THE MORNING PLUM:
Multiple news organizations are reporting that President Trump is expected to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord. Whether this ultimately comes to pass or not — some outlets are cautioning that a final decision has not been made — we do have a rough approximation of the reasons why he has entertained doing this up until this moment.
And these reasons are largely based on one sort of lie or another — some of them small, garden-variety, political hack-style lies, and others very profound lies with far-reaching significance.
The New York Times has an in-depth report on the argument raging among Trump’s top advisers over whether to pull out. Those arguing for staying include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; business leaders; Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump; etc. They say pulling out would further destabilize relations with allies who have staked a great deal on the accord. That remaining would allow the U.S. to retain a seat at the table where critical aspects of the future of the global economy are hashed out. That clean energy development offers all sorts of domestic economic opportunities. That pulling out would send a signal that the U.S. does not view global warming as a serious threat that could bring untold human suffering and dislocation later.
On the other side are the “nationalists,” like Stephen K. Bannon and climate-skeptical E.P.A. chief Scott Pruitt, who are urging Trump to pull out. But the arguments for pulling out are based on utter nonsense.
Staying in the deal would not jeopardize Trump’s ability to unwind Obama’s climate policies. Various versions of the argument are floating around that remaining could create legal obstacles to unwinding Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sets emission reduction targets for states. But this is just false. As David Roberts shows, every legal argument offered for why this might be so has been debunked by lawyers who have looked closely at them.
In reality, staying in the deal does not (unfortunately) require Trump to preserve the Clean Power Plan. The CPP’s fate is being decided in the courts, and if it survives, its success will depend on how states, energy stakeholders, and federal administrators implement it. Separately, our emission-reduction commitments to the Paris accord are voluntary. The idea is that if all participants commit to the general goal of cooperatively combating global warming, while creating a mechanism for countries to examine each other’s progress and report their own, that gives us the chance of creating a mutually-reinforcing cycle of positive change that gathers momentum over time, egged along by ongoing changes in technology and cultural attitudes. Merely remaining in the accord does not create any meaningful domestic policy constraints for the U.S. president. This is one reason some have criticized the deal as insufficient to the challenges we face.
Some of the advantages of staying in, as I have reported, exist independently of whether we actually meet our commitments: It would signal to the world that our long-term commitment to fighting global warming remains; retain a seat at the table for the next president to pick up those commitments; and foster international good will that could grease cooperation on other fronts. Trump’s own Secretary of State is reportedly making a partial version of this case.
Pulling out would not “betray” Trump’s core supporters on the economy. The Times reports that Bannon and others are telling Trump that staying in the deal would “betray his core supporters” because it would “shackle the American economy.” This is truly pernicious dishonesty of the worst kind. Even if you believe that unwinding our efforts to reduce carbon emissions would save jobs, for the reasons above, merely staying in would not prevent Trump from doing that.
Who believes Trump’s core supporters really care about the Paris accord? Yes, when Trump boasts about this at his next rally, they will let out a lusty cheer, because Trump told them that he tore up something with Obama’s name on it, and sent them cues that they should cheer him for it. (This is how these things work, the political scientists tell us.) But if he did not pull out, how many would even care or notice? Trump has failed to honor many of his economically “populist” promises — he’s slashing the safety net and has yet do anything meaningfully pro-worker on trade or infrastructure — and we’re supposed to believe the “populists” in the White House care about staying true to the economic agenda Trump ran on? Yeah, right. In fact, pulling out helps prop up one of the biggest lies Trump has told core supporters — that he is going to bring the coal industry roaring back.
Pulling out would not put the country on a beneficial “nationalist” course. National security adviser H.R. McMaster and senior economic adviser Gary Cohn published a Wall Street Journal op ed today that is meant to clean up Trump’s trip abroad. This is a revealing nugget:
The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.
This gets at the biggest lie at the heart of the “nationalist” case for pulling out of Paris. It suggests international engagement is nothing more than a cause to believe national interests and sovereignty are being thrown to the lions in an “arena” where only the zero-sum struggle for advantage reigns. It does not allow space for recognition of what the Paris deal really is, which is constructive global engagement that serves America’s long term interests, as part of a system of mutually advantageous compromises. Ultimately, what’s really at grave risk here is a chance to reaffirm a reality-based view of the merits of international cooperation and diplomacy.
* GOP HEALTH BILL VIEWED UNFAVORABLY: A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that 55 percent of Americans view the GOP health bill unfavorably, versus 31 percent who view it favorably. And 45 percent say that under it, health care costs for them and their families would get worse.
By contrast, Americans view the Affordable Care Act favorably by 49-42. Maybe Americans don’t believe Trump’s vow to magically make health care better and more accessible for less money?
* THE ‘GROWN-UPS’ TRY TO CLEAN UP TRUMP’S MESS: Note this important nugget from the Wall Street Journal op ed by “grown ups” H.R. McMaster and Cohn, which is designed to place a positive, sophisticated cast on Trump’s disastrous trip abroad:
America First does not mean America alone. It is a commitment to protecting and advancing our vital interests while also fostering cooperation and strengthening relationships with our allies and partners … While reconfirming America’s commitment to NATO and Article 5, the president challenged our allies to share equitably the responsibility for our mutual defense … By asking for more buy-in, we have deepened our relationships.
Yep, the new spin from the “grown-ups” will be that Trump is merely showing our allies “tough love.”
* NO, TRUMP’S SPEECH DIDN’T RECONFIRM COMMITMENT TO NATO: Responding to the above claim by the “grown ups,” NBC’s First Read crew points out:
The problem? His speech at NATO last week never explicitly reconfirmed his commitment to Article 5, which states that an attack on one NATO ally is an attack on all.
Well, that’s almost the same thing as reaffirming our commitment, isn’t it?
* TRUMP KEEPS LYING ABOUT NATO: Trump keeps claiming our NATO allies rip us off. But as Glenn Kessler explains, direct NATO funding is proportional to each country’s gross national income. Trump is talking about disparities in each nation’s indirect funding via military spending:
Trump continues to misleadingly frame the failure to meet the guideline as money owed to the United States … But this is simply money that each country would spend on its own military — or on missions that do not include NATO, such as peacekeeping in Africa … even if all NATO members suddenly [boosted their own military spending], no additional money would end up in the U.S. Treasury.
Trump can call for other countries to spend more on defense, but the claim that the failure to do so rips us off is nonsense, designed to thrill his supporters and justify his “America First” posture.
* PREMIUMS WOULD SOAR UNDER GOP HEALTH BILL: The Huffington Post reports on a new study that breaks down how much premiums would soar for people, county-by-county:
In Alaska, where health insurance premiums already are among the highest in the nation, rates would increase by more than $2,200 a year in every county, according to the Century Foundation. Several counties in Arizona and Nebraska would be in line for hikes of more than $1,500. In northern and eastern Maine, premiums would rise by $1,254.
Over the long haul, average premiums on the individual markets might come down under the GOP bill, but this is because sicker people would be shunted out of them to face soaring costs or not having insurance at all.
* TRUMP’S CALLS WITH WORLD LEADERS STIR SECURITY CONCERNS: The Associated Press reports:
Trump has been handing out his cellphone number to world leaders and urging them to call him directly … Presidents generally place calls on one of several secure phone lines, including those in the White House Situation Room, the Oval Office or the presidential limousine. Even if Trump uses his government-issued cellphone, his calls are vulnerable to eavesdropping, particularly from foreign governments, national security experts say.
It would be interesting to hear from experts on how this careless handling of sensitive information compares with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server.
* AND PEOPLE APPEAR RELUCTANT TO WORK FOR TRUMP: The White House communications director just resigned, and the New York Times reports that the search for a replacement has hit a snag, even as other top advisers worry about their own fates:
Four possible successors contacted by the White House declined to be considered, according to an associate of Mr. Trump who like others asked not to be identified discussing internal matters … privately, aides described a White House where no one’s position, not even [Jared] Kushner’s, feels entirely secure.
Why anyone would be reluctant to go work in this hell, which requires you to lie daily for a madman while tossing your reputation into the shredder, is a real mystery.