On June 1, Donald Trump announced that, by his withdrawal from the Paris Accord, he was resigning as Leader of the Free World. At the same time, Trump indicated that, pending the conclusion of investigations in Congress and by the Special Counsel, he will retain his position as President of the United States.
The designation Leader of the Free World (“LOFW”) arose during the Cold War and its use was not always salutary. Various White House staffs have been known to convince themselves that their president, speaking or acting as LOFW, should be considered more or less above criticism. Nevertheless, the term reflected the respect, albeit sometimes grudging, accorded the United States by other western nations. Since the end of the Cold War, the designation has lost some of its currency, but presidents and their staffs have been understandably reluctant to retire it. In this case, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord was the final step in his growing estrangement from long-standing European allies of the United States. His successor as LOFW is, by consensus, Germany’s Angela Merkel. Some may find comfort in the dubious claim by Sean Spicer that Trump’s relationship with Merkel is “unbelievable” (taken to be Trumpspeak for “really, really good.”) However that might be, others clearly saw Trump’s action as a major milestone in Making America Not-So-Great Again.
Although Russia is a party to the Paris Accord, Business Insider reported that, unlike European leaders, Vladimir Putin declined to criticize Trump and responded to his action with an attempt at humor:
“By the way, we should be grateful to President Trump. In Moscow, it’s raining and cold and even, they say, some snow,” Putin told an audience at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
“Now, we could blame this all on American imperialism, that it’s all their fault,” he continued. “But we won’t.”
Ah, isn’t that what friends are for?
A sterner reaction came from the Mayor of Pittsburgh who was offended by Trump’s assertion that he represented Pittsburgh and not Paris. The Mayor said that he was “outraged” by the statement and that Pittsburgh would continue its aggressive pursuit of carbon reduction goals. According to unnamed sources in the White House, consideration is being given to suspending all federal grants to Pittsburgh. However, the recommendation by Chris Christie, to have the Department of Transportation slow down traffic on Pittsburgh’s several bridges, has been put on hold.
Unnamed sources also indicated that consideration is being given to renaming the White House Mess as the White House Staff Dining Area in order to avoid confusion with “the White House mess.” In the meantime, the Mess is revising its menu to remove borscht, which has been thought to convey the wrong “optics” just now. Borscht will be replaced by Leak and Potato Soup, which will also produce a saving to the White House budget. Leaks are sprouting up all over the White House and potatoes can be obtained from nutritional programs for children run by the Agriculture Department.