Trump Makes America a Bully

Terry H. Schwadron

Dec. 22, 2017

The problem with being The Bully on the block is that you need to be a bully all the time. Otherwise, someone else is going to come along and kick sand in your face.

The United States is acting the bully right now at the United Nations, issuing threats as our representatives swagger through the halls. The Americans are telling the other nations that they must do what the United States is doing, or at least not stand in our way, or they can face bad consequences.

This time the issue is the American insistence that Jerusalem is the actual capital of Israel, and the rest of the world can lump it if they don’t like it. The trouble is that no one else does accept that outcome as a fact, and see Jerusalem’s status as a matter of negotiation between Israel and Palestinians, along with a host of other security for land trades. Even in Israel, the reactions have been split about the recent Donald Trump announcement that we will move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to be in the “real” capital of Israel.

That others disagree merely has brought out the bully in Donald Trump and UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who threatened to withhold financial aid from anyone voting against the United States in an emergency UN General Assembly vote yesterday that called on the United States to back off from the declarations about Jerusalem. Haley, called the vote rebuking the United States “null and void,” adding that “no vote in the United Nations will make any difference” on the United States’ plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Well, the vote happened, and it was 128 countries denouncing the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem with only 9 countries, including the U.S., voting against the rebuke. Some 35 other nations, including Australia and Canada, staunch U.S. allies, abstaining. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, America’s closest allies, joined with 14 of the 15 members of the Security Council to tell the United States to bugger off. Aside from Israel, the only countries to side with the United States by voting no were Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. Pretty powerful group, huh?

Now this particular resolution was not binding on the UN membership, but it was a pretty lopsided slap in the face for the United States.

Remember now, it could be that President Trump actually believes in Jerusalem being the Israeli capital. But what was more likely was that the Trump declaration and its timing towards the end of his first year as president was meant to fulfill a campaign promise. It was meant for a domestic audience of Republican and evangelical voters.

But a bully has to be a bully every day of the week, or he loses ground. So, Trump had to double down and threaten to take American money home from the international body and from those who would have the audacity to rebuke him publicly.

Let’s be clear here. Trump is a bully in other areas too, like health care coverage. He had his Republican lieutenants in the Congress slip in a plank in the overall tax bill that would sink the individual mandate, the central resolution behind Obamacare, as a means of destroying the program that he so dislikes. Previously he had merely pulled out all kinds of administrative supports for enrolling people and halved the time for re-enrollment.

Only guess what, almost nine million Americans have signed up anyway, their own kind of rebuke of a president trying to bully them into accepting no health care coverage programs,

So too is Trump and his henchmen in the federal agencies acting as bullies against environmental and consumer protections, only to run into tons of public criticism over his insistence on poor environmental policies. You could argue similarly about immigration, about rude behavior with European allies over NATO support, over policies that will decimate public education and the support of the arts in the United States.

On this front, we can all agree: Trump is a Bully.

The UN vote was monstrous in a way. The United States, which wants to be seen as a light of welcome to the world, has never in my knowledge been so thoroughly isolated and smacked around as yesterday’s vote. And seldom has the United States been less effective in terms of achieving the political policies it has sought on the world stage. At the UN, the United States is supposed to be the hero, not the goat.

Let’s go back to basics: The way a country gets what it wants is through diplomacy and lining up coalitions, not by standing there alone and threatening. The same is true in Congress, of course, in winning over Democrats, in settling conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, in resetting relations with Russia and China, and with confrontations with North Korea and Iran.

The Bully is not the winner in an arena that depends on winning ideas and winning adherents.

Had Trump listened before acting on Jerusalem, had he understood the context, had he managed the situation to leave the United States as a credible peace maker, he would not have bumbled into having to defend himself and all of us for trying to persuade.

As things stand, Trump has no Jerusalem embassy, no definition for what “Jerusalem” means in any real way. He has lost the recognized position of peacemaker in the region, and he has opened the door for more Russian, Iranian, Turkish influence in the region. He has undercut his own son-in-law from pursuing a self-perceived role in the conflict, and he has lost the ear of many in the region whose support he needs in anti-terrorism efforts.

This is what Trump’s Bully proposals have wrought. America is lesser for his bullying, not making itself great again.