One of the hallmarks of the Trump era is that every day brings a new controversial remark, tweet, allegation, misstatement, accusation, surprise decision, gaffe, scandal, etc. The news cycle barely has the lifespan of a mayfly — 24 hours. That may well be by design. It’s difficult for the news media — outrageously (but also by design) labeled “the enemy of the people” by the man responsible for the chaos — to keep on top of what’s happening and explain what it really means.
This is by way of saying that, despite the high drama playing out in Washington, D.C., last week over Trump’s ill-suited Supreme Court nominee and the prematurely reported firing of the assistant attorney general, some people have not forgotten that the week started with a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations laughing out loud at statements made by the man who campaigned for the presidency declaring that “the world is laughing at us.”
America could have done without him making this outrageous claim come true. In treating the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly like one of his weekly campaign rallies, Trump once again demonstrated how clearly out of his element he is in international diplomacy.
It is unseemly and embarrassing.
The president began his remarks by ticking off a list of alleged accomplishments — “more than almost any administration in the history of our country.” The laughs and head-shaking began immediately, his audience, unadorned with MAGA hats, not feeling any obligation to applaud self-serving, never mind inappropriate, nonsense.
Trump was clearly surprised by the reaction, but said, “That’s OK.” Later, after hearing and reading accounts of the reaction to his remarks, he said he intended to play it for laughs. Typical Trump. Don’t believe what your eyes and ears tell you.
Once he got past the campaign rhetoric, the president returned to his familiar theme of America going it almost alone on the planet. He rejected “the ideology of globalism” and made it clear to the assembled heads of state that, in the future, “we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”
Now, there are times to talk tough at the U.N., but tossing in the old, unelected world government scare and topping it off with the Trump family motto — “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” — not only insulted the U.N. as a whole and the few friends the United States may still have there, it displayed a lack of understanding of America’s key role in creating the international body, along with its allies, following World War II. It also showed no comprehension of how America can continue to lead and shape changes in an organization facing many challenges in a world awash in crises.
It’s not complicated with Trump. It’s always about Trump. Whatever the audience, boasting and preening about how big and strong and independent America is serves his goal of convincing a segment of American voters that he deserves to be in the White House and they should keep him there. Washington chaos notwithstanding, some of us noticed.