By David Carlson
From my undergraduate days as a political science major, I’ve found politics a source of both inspiration and amusement. From Eisenhower to the present, however, American politics have never been so laugh-out-loud hysterical as they are currently.
During the last several weeks, we have been given a full measure of “no, you-gotta-be-kidding” craziness. While it is difficult to mark a starting point for the latest round of administration pratfalls, I would suggest we look back to what the world press is calling “the shove heard round the world.”
In this “yes, he really did that category,” Trump prepped for a photo with world leaders by shoving the Prime Minister of the tiny nation of Montenegro aside so he could stand front and center. Talk about embodying the Ugly American abroad!
So, let’s run down his predecessors from both parties. Would Eisenhower have done this — no; would Kennedy — no; would Johnson — no; would Nixon –no, not even Nixon; would Ford — no; would Carter — surely not; would Reagan — no; would Bush the first — no; would Clinton — no; would Bush the son — no; would Obama — oh, please.
The second hysterical moment of late came when Trump announced withdrawing U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Agreement. No, I agree that isn’t funny, but his rationale was a “he said what?” gaff.
Trump argued that the climate agreement, signed by every other nation except Nicaragua (the agreement didn’t go far enough for them) and Syria, threatened U.S. sovereignty.
I will repeat. Trump said that signing onto the climate control agreement would threaten U.S. sovereignty. If there is any issue in the world that has no connection with national sovereignty, it is climate change.
There is no U.S. climate, Canadian climate, German climate, French climate, or even North Korean climate. There is only our common global climate which most first-graders in the world know is systematically changing for the worse.
Does anyone ever travel from the U.S. into Mexico or Canada and say, “Wow, feel that different climate”? Of course not. We feel a difference in temperature, but rising temperatures are happening globally, indications of climate change for the entire planet. There are only two poles for the entire planet, and both are shrinking.
For Trump to say American sovereignty is threatened by the Paris Climate Agreement is to announce clearly that America is withdrawing from the world. Every leader Trump met with on his first trip abroad, from Pope Francis to Britain’s Prime Minister, gave him the same sermon — consider the planet; consider humankind; don’t withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. All of those leaders know that the biggest polluter on the planet per capita is the U.S.
But this is not the funniest part of Trump’s statement on sovereignty. At precisely the moment when the U.S. is facing the greatest threat to her sovereignty and her democracy in my lifetime, when we are all wondering how much Russia has sabotaged and is sabotaging our way of life, Trump plays the sovereignty card on climate change. I know; “you have to be kidding.”
Lest there is a reader who has not been watching the hearings in Washington, who doesn’t know who James Comey and Jeff Sessions are, and who thinks I am exaggerating, please study a recent cover of TIME magazine, where the whiteness of the White House is slowly being overtaken by the redness and the onion-shaped domes of the Kremlin. Is the picture clear enough?
All this leaves Americans from both parties with a common demand of this administration: Explain, Mr. Trump, how you can argue that the Paris Agreement threatens our nation’s sovereignty and at the same time say with a straight face that the Kremlin’s illegal activities do not.
David Carlson is a professor of philosophy and religion at Franklin College. Send comments to email@example.com.