Uncle Sugar doesn’t live here any more, and he didn’t leave a forwarding address. This is the message, spoken loud and clear by Donald Trump Thursday in the White House Rose Garden, and it’s just now getting through to the easy riders out there.
“As of today,” he said, “the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. We’re getting out but we’ll start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”
This was exactly what the 196 signers needed to hear, and the president told them without heat, bombast or blather. Just the facts, ma’am, and that means Madame Merkel. Before all the news from Washington was in, Madame Merkel, with France and Italy tagging along in the lady’s considerable wake, said in haughty voice that the Paris accord “will not be renegotiated.” So the lady says, subject to invoking the feminine privilege of changing her mind.
The president thus makes good on one of his most important campaign promises, mocking the holy writ of global warming, or “climate change” as it’s called now because the globe refuses to warm as promised and all the dead polar bears are still not dead and the ocean that was supposed to have inundated the financial district of lower Manhattan by now, has still not obeyed Al Gore.
The president sounds like the reasonable one now. “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris accord for an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.” He identified several sectors of the American economy that would lose jobs and paychecks if the United States stays in the accord — 2.7 million jobs by 2025. Fair is fair, after all, even for Uncle Sugar.
This puts a large dent in Barack Obama’s legacy, about which he can’t stop talking. He was first in line to cavil Thursday, presumably caviling from his walled mansion behind a moat of security a quarter of a mile long, where he leads what he imagines the U.S. Government in more or less permanent exile, or at least until he gets bored with exile and goes home, like presidents before him, and comes to term with the fact that his day is done.
“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” he said, trying to remember how to affect a presidential tone. “I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership, even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future, I’m confident that our states, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.” This was a stunning exercise in disrespect for the one president we currently have, and for the office as well.
Pittsburgh and Peoria with a foreign policy. Who knew? But several cities with Democratic administrations have vowed to remain in the Paris accord, as if they could. Several tycoons of finance and industry seem to regard their companies as sovereign, too, and were quick to take the president to task. It seems not to have occurred to these cities and tycoons that if they want to clean up their act and eliminate pollution, nobody, least of all Donald Trump, will stop them.
Mr. Trump’s critics are eager now to play holier than thou — even the pope, who had said earlier that if Mr. Trump withdrew from Paris the Vatican would take it as “a slap in the face.” Leonardo DiCaprio was disappointed, too, because he had earlier urged Mr. Trump to “make the moral position.” Moral tutelage from the Vatican and Hollywood on the very same day. Religiosity reigns, if only for the day.
But back where it counts, the president’s decision won praise from Republicans in Congress. “I applaud President Trump and his administration for dealing with yet another blow to the Obama administration’s assault on domestic energy production and jobs,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment, observed that “the Paris climate agreement set unworkable targets that put America at a competitive disadvantage.”
Whatever new agreement Mr. Trump can make will be a treaty, and must, as the Constitution makes clear, be ratified by the Senate. Barack Obama, the famous professor of constitutional law, wouldn’t do that because he knew that the Paris agreement would never have made it through the Senate. Climate does change sometimes. Thursday was a sunny day in Washington.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.