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Does it matter that Trump didn’t distinguish between England, the U.K. and Great Britain?

At a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May July 13, President Trump praised the relationship between their two countries. (Video: The Washington Post)

President Trump over the weekend again appeared to demonstrate a lack of understanding about foundational geopolitics, an issue of note to those eyeing America’s changing role on the world stage.

In an interview with British television host Piers Morgan, who is a past winner of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality TV show, Trump confusingly referred to several European nations interchangeably.

From the Daily Mail:

MORGAN: The sceptic in me would say: ‘What is the incentive for America to do a great deal with the United Kingdom?
TRUMP: We would make a great deal with the United Kingdom because they have product that we like. I mean they have a lot of great product. They make phenomenal things, you know, and you have different names — you can say “England,” you can say “UK,” you can say “United Kingdom” so many different — you know you have, you have so many different names — Great Britain. I always say: “Which one do you prefer? Great Britain? You understand what I’m saying?’
MORGAN: You know Great Britain and the United Kingdom aren’t exactly the same thing?
TRUMP: Right, yeah. You know I know, but a lot of people don’t know that. But you have lots of different names. The fact is you make great product, you make great things. Even your farm product is so fantastic.

For the record, England is a country. And the United Kingdom is a sovereign state consisting of four individual countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And Great Britain is an island comprised of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales.

As Morgan noted on Twitter, most Americans likely cannot explain the difference between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

But the leader of the free world is not most Americans. The person in that position is usually is expected to have a level of geopolitical knowledge that exceeds that of the average American — even if part of that leader’s appeal is his ability to connect with the average American. When pressed by Morgan, Trump claimed he does know the difference, but his original quote renders that dubious.

And it would be particularly reasonable to expect a president whose mother was from Scotland and a great admirer of the queen to show a clear understanding.

It should be pretty obvious why someone leading America’s trade, national security and other foreign policy initiatives should have a basic grasp of some of the most influential states in the world. But this comprehension is particularly critical when that leader makes criticizing these states’ leaders, business communities and inhabitants a hallmark of his presidential campaign and foreign policy approach after occupying the White House.

And Trump continued that approach last week.

At a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump said about immigration in Europe:

I think it's been very bad for Europe. I think Europe is a place I know very well, and I think what has happened is very tough. It's a very tough situation. I just think it's changing the culture. It's a very negative thing for Europe.

Moments later, May, who many would argue knows Europe better than Trump, disagreed. She said:

The U.K. has a proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution to our country. We have a proud history of welcoming people who want to come to our country to contribute to our economy and society.
Over the years, overall immigration has been good for the U.K. It brought people with different backgrounds and outlooks here to the U.K., and we've seen them contributing to our society and economy.

One could argue that one’s view on the impact of immigration on Europe, and specifically the U.K., is a matter of opinion. But the most helpful opinions are formed on a bedrock of facts, especially when it comes from those in global affairs, where these opinions can have real consequences.

It is concern about statements like these, which critics say are not well-formed, that led tens of thousands of U.K. residents to protest Trump’s visit and to call for their own lawmakers to speak out against Trump’s recent positions on NATO, Brexit, immigration and other foreign policy issues with real ramifications.

The president of the United States is expected to critique the policies of other nations, especially when they are believed to be working against America’s best interests. But that criticism would be better received when coming from a leader who shows an understanding of the subject on which he is opining.