And They Laughed

Brett Kavanaugh will make it to the Supreme Court or he won’t, but some things have been settled. The Republicans have lost the votes of most women forever. Donald Trump had changed his tune. There was no longer any need to be “nice” to the women who said Brett Kavanaugh had jumped their bones long ago. Each was now a liar and a fraud and coward and slut, or a ditzy confused bimbo – or some sort of feminist harridan out to destroy a good man, or all men – or all of that put together. That is how Trump seems to see women. Donald Trump’s scorn for women is his fear of them – but that doesn’t matter much in this case. Each and every Republican fell in line behind Trump. These women are awful. Women are like that – and that was that.

The women of America will be outraged even if this guy doesn’t make it to the Supreme Court. Republicans fell in line behind Trump and his view of women, and Republicans can live with that. They’ll get their judge. Abortion will be illegal again, treated as murder, and all forms of birth control will be illegal too – those are murder too. All the equal-pay laws will be tossed out too – to keep America’s businesses humming along. Trump and the Republicans didn’t hide that this was what they expected of this guy. There was nothing hidden about him either. His trail of legal decisions from the past showed exactly what he would do in the future. And if he doesn’t make it to the Supreme Court, someone just like him will. This was settled long ago – and the women of America won’t be voting Republican again, except for the obedient submissive traditionalists.

The rest is just detail, and Rod Rosenstein will keep his job or he won’t. Trump will fire him or he won’t – but he will fire him, sooner or later, to shut down the Mueller investigation so no one will ever know about Trump and Russia in any way at all. That’s coming, but no one knows when, which makes this another useless news story – not a news story at all. Rod Rosenstein wasn’t fired today! Rod Rosenstein didn’t reign today! Generalissimo Franco is still dead! There’s no news yet. Wait for it.

That was no need to wait for the more significant news of the day. Donald Trump took his angry defiance to the United Nations and, as the Washington Post’s David Nakamura reports, they laughed at him:

President Trump has long argued that the United States has been taken advantage of by other nations – a “laughing stock to the entire World,” he said on Twitter in 2014 – and his political rise was based on the premise that he had the strength and resolve to change that.

But at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump got a comeuppance on the world’s biggest stage. Delivering a speech that aimed to establish U.S. “sovereignty” over the whims and needs of other nations, the president’s triumphant moment was marred in the first minute when he was met by laughter – at his expense.

The embarrassing exchange came when Trump boasted that his administration had accomplished more over two years than “almost any administration” in American history, eliciting audible guffaws in the cavernous chamber hall.

It seems that Trump didn’t realize this wasn’t a MAGA rally in Iowa or Alabama:

The president appeared startled. “Didn’t expect that reaction,” he said, “but that’s okay.”

Members of the audience chuckled again – perhaps this time in sympathy.

Trump continued his address, which lasted an additional 34 minutes, but the moment marked a pointed rejoinder from the international community to a president who has delighted in poking traditional U.S. allies and partners in the eye on trade, security alliances and general diplomatic bonhomie.

He has called them all fools. He walks in and says he’s wonderful and they’re not. What did he expect? He didn’t expect this:

“He has always been obsessed that people are laughing at the president. From the mid-’80s, he’s said: ‘The world is laughing at us. They think we’re fools,'” said Thomas Wright, a Europe analyst at the Brookings Institution. “It’s never been true, but he’s said it about every president. It’s the first time I’m aware of that people actually laughed at a president. I think it is going to drive him absolutely crazy. It will play to every insecurity he has.”

He may bomb somebody. He may bomb everybody. But the problem was (and is) reality:

At the United Nations, Trump’s claim to have done more in less than two years than most of the 44 previous administrations defied any bounds of reality – or hubris. The difference was that he was not talking to a room full of excited, red-hat-wearing “MAGA” supporters who cheer him on.

But this could be a good thing:

“On one hand, you feel, ‘Oh, God, how awful that the American president is being laughed at on the world stage,’ ” said Julie Smith, who served as deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

“But on the other hand, you kind of feel good that Trump was finally escaping the bubble of political rallies that continually gives him the impression that everyone agrees with the false claims he is making,” said Smith, who watched Trump’s speech from Berlin, where she is spending a year as a fellow at the Bosch Academy. “There was a moment I thought to myself, ‘This is good that the president is being exposed to how the rest of the world sees him.'”

This is not good that the president is now more insecure and angrier than ever before, but there’s a history here:

Though the world leaders’ laughter at the United Nations was spontaneous, there might have been a bit of extra feeling behind it among some of the delegates in the room. TV cameras caught German diplomats chuckling – perhaps a form of release after relations between Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel got off to a bad start and have continued to devolve.

Last year, Germans attending a conference at the Economic Council of the Christian Democratic Union in Berlin laughed and applauded after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s microphone was cut off in mid-sentence after he spoke past his allotted time via video feed. Merkel then rebutted parts of his remarks in her own speech.

Perhaps there was nothing new here after all, but this was new:

By the afternoon, Trump was projecting an air of nonchalance, telling reporters that his boast in the speech “was meant to get some laughter.” But most observers weren’t buying it from a president who seldom laughs at himself and whose default expression is an unsparing glare.

“It’s got to hurt,” said Wright, the Brookings Institution analyst. “It was on camera and it was spontaneous. It was on one of the biggest stages in the world.”

That was news, but Nakamura, with Anne Gearan, reports on the real news here:

Declaring that the United States will “never apologize for protecting its citizens,” President Trump delivered a defiant defense Tuesday of a transactional worldview that is increasingly at odds with consensus-driven international bodies such as the United Nations.

He used an address to the U.N. General Assembly to warn that his administration will reject attempts by other nations to impose constraints on the United States in areas including trade, immigration and security, while inviting other world leaders to do the same.

“America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control and domination,” Trump said in a 35-minute address delivered to a packed chamber. “I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”

This was the declaration of a new American doctrine, the Trump Doctrine – the United States does not necessarily cooperate with other nations, and does not expect other nations to cooperate with the United States, because no one should give up anything or concede anything, because that’s weakness. Everyone looks out for themselves, which he had been saying all along:

Trump never uttered his campaign slogan of “America First,” preferring the loftier term “sovereignty” for the same nationalist and protectionist reordering of American engagement in world affairs.

He wasted little time in declaring that he has made progress on this agenda, but Trump’s approach to foreign affairs has led to tensions at the international body – a dynamic that was on display in the first moments of the speech as Trump ran through a highlight reel of U.S. economic markers that echoed lines from his campaign rallies…

He cited his withdrawal of the United States from the U.N.-backed international nuclear deal with Tehran as a prime example of the new U.S. approach under his presidency. He also recited other retractions from the consensus view of most of the other U.N. member nations, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and refusing to sign an international compact on migration.

The list of what we’ve left went on and on, ending here:

Time and again, Trump returned to the theme of sovereignty during his speech. He cast his immigration and border policies as national security matters and said no one, the United Nations included, will dictate how the United States evaluates those decisions.

“We will not be governed by an international body that is unaccountable to our own citizens,” Trump declared. He added that the only long-term solution to the migration crisis is to “help people build brighter futures in their own countries – make their countries great again.”

In short, everyone minds their own damned business. That’s the Trump Doctrine, and Karen Tumulty adds this:

Trump’s main target was the international order itself.

Trump warned the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that the United States may no longer help defend its member nations if they do not lower their oil prices. He said foreign aid should be based not on compassion or need but on what is offered in return. He boasted of his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, his tough immigration policies and his trade war with China.

The president also spoke with disdain about international organizations, including the World Trade Organization (“in dire need of change”), the U.N. Human Rights Council (“a grave embarrassment to this institution”) and the International Criminal Court (“no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority”).

Trump crowed about how he has advanced the agenda that he calls America First. “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” he declared.

The idea here seems to be that patriotism – militant nationalism – has done far more good in this world that cooperation and compromise. The world was better off in August 1914 and in September 1939, and the seventy-four years since World War II ended have been hell for the United States – everyone ripping us off and stealing our stuff and laughing at us – and that has to end. America is exceptional, and America will have its revenge for the rest of the world keeping America poor and powerless for the last seventy-four years

Tumulty doesn’t see that:

This extremely self-interested form of nationalism represents a stark repudiation of American exceptionalism. That is the ideal of a “shining city on a hill” Ronald Reagan borrowed from John Winthrop, and the belief – expressed by nearly 60 percent of Americans in a 2010 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution – that “God has granted America a special role in human history.”

Trump has a dark vision of an America that is under siege by the rest of the world, not one that is leading the way for it.

That is what Donald Trump formally announced at the United Nations. Whatever it is, we’re out, but he wasn’t the only one who spoke. The United States has stepped down from world leadership, by choice. That leaves an opening. Someone else stepped up:

French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a fiery rebuke of US policies under President Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly Tuesday, signaling that he is ready to take up the mantle of global leadership usually assumed by a US leader.

At times directly referring to the US, Macron rapped the Trump administration for its policies on Iran, climate change, the UN, migration and Mideast peace, among others.

The 40-year-old French leader also took direct aim at the central theme of Trump’s speech earlier in the day, in which the US President focused on sovereignty and emphasized his administration’s intent to distance itself from international agreements and groups.

“I shall never stop upholding the principal of sovereignty,” Macron told the General Assembly, which draws more than 120 world leaders each year, “even in the face of certain nationalism which we’re seeing today, brandishing sovereignty as a way of attacking others.”

Macron has his own doctrine:

Unlike Trump’s emphasis on the importance of countries’ independence, Macron offered a different vision, one that earned him sustained applause when he was done.

“Only collective action allows for the upholding of the sovereignty and equality of the people in whose name we take action,” Macron said. “This is the reason we must take action against climate, demographic and digital challenges. No one alone can tackle these.”

And then there was August 1914 and September 1939:

Macron began by telling the assembly that the world order based on sovereignty and equality among nations that came into being in the 1600s was facing a “far-reaching crisis,” and said the answer lay in cooperation and collaboration among nations.

“Nationalism always leads to defeat,” said Macron, who couched his remarks in the historical context of Europe’s world wars. “If courage is lacking in the defense of fundamental principles, international order becomes fragile and this can lead as we have already seen twice, to global war. We saw that with our very own eyes.”

Macron was on a roll:

As the US launches trade wars and turns its back on regional trade pacts in favor of deals with single countries, Macron pointedly said, “Bilateral agreements, new protectionisms, will not work.”

And there was this:

As he listed global challenges, he both critiqued the Trump administration’s approach and offered his counterargument, mentioning early on the importance of the United Nations.

“At a time when our collective system is falling apart, it is most in demand,” Macron said. “We shall support those working for peace and humanity,” he said and then mentioned several arms of the UN that the Trump administration has stopped funding, criticized or withdrawn from, including UNESCO, the organization devoted to cultural preservation, the UN human rights council, the International Criminal Court and the agency that supports health and education for Palestinian refugees in the near east.

Macron was showing how this world leadership thing was done. Lead.

That’s all there is to it, but John Hudson and Josh Dawsey dive into the gory details of how that has now fallen apart:

President Trump revived one of his favorite talking points Tuesday in an address at the U.N. General Assembly as he called for an end of foreign aid to countries that disrespect the United States.

“Few give anything to us, and that is why we are taking a hard look at U.S. foreign assistance,” Trump told world leaders in New York. “Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”

That’s simple, but not really:

The populist ultimatum has been a frequent applause line at Trump rallies and speeches since the early days of his presidential campaign. But turning it into an actual policy has proved much more difficult, U.S. officials familiar with internal debates said ahead of Trump’s U.N. speech…

For several weeks, a senior official at the National Security Council, Kevin Harrington, has led a review of U.S. foreign aid policy aimed at putting into practice Trump’s “America First” mantra and adjusting foreign aid priorities in the budget for fiscal 2020.

In the process, he has faced stiff resistance from officials at the Pentagon, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development who have said his proposals were counterproductive and contradictory, and could cede influence to China, according to senior U.S. administration officials familiar with the meetings.

The proposals include revoking assistance to countries that do not vote with the United States at the United Nations and those that have developed strong financial ties to China, and providing loans to countries instead of grants, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Those proposals are problematic. A nation that doesn’t vote with Trump’s government will, when cut off, join the opposition, who won’t cut them off, and if they’re already aligning with China, this will cement that alignment, and by providing loans and not grants, and forcing quick repayment on our terms, the United States gets to turn a nice profit – from the governments of the poorest nations on earth. Why not make a tidy profit of the backs of the poor and desperate? That’s a Trump thing, but the larger problem remains:

A key tension in the foreign aid review has been balancing two main priorities: reserving U.S. financial assistance for America’s “friends” while addressing China’s growing clout in the developing world, where it has doled out hundreds of billions of dollars in loans for construction projects involving ports, roads, railways, bridges and power grids. Beijing’s support for cash-strapped governments has been linked to favorable terms for natural-resources extraction or votes against Western-backed resolutions that are critical of China’s human rights practices, experts say…

The challenge, some officials argued, is that the United States risks losing influence to China if it works only with countries that are outwardly pro-American.

That was the news of the day. Brett Kavanaugh will make it to the Supreme Court or he won’t, Rod Rosenstein will keep his job or he won’t, and Donald Trump formally announced, at the United Nations, that the United States is stepping down from world leadership – and he bragged about it – and the General Assembly of the United Nations simply and openly laughed at him. China has a free hand now, and Emmanuel Macron will deal with them as leader of the Western world, by default, because Donald Trump is angry and pouting.

That was the news of the day – America just disappeared. It wasn’t a war. It wasn’t any sort of economic collapse. It wasn’t the ultimate terrorist attack. There was no coup. There was just laughter – and that did the trick.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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2 Responses to And They Laughed

  1. barney says:

    Trump is an ignoramus. Republicans are grifters and stooges for oligarchs.

  2. Rick Brown says:

    As for that U.N. “laughing fit” at Trump, his surprise at hearing it reminds us that President Trump is — except when giving his State of the Union address — virtually never faced with a crowd that would even consider laughing at him, because he spends his life walking around inside a little climate-controlled bubble of his own making!

    It’s mostly only inside the United Nations General Assembly hall, in which neither he nor his friends are allowed to determine who is allowed into the room, where we find anyone free to giggle or guffaw at the naked emperor to their heart’s content.

    And this highlights a big problem we have with our political system, being that a president the likes of Donald Trump is able to manipulate it in such a way that he’s never subject to cross-examination from his opponents, and so is never held accountable to anyone but his somewhat, shall we say, “off-the-beaten-path” minority base. I think Congress needs something like the Wednesday noon “Prime Minister’s Questions” in the British House of Commons, where the president would be required to answer questions from real-world elected officials who disagree either with him or his knuckle-headed policies.

    But an even more dangerous shortcoming of our system is that our president — even one who might, such as Donald Trump did, get elected by accident — is granted extraordinary unilateral powers to change the official opinions of the whole country, even if most citizens of the country disagree with him. If, for some reason, the United States decides it wants to change course and go it alone, leaving the rest of the world to fend for itself, it should only happen with the specific consent of the governed.

    And if we citizens never get the power to make that happen, we at least need some constitutional way to stop him in his tracks, short of having to wait for elections every four years or initiating impeachment proceedings, especially if a minority opposition stands in our way, as is the case right now. I’m thinking of something along the lines of recalling him, and simultaneously putting someone else in there, sort of like how Californians back in 2003 were able to replace Governor Gray Davis with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    In other words, forget about “Making America Great Again”, what we need is to find a way to make America work again.


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