particularly since he is not traveling through London.
    Asked about Trump at the G7 summit meeting in Japan on May 27, the British Prime Minister referred to the historic ties between the U.S. and UK.
    "I believe the special relationship will work whoever is in whichever jobs in the UK or in the U.S.," he said. "Often these candidates choose to come through various European countries in the run-up to the U.S. elections. I don't know whether that will happen this time. No dates are fixed, but I'm always happy to meet people on that basis," he said.
    Cameron had already described Trump's suggestion for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. as "divisive, stupid and wrong."
    Earlier in the year, British parliamentarians debated banning Trump himself from the country.
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    His comments, as well as Trump's labeling Mexicans entering the U.S. "rapists," also seemed to hurt the fortunes of the Turnberry golf resort that Trump bought in 2014 for some $50 million and then spent almost $290 million renovating.
    The property features a presidential suite that guests can occupy for $5,000 a night and the Donald J. Trump ballroom, which publicists have described as "the most luxurious meeting facility anywhere in Europe."
    The British newspaper The Independent reported that following the candidate's comments on Mexicans and Muslims, a group that governs golf in the UK decided not to go forward with a plan to return a prestigious tournament to Turnberry in 2020.
    The paper reported that British golf officials found Trump's reputation so "toxic" that they feared it would hurt sponsorship deals and that tournament players would pull out. Sturgeon rescinded Trump's status as a business ambassador and the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen stripped him of an honorary degree it had earlier awarded.
    Despite these and other incidents that have attracted British attention to Trump in the past, Kamarck said he wasn't likely to draw a great deal of notice on this trip given how focused the country is on the June 23 referendum.
    "I can't imagine he would have any real impact in Britain," she said.
    CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect pronoun to refer to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.