For a builder, Trump likes wrecking stuff

Published 12:26 pm Friday, May 11, 2018

by John Micek

For a man who likes to brag about what a big builder he is, President Donald Trump spends a lot of time burning stuff down.

From his pursuit of protectionist tariffs and withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, to his routine attacks on the norms of a liberal democracy, the developer from Queens has taken a wrecking ball to the United States’ place in the world, isolating us on the world stage, and marginalizing our moral voice.

Even his cherished wall, the one he promised the United States would build and that someone else — the American taxpayer, as it turns out — would pay for, remains frustratingly out of his grasp.

So it wasn’t a surprise Tuesday to find that Trump had taken a torch to the Iran nuclear deal, unraveling the signature foreign policy achievement of former President Barack Obama, and further straining relations with western European allies who had passionately lobbied the White House to stay in it.

Writing in Slate, Fred Kaplan said Trump, driven either by rank ignorance, bald-faced malice, or some combination of the two, had dismantled the most significant arms-control deal in modern history.

Even worse, the administration premised its argument for withdrawal on at least two fraudulent claims.

First, that Iran is cheating on the deal. There’s no evidence to support that. If anything, Iran was complying with the terms of the agreement and, as Vox reports, it was giving inspectors the room they needed to do their jobs.

Second, Trump claimed the agreement required the United States to “pay” Iran $100 billion. Nope.

The United States froze that amount in Iranian assets, and the deal was conditional on returning them. That’s the carrot in this carrot-and-stick arrangement.

Trump’s move to kill the deal came despite the pleadings of French President Emmanuel Macron, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, dozens of past and former diplomats, and even House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who no one would confuse for a dove, Kaplan noted.

Right on schedule, Iranian officials announced that they’d negotiate with European leaders, the Chinese and Vladimir Putin’s Russia about staying in the deal.

As was the case with Trump’s announcement of the withdrawal from Syria, he opened another power vacuum that America’s geopolitical rivals will be only too happy to fill.

On its face, Trump’s announcement appeared to be less about securing any long-term foreign policy goal than it was about dominating the news cycle, proving to his base that he could deliver on campaign promise, and perhaps most importantly, sticking a finger in Obama’s eye.

In a statement, Obama called the withdrawal a “serious mistake.”

JOHN L. MICEK, an award-winning political journalist, is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at