Welcoming Italian President Sergio Mattarella to Washington this morning, Donald Trump delivered one of his characteristically incoherent addresses. He lauded Mattarella, the entire population of Italy, and all Americans of Italian-American descent, then pivoted to complaining about how unfairly Italy and the rest of the EU treat the United States, blaming Italy for a large fraction of America’s trade deficit.
To listen to Trump, you would think America was a helpless dupe of a nation being taken advantage of by everyone else on the planet. The truth is that our trade relationships, which evolved over the decades since World War 2, were negotiated and agreed upon by seasoned, experienced professionals. No one had a gun to America’s head. Our trade policies with Europe stemmed from the Marshall Plan, which greatly benefited Europe, but us as well since it restored the economies of every western nation.
The real culprits in our trade imbalances are the American corporations that shipped millions of jobs overseas to reduce manufacturing costs – that is, to increase their bottom line profits. Trump understands this thoroughly. Just ask his daughter Ivanka how she does business.
Threatening new trade wars with the EU is Trump’s way of distracting from his own corrupt and incompetent decisions. He paints our friends and allies as predators whose only desire is to profit at our expense. Yet he allows Vladimir Putin to profit whenever he has an opportunity, while receiving nothing in return. As Russian troops fill the void left when Trump precipitated the current crisis, Putin must feel like he won a lottery.
Today Trump tried to sully the reputation of our former allies, claiming “the Kurds are no angels.” No Donald, they’re not, they’re mere mortals like the rest of us. In fact, their situation has much in common Trump’s favorite ally, Israel, a point on which I actually agree with him. Both are surrounded by hostile neighbors who would love to eradicate them, both have been fighting for decades to stave off annihilation, and both proved to be strategically valuable American allies, albeit for different reasons.
Trump is fine with spending more than $50 billion annually to defend Israel from its neighbors. Yet, even though the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that the total spent supporting the Kurds since 2017 was only $1.4 billion, Trump characterizes that as a waste of taxpayer money, the same wasted taxpayer dollars that saved countless American lives that might have been lost had the Kurds not done most of the fighting that pushed the ISIS Caliphate out of Syria.
Today he made things worse. In the face of loud anger from the military, especially those who served alongside the Kurds and learned to respect and like them, he’s doing everything he can to convince his base that they’re not worth saving, that the only thing they’re good at is fighting. He says Turkey, Syria, and the Kurds are just fighting over a bunch of sand, and we have no part in the fight. In the 1950s many people who opposed supporting Israel said much the same thing about the Negev and the Sinai. What made the difference then was our national paranoia about Communism. Support for Israel was viewed as building a bulwark against Soviet expansion. Yet today, with Russia every bit as dangerous an adversary as its predecessor Soviet Union, our President didn’t bat an eye when he basically handed Syria to the Russians.
Again today, he carried on, ranting about the awful Kurds who didn’t offer to help us invade Normandy. This time he did it sitting beside Italian President Mattarella, with whom he was trying to expand economic relations. Does anyone notice an irony in that? Italy didn’t help with the Normandy invasion either. In 1944 they were the enemy.
I wonder if there’s a pattern there. Trump also savaged South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, one of his staunchest political allies today for speaking in support of the Kurds. Graham was born eleven years and three months after the invasion of Normandy. Could being born too late absolve Graham of responsibility for not landing on one of those beaches with all the other brave Americans who answered the call when their country needed them? Nearly thirty years of military service earned Graham a Bronze Star in 2014.
And our president who just referred to former Defense Secretary James Mattis as one of the most over-rated generals in the world? By now everyone knows about the bone spurs that kept him from serving in Vietnam. At the time, Trump famously told his associates that serving in Vietnam was stupid; he had better things to do and money to make. In December 2018, USA Today and the New York Times reported that the podiatrist who wrote the bone spur diagnosis did so as a favor to his landlord – Donald Trump’s father. Their source? His two daughters.
Trump is too morally bankrupt to evaluate the worth of either the Kurds or his generals. And with his latest actions he’s turned an incompetent presidency into an extremely dangerous one.