The hallmark of Donald Trump’s campaign – and, it appears to us, one of his most deeply-rooted personal characteristics – is a complete disregard (really, disdain) for political, social, and legal norms he doesn’t feel bound to observe. As we’ve discussed before, Trump thinks that the rules are for everyone else. Not surprisingly, this characteristic has been on full display since the election, and it has caused, and will doubtless continue to cause, crises for the country and the world.
Most recently, Trump saw fit to intercede in matters of foreign affairs and diplomacy. Before last week’s U.N. vote on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, Trump urged President Obama (in a tweet, of course) to veto the resolution. Trump’s supporters would, no doubt, argue that he was just voicing his opinion, as is the right of any American citizen. The Chimps might be inclined to give Trump as pass here, but for the fact that it appears Trump’s tweet, and his communication with Egypt’s president to try to stop the U.N. vote, came at the behest of the Israeli government.
If you haven’t already done so, you should pause for a moment to consider that bit of information: the President-elect of the United States took affirmative steps, at the urging of a foreign power, to undermine this country’s ongoing diplomatic efforts.
When the United States chose to abstain during last Friday’s vote (ensuring that the condemnatory resolution would pass), there were two predictable results. First, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stomped his feet, wailed, and lost his ever-loving mind. Second, Donald Trump stomped his feet, wailed, and lost his ever-loving mind. (Seems he and Netanyahu were, after all the foot-stomping and wailing and furious tweeting was done, of one ever-loving mind.) In the course of his mindless tantrum, Trump did his best to undermine his own country’s foreign policy efforts. Trump’s twitterrhea hasn’t let up since. Yesterday, he called the U.N. “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” Today has seen more of the same. “[Israel] used to have a great friend in the U.S., but … not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this [vote]! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”
Trump’s behavior contravenes both political and legal norms. As a political matter, “Trump’s recent online rhetoric is widely seen as a break from the tradition of deference to the sitting president during a period of transition.”
And the Supreme Court spoke, decades ago, to the role of the President in foreign and diplomatic affairs. In a case called United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304 (1936), the Court said:
Not only, as we have shown, is the federal power over external affairs in origin and essential character different from that over internal affairs, but participation in the exercise of the power is significantly limited. In this vast external realm, with its important, complicated, delicate and manifold problems, the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation.
Why does this matter? Among other reasons, it’s important that the United States speaks with one voice on matters of foreign affairs to avoid embarrassment and confusion. World leaders, understandably, short circuit when they hear conflicting messages being delivered on behalf of the most powerful – economically, militarily, and otherwise – country on Earth.
The Chimps fear that nothing good can come from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) being forced to play cleanup after Donald Trump, rather like the shit-shoveler having to follow behind the elephants at the circus.
Donald Trump will have (at least) four years to destroy policies – both domestic and foreign – that the nation has spent years or decades carefully crafting and advancing. The least he can do is wait until January 20th to unleash that destruction.