California Gov. Jerry Brown is flying to China today, partially filling a huge gap in leadership left by Donald Trump who, with his withdrawal from the Paris accord on climate change, has abdicated the American president’s long-established role as leader of the free world. Brown characterized Trump’s move as “deviant behavior” and “insane” — and the governor is right.
Trump has turned the United States into a rogue nation. Only two other countries, Nicaragua and Syria, have refused to sign on to the Paris deal. The Department of Defense, major business leaders — including many in the oil and gas industry — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and even Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, all urged Trump not to pull out of the climate change agreement, but he did it anyway. Apparently, Trump’s White House Rasputin, senior advisor Steve Bannon, and climate quacks like EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt sold him on the preposterous fallacy that the U.S. is a deeply aggrieved party in the deal.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, announced on Thursday that he is carrying out his threat to leave the White House business advisory councils in reaction to Trump’s foolish move. In a tweet, Musk wrote, “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
Unlike Trump, who played a master of business on TV while bankrupting his casinos and stiffing suppliers in real life, Musk is a real business genius who understands the future parameters of economic success. While Trump wheezes on about coal jobs, Musk and every other smart business leader in the world knows that alternative energy will be the driver of the global economy in the years to come. Even now, there are hundreds of thousands more Americans working in solar and wind power enterprises than in the grim and dirty coal mines.
The question is, how much will these growing sectors of the American economy be damaged by Trump’s bone-headed decision to fulfill a mindless campaign promise to abandon the climate deal? Will China become the leader in producing solar power hardware? Will Germany take the lead — and the profits — in wind energy? Part of the reason Brown is heading to China is to protect his state’s booming alternative energy enterprises.
In his speech announcing that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement, Trump said he no longer wanted world leaders to be “laughing at us.” That is hilariously ironic. After his boorish, ignorant performance last week in meetings with European leaders, those leaders have been quite literally laughing at him. Trump imagines himself as a tough, savvy leader, but America’s allies and adversaries know a buffoon when they see one. Already, the Europeans have pledged to implement the Paris accords without America. There will be no new deal for Trump, the boastful dealmaker, to make.
The authoritarian regime in China will now be playing an even larger role in the world economy. Meanwhile, if anyone is the leader of the beleaguered free world, it is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. After Trump’s failure to reassert America’s commitment to come to the defense of fellow NATO members, Merkel said it is time for Europeans to “really take our fate into our own hands.”
In a campaign speech, Merkel said, “We have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans.”
Ukrainians may be experiencing similar feelings, given the latest revelation that, in the early days of his administration, Trump was eager to unilaterally drop economic sanctions against Russia that had been imposed as a punishment for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Under Trump, the United States can no longer be counted on to back up free societies when they are threatened by aggressive autocrats like Vladimir Putin. Under Trump, human rights are off the foreign policy agenda and thuggish dictators, like Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, have free rein to murder their citizens. Under Trump, the U.S. has quit a rational pact to address the looming threat of climate change that is endorsed by almost all other countries on the planet.
There will still be American officials like Brown and other governors and mayors taking the lead on climate change. In an MSNBC interview on Thursday, Brown said he is open to convening an international meeting to forge a climate agreement between California, Mexico and Canada.
There will still be business leaders like Musk building the new American economy on the foundation of sustainable energy. Of green power, Musk has said, “That’s the vision for the future we think is the only sensible vision for the future — and the one we’re building toward.”
Trump, though, has abdicated leadership. He will still be acting out the role of president the way he acted on “The Apprentice,” but he will not be leading. The rest of the world and the majority of Americans will not follow this ludicrous man.
Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter