Friday, October 13, 2017 at 8:22 AM

Trump Decertifying Iran Nuclear Deal more MALO than MAGA

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Hardly a day goes by without Donald Trump doing or saying something to make his presidency a laughing stock.

A recent highlight (or lowlight) had him shooting paper towels like basketballs into a crowd of cheering reporters during a photo-op stop in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. He reportedly thought this would provide a sign of hope for the millions of despairing islanders waiting for relief.

But, frankly, only a diagnosis that places Trump somewhere on the autism spectrum explains why he thought so. After all, at that point in time, those Puerto Ricans had been living without electricity and medicine, while subsisting on rationed food and water, for two weeks – ever since Maria landed on September 20.

Such antics, coupled with his invariably petulant tweets, moved Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to call the White House “an adult day care center.” This, just days after reports that Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state, called him “a f*cking moron.”

But Trump occasionally does or says something that would be laughable if it were not so dangerous. The childish way he variously begs and badgers China (via Twitter) to protect the United States from North Korea comes immediately to mind.

But nothing is more dangerous in this respect than his ongoing schoolyard spat with Kim Jong-un, the “Chucky-like” dictator of North Korea.

Granted, there was some politically redeeming value in Kim famously calling Trump a “dotard.” The problem with their war of words is that Kim invariably backs up his belligerent threats with action. This has led to the spectacle of Trump humiliating himself by repeatedly daring Kim to threaten the United States or test launch another ballistic missile, only to have Kim call his “fire-and-fury” bluff every time – complete with a barrage of insults.

(As it happened, so many world leaders began calling the blustering Trump’s bluff that I marveled in “Russia, Iran, and North Korea Making Trump Look Like a Chump,” March 7, 2017.)

Sure enough, Kim upped the ante just yesterday. Specifically, he had his foreign minister launch this conventional (verbal) bomb:

With his bellicose and insane statement at the United Nations, Trump, you can say, has lit the wick of a war against us. We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words.

(ITAR-TASS News Agency, October 11, 2017)

Alas, nobody should be surprised that the notoriously thin-skinned Trump has reduced the mighty United States to this kind of combustible tit-for-tat with a tin-pot dictatorship.

Not to mention the irony in Trump lighting this wick just weeks after boasting that, thanks to his strong and smart leadership, North Korea was finally respecting the United States. Indeed, you should bear this humiliation in mind the next time you hear him boasting about a country “respecting the United States for the first time in as long as anyone can remember. Believe me!”

Incidentally, reports are that North Korea generates so little electricity, satellite photos show it in virtual darkness sandwiched between the bright lights of China and South Korea. This is why I’ve always wondered how North Korea developed the capacity and capability to not only build a thriving nuclear arsenal but hack everything from Sony’s unreleased pictures to US-South Korea war plans. Things that make you go hmmm, no?

Anyway, you’d think Trump’s nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea were dangerous enough. Yet he seems hell-bent on doing the same with Iran.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, a senior administration official said on Thursday, in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel. …

The prospect that Washington could renege on the pact, which was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it.

‘We as Europeans, have repeated … it’s impossible to reopen the agreement. Period.’

(Reuters, October 5, 2017)

Never mind autism, I suspect Trump is doing this because he’s a sociopath who is

  1. unable to exercise sound judgment;
  2. unable to control his tweeting impulses;
  3. unable to appreciate the danger inherent in his ill-advised tweets and antics; and
  4. unable to appreciate the consequences of those ill-advised tweets and antics.

He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex ­Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits. He did not want to certify to Congress that the agreement remained in the vital US national security interest and that Iran was meeting its obligations. …

‘McMaster realized we just cannot come back here next time with a binary option [so] he put his team to work on a range of other options, including a decertification option that would involve Congress’ and would not immediately break the deal.

(Washington Post, October 11, 2017)

So there you have it: The leader of the free world was throwing a temper tantrum because Iran was actually complying with its part of the deal. And his advisers devised decertification as nothing more than a pacifier to calm him down.

Except that, while Trump is sucking away to his ego’s content, he’ll be isolating the United States with respect to sanctioning Iran – much as it was with respect to embargoing Cuba, when the world left the United States as the only country imposing its long-discredited embargo.

But at least Trump is consistent. After all, he isolated the United States from the global effort to combat climate change when he withdrew from the Paris Accord; he isolated the United States from the world’s largest trade agreement when he withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership; and he isolated the United States from the global mission to promote development, literacy, sex education, cultural preservation, clean water, and gender equality when he withdrew (just yesterday) from UNESCO.

Trump’s my-way-or-the-highway attitude towards international relations is isolating enough. But he’s turning friends into enemies by repeatedly calling all parties to this deal with Iran “incompetent fools” (a.k.a. clinical projection). This, of course, is utterly baffling; not least because he’s expecting these same parties to join him not only in renegotiating a new deal with Iran, but in negotiating a similar deal with North Korea. Only his un-diagnosed autism explains Trump thinking that hurling insults is the best way to win friends and influence people.

In any event, the impulsive and reckless Trump would probably torpedo any negotiation with Iran, just as he has effectively done with North Korea.

Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid … hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017

And that came just days after this:

I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man… Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

Having said all that, there’s no denying the dark force that is provoking nearly everything Trump does. That force, of course, is the enviable legacy of his predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama.

In fact, nothing has defined Trump’s beleaguered presidency quite like his unabashed efforts to nullify or undermine Obama’s achievements.

More than six months into his presidency, the number of bills Trump has signed stands at 53. Many have been passed through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back regulations imposed by the executive branch, and are aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s legislative legacy.

(CNN, August 23, 2017)

Frankly, whatever Trump’s ambition to Make America Great Again (MAGA), it is no match for his pathological intent to Make America Loathe Obama (MALO). Only this explains his Mad-Hatter efforts to repeal and replace (or failing that to undermine) Obamacare, President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

In any case, it’s impossible to overstate the danger inherent in Trump decertifying this Iran nuclear deal, Obama’s signature foreign-policy achievement. But it speaks volumes that the other signatories, Republican congressional leaders, and members of his own national security team are all warning him against do so. This, in a nutshell, betrays the extent to which Trump will go to MALO.

Mind you, it’s understandable that he resents the enviable acclaim Obama won for framing, marshaling, and striking this deal. Most notable is the way Obama exercised his executive authority to bypass Congress in doing so.

Of course, Trump can exercise that same authority to decertify this deal. God knows that, as indicated above, he has already signed enough executive orders (50). This, despite the hypocrisy of repeatedly ridiculing Obama on the campaign trail for signing so many because “he can’t get anything done … can’t even get Democrats to agree with him.” At this point in his presidency, Obama had only signed 26 executive orders.

But Trump is so shortsighted, he cannot see that building his presidential legacy solely on executive orders is tantamount to building a house of cards. Moreover, he’s too full of himself to appreciate that his successor can, and probably will, do to his legacy what he’s trying (to only marginal avail) to do to Obama’s.

The point is that, instead of emulating Obama in this case, Trump is punting to Congress. It’s just the latest example of him “leading from behind” (or skirting his presidential duty), which belies his boasts about being a strong and smart leader.

But there’s patent folly in Trump looking to this Congress to fulfill his promise to deal with Iran. Because anyone who knows anything about this Congress knows that this is even more fated for futility than looking to China fulfill his promise to deal with North Korea.

Not to mention that prominent Republican members have already joined the other signatories in dismissing as a nonstarter any plan to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, which Trump’s decertification is supposed to trigger.

This is why, like nearly every other policy initiative, Trump’s plan to decertify the Iran nuclear deal has more to do with him commanding media attention to beat his chest and pat himself on the back – for doing nothing more than creating confusion and fostering disillusion.

Except that he will boldly claim that he is fulfilling another campaign promise – blithely ignoring that he promised to “rip up” this nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Still, this bait and switch will reduce another of his campaign promises to little more than sound and fury signifying nothing.

Again, if Trump were truly interested in keeping America safe, he would leave the deal in place – as every member of his national security has advised him to do. But, as it was with healthcare, climate change, international trade, and others:

Trump’s executive orders seem drafted to either whitewash or undermine Obama’s accomplishments. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that Trump has predicated his presidency on vindicating his birther conspiracy; you know, the one he peddled about Obama being an illegitimate interloper (a.k.a. an uppity African) who does not belong among the ranks of American presidents, certainly not in the top 10 as Obama seems destined to be ranked.

(“Trump’s First 100 Days,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 1, 2017)

As indicated above, Congressional Republicans have been goading and enabling Trump in his Faustian quest to effectively decertify Obama’s presidency. But no Republican has had anything on Netanyahu with respect to goading and enabling him to rip up the Iran nuclear deal.

Nonetheless, I am certain that, just like Obamacare, this deal will remain in force.

In the meantime, the world looks on with a mixture consternation and glee:

  • Consternation over the willingness of this president to sow chaos and forfeit his leadership (at home and abroad), seemingly unconcerned about the way he’s undermining bedrock domestic and international institutions, to say nothing of America’s credibility and goodwill; and
  • Glee over his “unravelling” under the pressure of his office, which, according to the current issue of Vanity Fair, has him cursing his own fecklessness by yelling to concerned advisers that “

I hate everyone in the White House.

Richard Nixon famously intoned that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” This seems the kind of self-deluding logic that animates Trump’s presidency. Most notably, he seems to think that because he says he is strong and smart, that means he is strong and smart.

We know the fate that befell Nixon for thinking he was a law unto himself. I suspect a similar fate will befall Trump for thinking he is the strongest and smartest man in the world.

Related commentaries:
Trump chump
fire and fury
Sony hack
leading from behind
First 100 days

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