Opinion-Policy Nexus

Donald Trump claims he is making America Great Again.

He is doing no such thing. What he is doing is just the opposite. He is surrendering American leadership abroad, frightening allies with erratic pronouncements and encouraging his enemies with a lack of consistent resolve.

True, he promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington and he has been consistent in that resolve. He has done it replacing the dreaded “liberal elites” with his own cast of swamp creatures – Republican lobbyists, spineless congressmen and billionaire businessmen with no clue about making government work.

In the process, he’s made his Washington a laughing stock in many world capitals.

But his undermining of NATO by attacking members of the alliance who do not, in his view, contribute their share, is no laughing matter. Nor is his disregard for the World Trade Organization, or his announcement last week that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

The Paris agreement is not a panacea for climate change, but at least it is a beginning: recognition by 195 countries that global warming is a shared problem that requires global cooperation and action.

Trump doesn’t see it that way. As chief executive of the world’s leading polluter (on a per-capita basis, twice the carbon dioxide emissions of China and eight times those of India) he still treats climate change as a hoax, as he has called it many times. And he sees the Paris accord as a massive attack on the U.S. economy, orchestrated, as he would have it, by the former Obama administration.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump declared when he announced the withdrawal. That statement was both inane and inaccurate – Hillary Clinton won 80 per of the vote in Pittsburgh last November. And it was misleading. Pittsburgh takes pride in its recovery from the days when air pollution was so bad that the city had to keep streetlights on all day. 

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat and staunch believer in the Paris accord, pushed back angrily at Trump. "What you did was not only bad for the economy of this country, but also weakened America in this world," the mayor told him.

As Trump sees it, he is making America’s economy great again, but he is trying to do it by turning the calendar back a century, to the age when coal was king, no one had heard of green house gas, and climate change had not raised its ugly head. Today, coal is a dying industry; far more jobs can be created in green industries than can be saved in coal, but Trump does not see it.

He got himself into a mess of controversy yesterday when he waded into the twittersphere with foolish tweets in the wake of the latest terrorist attack in London. Where most national leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, expressed their horror, condolences and support for the government and people of Britain, Trump took a different tack.

He took aim at political correctness and at calls in the United States for tougher gun laws, implying that the tragedy in Britain might have been prevented had citizens been allowed to carry firearms.

“We need to be smart, vigilant and tough, Trump tweeted. “We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” This last bit was an attempt to promote his administration’s ban on Muslims entering the United States. Having been overturned in lower courts, the ban is now on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump’s interventions seemed inappropriate and insensitive, and, according to news reports from London, they were widely mocked in Britain where the national mood one was mourning, unity against terrorism, and gratitude for the prompt response of their security services.

Being mocked in Britain will not faze Donald Trump, at least not yet. But political leaders who turn themselves into laughing stocks tend to have abbreviated careers.


Monday, June 5, 2017 - 09:07