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BY MAX BURBANK | I’ve been trying to write a column about America’s foreign policy and our place in the world for months. I’d be almost done and then, just before deadline, there’d be a massive explosion of inanity and I’d have no choice but to trash everything I’d written and cover it: President Donald Trump fires FBI Director James Comey; Trump blabs classified intelligence to the Russians; Trump tweets a pic of his tragically malformed wiener. Okay, I mean, not literally. I’m saying a lot of Trump’s tweets are the metaphorical equivalent of a tragically malformed wiener pic. And just last week, we had the national Rorschach test of the Comey testimony, where everyone saw what they wanted to see, even though the ink blot clearly read “Obstruction of Justice” in Times New Roman 24-point font.
You get what I’m saying. As a pundit (shh, I told my mom I’m a pundit), I’ve made a sincere effort to look at the global picture — but Trump’s shenanigans keep pulling me off focus. It happens so often I’d say it was deliberate, but in a previous column I already committed to the theory that Trump lacks the mental capacity to do anything more deliberate than golf. While it’s true Trump’s homeland buffoonery will likely cause a great deal of suffering and perhaps damage our democracy in incalculable ways, it probably won’t result in a post-apocalyptic-Syfy-channel-type scenario where a plucky gang of misfit survivors watch each other slowly die of radiation poisoning.
So let’s examine our role on the world stage — while we still can.
In some ways it’s very easy to write about our foreign policy, as we have none. The Trump Doctrine is basically, “If lucid, check with Russia, otherwise obey immediate random impulses.”
For evidence, look no further than Trump’s bizarre, unasked-for self-insertion (supply your own rude joke here) into the latest Middle East dustup. Long-simmering tensions in the gulf exploded as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Trump basically took credit, tweeting: “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding…” and “…extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” Grammatical butchery aside, Trump saw global instability and, as he once assured Billy Bush, “moved” on it “like a bitch.”
One has to assume that he didn’t know the Al Udeid Air Base — home to thousands of US troops — is located IN QATAR, which means he tweeted without bothering to find out which Middle Eastern country Qatar IS!
If pissing off a country critical to our military presence in the region surprises you, I gotta say that you haven’t been paying attention. It’s just the latest embarrassing, dangerous screwup from the leader who decided to drop the largest non-nuclear weapon we have on Syria while eating the most beautiful slice of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen, leaked classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians, told Philippine president and extrajudicial serial killer Rodrigo Duterte the location of two of our nuclear submarines, refused to shake hands with a longtime ally (Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany) but offered personal congratulations to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey for solidifying dictatorial powers in a highly suspect referendum, shoved Dusko Markovic (the prime minister of Montenegro) aside so he could preen Mussolini-style at the front of a photo op, and single-handedly created a worldwide climate of hysteria in which terrible run-on sentences like this one get written on a regular basis!
Determined to show that “America First” means “America Totally Alone,” Trump has now pulled us out of the Paris agreement. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris” said our president of the climate accord, revealing his belief the accord has “Paris” in its name because it’s French — as opposed to, you know, having simply BEEN SIGNED THERE by France, yes, and also almost EVERY NATION ON EARTH except Syria and Nicaragua!
As of press time, we still don’t know if Trump has canceled his state visit to the UK over fears everyone there hates his guts. The Guardian says it’s off, Sean Spicer says it’s SO on, and CNN weighed in with, “God, our heads hurts real bad, leave us alone.” I’m paraphrasing, but only a little.
Trump’s revised travel “ban” got kicked to the curb by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, because no matter how hard Justice Department lawyers work to assure judges that the “ban” isn’t a “ban,” Trump can’t go three tweets without saying it sure as hell is a “ban.”
In Sworn testimony on June 13, America’s top racist garden gnome, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, admitted he now accepts Russia interfered with our elections, but doesn’t recall ever getting briefed on the subject or Trump ever mentioning it. Imagine the rest of the world trying to decide if that’s perjury or just criminal dereliction of duty.
The President of the United States has long been recognized as the leader of the free world. That’s not the case anymore. Worse yet, the great dealmaker gave the title away for nothing. Is America first? Trump will do anything shirtless equestrian enthusiast Vladimir Putin requires. All King Salman of Saudi Arabia had to do was give Trump a gold necklace and let him touch a little ball, and he’s swoony enough to destabilize the entire region on their behalf.
Leadership of the free world is now shared by a Frenchman who married his high school teacher; a buff, outdoorsy Canadian; and a German grandmother with a degree in physics. It’s like the start of a locker room joke Trump would tell Billy Bush to impress him, but a lot funnier and kind of hopeful instead of smelling faintly of desperation and sweat-stained tube socks.
We stand on the world stage, exposed beneath a flickering spotlight, pants around our ankles — and the free world laughs at us. It’s not a comfortable laugh. It’s high-pitched through clenched teeth, the kind of laugh you surrender to when you realize the TV show you stumbled on in the middle of the night isn’t “The Man in the High Castle” or “Red Dawn” or even some dark, edgy reboot of “Hee Haw.” It’s the news.