Grading on the steep curve by which he is judged, President Donald Trump may have had his most successful international outing at the Group of 20 summit that concluded on Saturday in Buenos Aires. But that's not because he accomplished anything significant. He didn't. It was simply because he did not commit a massive gaffe.
Trump's ballyhooed deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping was little more than an agreement to keep talking. Trump committed not to increase tariffs on China for 90 days, and Xi committed to buy more U.S. products - but with no specific numerical targets. This is no more binding than North Korea's promise to denuclearize somehow, someday. The two countries' post-summit statements showed that they could not even agree on what they had agreed on. China's statement, for example, did not mention a 90-day negotiating.
But at least Trump did not have any cringeworthy moments - such as when he left early the Group of 7 meeting in Quebec in June and refused to sign the communique, or when he acted like a lackey toward Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July.
Trump even distinguished himself in Buenos Aires by making appropriate comments on the death of George H.W. Bush rather than continuing his feud with the Bush family. With Trump, you can never take such human niceties for granted. And if he had been as petty and mean-spirited as he was after John McCain's death, it would have been a big news story. So a disaster averted.
But not much accomplished either. If Trump took any action to rally his fellow democratic leaders to confront the looming threat of China or Russia, or to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to account for the murder of Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, there was no indication of it. Two months have passed since Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and a week since Russia's illegal seizure of Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait, and the perpetrators of those crimes still have not paid any price for them.