It’s getting a little weird around here.
Just a few days ago, we had Jerry Brown – nickname “Moonbeam” – warning President Trump, “You don’t want to mess with California.”
From the reader feedback I’m seeing here and at Facebook, Brown’s cautionary challenge isn’t having the effect he probably intended. No one seems to buy the vision of California being all up in anyone’s Kool-Aid, loaded (as it were) and locked. Brown comes off more like the wimpy, corrupt sheriff of a bad-seed town than like Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name riding into it.
Now we have President Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Union warning Trump that if The Donald doesn’t become more supportive of the EU, Mr. Juncker will push for Ohio (?) and Texas to break away from the United States.
I really like that “Ohio” touch. It’s so from out of nowhere. Just an editorial aside.
Anyway, here’s the obligatory pull-quote:
He [Juncker] said: “Brexit isn’t the end. A lot of people would like it that way, even people on another continent where the newly elected US President was happy that the Brexit was taking place and has asked other countries to do the same.
“If he goes on like that I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas in the US.”
The UK Express continues:
Mr Juncker’s comments did not appear to be made in jest and were delivered in a serious tone, although one journalist did report some “chuckles” in the audience and hinted the EU boss may have been joking.
Maybe he was joking, although if he wants to establish himself as more statesmanlike than Trump, he needs to take care what jokes he makes.
That’s actually a major point. Critics of Trump’s unquestionably, um, freeform style will be quick with some version of “He started it!”
But he didn’t start it. It was quite apparently already there.
If Jerry Brown and Claude Juncker really had the superiority of judgment and character their defenders would suggest, Trump’s X-Games communication style in the Twitterverse couldn’t draw them into making silly threats.
But they don’t. That’s exactly the sort of thing Trump exposes, just by being Trump.
Here’s another thing Trump has exposed. Juncker made his threat out of sheer peevishness. Trump’s enthusiasm for Britain’s Brexit decision has never been about peevishness. He has consistently supported Brexit because, well, he supports it, as a policy move.
I grant you every caveat about Trump not having laid out a coherent vision for what Europe should be doing instead of EU-ifying. Trump himself would probably wriggle off the hook by pointing out that that’s the Europeans’ business, and it’s not for him to say. It’s certainly not for him to dictate, of course – but my own taste in international policy is for having some principles to repeat about sovereignty, security, stability, and freedom of interaction. We don’t get that from Trump.
But neither do we get Trump lashing out with off-the-cuff threats – however sarcastic – that are not and never were anyone’s policy. The EU has never enunciated an intention of pushing for Ohio and Texas to depart the American union. Juncker pulled that out to escalate what he seems to see as a game of one-upmanship.
I could talk all day about the issues of national sovereignty, supranational unions, centralized bureaucracies, the EU in particular, the transformative problem of illegal migration in both Europe and the U.S., the enforcement of U.S. law, “sanctuary” cities and states, and the rule of law in general. You know I could (talk all day).
But I think it’s better to exit on the point most people can see immediately and intuitively. Trump, in his own inimitable way, has proposed to enforce U.S. law in California, and support the UK (and potentially others) for choosing a reasonably defensible path with the Brexit. The latter stance argues that Trump doesn’t see the EU as an essential feature of Europe’s future, which I would certainly agree requires explaining and further elucidation. It is a policy stance — it’s not really confusing — but it’s a pretty big thing to leave hanging out there.
Instead of making compelling arguments for their own cases, however, Jerry Brown and Jean-Claude Juncker have responded with asinine threats.
Because that’s all they’ve got.