The World Took Trump as a Comedy – but He’s Turned Into a Horror Show – commentary

The World Took Trump as a Comedy – but He’s Turned Into a Horror Show

President Donald Trump

The president’s White House seemed pure TV drama, but his move out of the Paris climate change agreement gives it a sickening twist

 Jonathan Freedland | The Guardian UK

Until now, at least for those watching from afar, the Trump show has been a spectacle. It has shocked and appalled, but with the compulsive appeal of something like entertainment. The accelerating investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has followed the story arc of a gripping political thriller, a real-life rival to House of Cards.     

Indeed, the latest episode of the Trump-Russia drama promises a cameo role for our own Nigel Farage, now named as a “person of interest” to the FBI’s inquiry (even if voters in seven UK parliamentary contests deemed him anything but).   

Meanwhile, Trump’s tweets have provided a daily source of jaw-dropping amusement for a global audience, a phenomenon that reached a peak with the kerfuffle over “covfefe”, the apparently mistyped word in an incomplete tweet that the president posted after midnight on Wednesday.

The meme artists got to work on that one, imagining covfefe might be Trump’s safe word, or else an incantation that could summon an ancient spirit wizard from the deep. Unable to admit that his boss had been guilty of a simple typo, spokesman Sean Spicer – who back in January had pretended a small crowd was bigger than a big crowd – declared that “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant”. Oh, how we laughed.

But then, in the White House rose garden yesterday, came the announcement – trailed by Trump as if it were a season finale of the Apprentice – that the USA would pull out of the Paris agreement on climate change. And suddenly Trump wasn’t so funny any more.

The consequences seem obvious. An accord that took years to broker, painstakingly put together in 2015 after failure at Copenhagen in 2009: a deal that brought together the powerhouses of India and China as well as the old world polluters of Europe and sought, at one minute to midnight, to do something to save our precious planet – that deal will now have to proceed without the world’s biggest economy and dominant superpower.

It is an act of the most wanton vandalism, taking a delicate structure assembled piece by piece by all humanity – and kicking it with a steel-toe-capped boot. The environmentalist Bill McKibben put it succinctly: “It amounts to a thorough repudiation of two of the civilising forces on our planet: diplomacy and science.”

Why would anyone do such a thing? The evidence of climate change and its destructive effects are as visible in the USA as anywhere: on current projections, Trump’s own Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago will be under water by 2060. It can’t be that the president felt bound by the campaign promises he had made: he breaks those casually, whether it’s a commitment to deprive no American of existing healthcare coverage; or a pledge to shift the USA embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (an incendiary promise Trump thankfully reneged upon this week).

The speech announcing his decision gave it a philosophical patina, as Trump returned to the “America First” theme of his inaugural address, describing the world as a site of Hobbesian, dog-eat-dog competition in which global cooperation is for wimps and suckers.

Any deal that delighted humanity as much as the Paris accord had done – “They went wild, they were so happy,” Trump recalled with lip-curled distaste – could only mean the United States of America was getting screwed. Or as he put it, the world was glad, “for the simple reason that [the Paris accord] put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage”.

Naturally, insider accounts suggest electoral calculation: Trump reckoned that the people who put him in the White House, especially blue collar workers in the rust-belt states, have long seen global warming as a con. And they’re the ones he needs to keep sweet in time for next year’s midterm elections, and his own bid for a second term in 2020.

Fewer Americans Mine Coal Than Work in Disney World

I’d suggest that even that level of calculation gives Trump too much credit. Sure, he declared his love for coalminers, as if withdrawing from Paris is going to save their industry when USA coal jobs have been declining for a century, and fewer Americans mine coal than work in Disney World. But this being Trump, you need to look for even baser motives.

A desire to upend one of his predecessor’s big achievements will be one of them. But just as likely, surely, is that Trump was irritated by his treatment during last week’s NATO and G7 summits, and wanted to hit back. The Europeans barely hid their disdain for him, and so he seized the chance to deprive them of something they cherished.

If we were discussing a normal president, it would be absurd to bring up such things, but Emmanuel Macron might have erred when he made public his deliberate attempt to out-alpha Trump with a knuckle-crushing handshake. Trump would think nothing of getting his own back by burning the entire planet. Witness the White House aide who confessed that European leaders’ “snarky comments” had not helped, while another said Trump saw the disappointment of European allies as a “secondary benefit” of breaking the accord.

This, then, is the measure of the man in charge of the world’s most powerful nation. Consolation comes from the fact that others have stepped in to fill the void he has created. Inside the USA, states and cities have said they will continue to honour their commitments, regardless of Trump’s tantrum.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said, whereupon the mayor of Pittsburgh sided with his fellow mayors around the world and promised to abide by the agreement. Trump was perhaps unaware that in Pennsylvania renewable energy employs 65,000 – more than oil, gas and mining combined.

Globally, it was a similar story, with Angela Merkel and Macron (but not, take note, Theresa May) apparently vying for the title to which Trump has lost all claim: leader of the free world. “Make the planet great again,” said Macron in an English-language video rebuttal of Trump. More quietly, China has signalled its own readiness to take up the role vacated by the USA and, starting with climate change, to act as the dominant global power.

That’s good for the planet, but not so great for the world. Of course, when it comes to climate change, some leadership is better than none; but the notion of an international order underpinned by China, a dictatorship, is hardly a cheering prospect.

Yet this is the future that Trump, who last week refused to reaffirm the NATO principle of collective self-defence, is inviting. The New York Times columnist David Brooks greeted the Paris decision with a declaration that Trump is making “our country seem disgusting in the eyes of the world”. That is strong, but not far off the truth. Until now the world has been riveted, even amused, by the Trump show. As of this moment, it is sickened.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On June 5, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Donald Trump’s Response to the London Bridge Attack Embarrassed the U.S.A.

    President retweeted unverified Drudge Report account of tragedy, criticised Mayor Sadiq Khan and capitalised on terror to promote the Muslim travel ban

    Jennifer Rubin | Independent UK

    The stoic determination and decency of the British people and their leaders was on full display in the hours after the latest horrific terrorist rampage.

    The Brits fought back, launching drinking glasses and chairs at the savages who attacked them. The police acted with lightning-fast precision, killing the three assailants within eight minutes of the emergency call.

    And, God bless him, a man returned to the bar where he experienced Saturday’s horror — to pay his bill and tip.

    Civilisation is not going to be driven out of Britain by three, or three hundred killers

    Meanwhile, and it pains me to write this, our President acted like a clod, a heartless and dull-witted thug in sending out a series of tweets.

    He — commander-in-chief and leader of the free world — first retweeted an unverified, unofficial Drudge headline about the unfolding terrorist attack. Then he aimed to bolster his Muslim travel ban (which is not supposed to be a Muslim travel ban).

    “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough,” he tweeted. “We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

    Aside from the inappropriateness of President Donald Trump’s tweet, he fails to grasp that the courts in these cases are reaffirming our rights against an over-reaching, discriminatory edict.

    After receiving blowback for that obnoxious missive, he tweeted out, “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the UK, we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

    But then he decided to slam the mayor of the city attacked, who had calmly warned his fellow Londoners: “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed.”

    Trump took the second part out of context and responded viciously, “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’”

    The mayor, of course, was telling them not to be alarmed by the heightened police presence.

    Trump was not done, however, inanely tweeting, “Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!”

    One is prompted to ask if he is off his rocker? But this is vintage Trump — impulsive and cruel, without an ounce of class or human decency.

    His behaviour no longer surprises us, but it should offend and disturb us, first, that he remains the face and voice of the United States of America in the world and, second, that his fans hoot and holler, seeing this as inconsequential or acceptable conduct.

    We wound up with this president because millions of Republicans could not prioritise character, decency and overall fitness to serve over their mundane and frankly petty partisan wish list (28 percent top marginal tax rate!).

    Self-appointed religious leaders fail to see that this soullessness — not the dreaded liberal elite who insist on saying “Happy Holidays” or refuse to countenance discrimination against gay customers — is a threat to the moral fibre of a democracy that requires a modicum of common sense and human decency to function.

    Sure, Trump’s policies and rhetoric are incoherent and based on a tower of lies.

    Far worse, however, is his appalling character, which accelerates the erosion of democratic norms and social cohesion a diverse democracy requires.

    In instances like this, those who would lecture us on President Barack Obama’s under-appreciation of America’s unique place in human history; or proclaim that they simply had to vote for Trump because Hillary Clinton was some sort of monster are exposed as fools or hypocrites or both.

    The London attacks bring out the best in Britain and in Western leaders on the European continent; it brings out the worst in Trump and his followers.

    The former protect the soul of Western civilisation; the latter drive a stake through the animating ideas that make the United States of America special.

    The Washington Post

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