Donald Trump’s presidency has created a need for a new vocabulary. We need a verb, a single word, that does justice in describing actions that are monumentally stupid, self-serving and fundamentally shallow in nature, and, at the same time, of grave importance. That verb could be simply “Trump” — there goes the president, trumping again. On the other hand, that word already exists and has a different meaning. Okay, maybe it’s best to leave the vocabulary inventions to the wordsmiths, but what’s important is that Trump has reportedly decided to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, a decision that is, in a few words, monumentally stupid, self-serving, and fundamentally shallow in nature, and, at the same time, of grave importance.
Let’s start with “monumentally stupid,” as well as “of grave importance.” The “New York Times” editorial board laid out the reasons why we should characterize such a decision this way:
- It ignores that the deal is working.
- It would alienate our allies and make a bad situation with North Korea even worse.
- It sends the wrong message to Iran, and that’s dangerous.
- It doesn’t help in the fight against the Islamic State.
- It ignores the complexity of the region.
- It undermines trust in America and the country’s ability to negotiate in the future.
Iran is sticking to the deal. Trump’s own Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, said so, as did head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford. When Sen. Angus King of Maine asked Mattis whether U.S. national security interests are served by our staying in the deal, he offered a straightforward answer: “Yes, senator, I do.” Mattis added: “Absent indications to the contrary, (the Iran deal) is something that the president should consider staying with.” National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster feels similarly, according to reporting by CNN’s Dana Bash. So does Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. You may have heard that he called his boss a moron, and then didn’t deny it when asked about it last week.
Imagine North Korea agreed to a deal to give up their nuclear weapons, ship essentially their entire stock of uranium—leaving them unable to produce new weapons—and allow serious, rigorous verification of their nuclear facilities to monitor compliance. Would that seem like progress from where things stand now between Kim Jong-un and Overgrown Orange Man? Well, that’s essentially where we are with Iran (other than that they never built a nuclear weapon), thanks to the deal negotiated under the Obama Administration.
But now let’s get to the part about Trump’s decision being ‘self-serving and fundamentally shallow in nature.’
On Thursday night, Trump said words about Iran (I was going to talk about his ‘thought process,’ but calling it that would leave me open to charges of inaccuracy):
‘The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed, and chaos across the Middle East,’ Trump said. ‘That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement.’
In talking about a deal, when it is said that one party isn’t living up to “the spirit” of it, it pretty much means that they are living up to the actual terms of the deal. Deals between erstwhile adversaries are not handshake agreements between friends, where there’s room for unsaid understandings.
To be sure, as a result of this deal Iran has not changed overnight into a country that no longer seeks to expand its influence in ways contrary to our interests. It continues to make trouble and work to destabilize the region. It continues to oppose the United States and its allies in the Middle East. It continues to develop and test missiles that could deliver multiple warheads. All those things are true. But none of those things violate the agreement we’re talking about here, which was about Iran’s nuclear program. Therefore, Trump’s words about the “spirit of their agreement” are little more than an excuse for him to do what he wants to do, but for which he has no legitimate justification.
And what does he actually want to do? To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it is a policy developed “by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Every word of that is accurate. In addition to the part about Trump being an idiot, his apparent plan to decertify doesn’t, well, do much of anything, although it is certainly full of sound and fury. All it does, essentially, is poke the Senate and say, “hey, if you want to reactivate those sanctions that the deal got rid of, well, go for it.” But Trump has completely put the onus on them—in particular the Republicans who run that chamber, given that the Senate can reimpose the Iran sanctions with only a simple majority. Indications are that McConnell & Co. will do nothing on the matter, to every sane person’s relief.
Why do it this way? “It appears to be part of a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ strategy by the administration,” according to Philip H. Gordon, who served as the coordinator of Middle East policy on the Obama Administration’s National Security Council.
Numerous articles mention the same words about what Trump is planning, namely that it allows him to “save face.” This plan will allow Trump to tell his base that he was ‘doing something’ about that terrible, horrible, no-good very bad Iran deal, and that he stuck out his tongue at the Muslim Kenyan socialist fascist who preceded him at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—but without actually blowing up the world and making Mad Dog Mattis well, mad.
Donald Trump is a moron, and he is an idiot. On a related note, what the hell was he doing taking foul shots with rolls of paper towels in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico the other day? As Jimmy Kimmel said:
He really puts the ass in compassion. It looks like he’s operating the T-shirt cannon at a Clippers game. Who does that? What planet is this man from? The Brawny paper towel guy would know better than to do that.
These things are related. What planet does a guy come from who does something on Iran and nuclear weapons that actually does nothing, but which unnecessarily throws uncertainty into a moment when American foreign policy is already filled with uncertainty coming at us from multiple directions? What planet does a guy come from who does this?
Tillerson called that guy a moron, yes, and the American people seem to agree. ABC conducted a poll that asked: “What ONE WORD best describes your impression of Trump? Just the one word that best describes him.” Here are the ten most common responses: “incompetent,” “arrogant,” “strong,” “idiot,” “egotistical,” “ignorant,” “great,” “racist,” “a―――” and “narcissistic.” Eight of the ten are not exactly the kind of responses a president wants.
When thinking of what it means that Trump has control of our military and foreign policy — that he’s got the nuclear codes — historical parallels come to mind. Among the scariest is the idea that we’ve put Kaiser Wilhelm in charge of whether or not we plunge into war. Wilhelm took power, fired Bismarck — whatever one thinks of him in moral terms, he had no interest in plunging Europe into war and was a master of foreign relations — and set about undoing his policies, in large part because they were too complicated for the new guy in charge to understand. Substitute Barack Obama’s name for Bismarck, and you’ve just summed up Donald Trump’s general approach to governing. Have a nice day.