Column: United States of ‘me’

Thursday, President Donald Trump announced the United States’ separation from the Paris climate accord, an indefensible action that removes the United States from a global pact of 195 countries aimed to reduce greenhouse gases and expand upon affordable clean energy.

The president, who has neither confirmed nor denied if he believes climate change is a result of manmade influences (yes, it is 2017), made clear in his Rose Garden speech that he doesn’t particularly care about the far reaching consequences of his action, basing his decision, in part, on not wanting “other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore.”

While Trump says “us,” it’s pretty clear to anyone paying attention he means “me.” This line came only days after the NATO Summit in Brussels, during which Trump lectured NATO allies on defense spending and declined to mention Article 5 of the alliance, a provision which declares an attack on any NATO country to be an attack on them all. Understandably, world leaders who aren’t so keen on Trump’s flavor of nationalism were less than impressed. Some visibly giggled during Trump’s speech and, following the summit, world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel made statements implying that Europe no longer viewed the United States as a reliable partner.

But it wasn’t Merkel who pushed Trump to pull the plug on Paris, reportedly. Instead, it was French President Emmanuel Macron, who, following the summit, made comments about combating Trump’s power-play handshake and lumped Trump in with authoritarian leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

As reported by The Washington Post, “hearing smack-talk from the Frenchman 31 years his junior irritated and bewildered Trump, aides said.” Trump’s irritation with Macron is observable in another widely-circulated line in Trump’s speech:

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said. (Ironically, Pittsburgh voted overwhelmingly for Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has since reaffirmed that his city will continue to adhere to the Paris accord, despite the president’s decision).

This is all, frankly, absurd. While it’s probably short-sighted to think that Trump made his decision based solely on Macron’s (rather justified) comments, the idea that they were a factor at all is beneath the position of the presidency, especially when it concerns a decision that impacts the entire world.

But this is the new normal. For Trump, the presidency isn’t a means to effectively govern or reflect an America on the world stage that garners global trust and respect. Instead, the presidency is a conduit for Trump to lash out at his enemies and make senseless power grabs that, first and foremost, benefit himself over anyone else.

This level of blatant selfishness has been the only consistency throughout Trump’s four and a half months as president, and the exit from the Paris accord is a prime example. Key members of Trump’s cabinet — including Secretary of State and former Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson, son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump — all urged Trump to stay with the Paris deal. But Chief Strategist Steve Bannon — whose Breitbart website serves as a hub for the alt-right, white-nationalist movement — was reportedly behind the exit, encouraging Trump to fulfill one of his campaign promises.

This line of reasoning, admittedly, makes sense. After all, the White House has spent the last few weeks consumed by the Russian scandal, which has stalled any planned domestic agenda they might have had. Trump likely needed a win. It’s just unfortunate that the fate of the world was apparently unimportant enough to hinge that win on.

It’s worth mentioning that Americans didn’t want to exit Paris — 69 percent of registered voters approved of the agreement, including 47 percent of Trump voters, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. But this presumably did not matter, as the president’s goal is seemingly no longer to represent the American people, but instead to make the decisions that are the most politically expedient and beneficial for himself.

Jared Casto can be contacted at [email protected].