After three years of dangerously and unnecessarily escalating tensions with Iran, Donald Trump rang in the new year by creating a crisis that almost started a war with Iran – and still very well could.
As we enter the fourth year of Trump’s presidency, it is more necessary than ever to remind ourselves daily: this is not normal.
The list of despicable domestic actions by Trump that must not be normalized is long – from the policy separating migrant children from their parents and detaining them in cages to the president’s call for his critics to be investigated or jailed.
And while Trump’s foreign policy in 2017 and 2018 was shocking – including regular praise for dictators Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un, for instance – 2019 was the year that Congress and the American people finally had enough. The Ukraine scandal made crystal clear Trump’s unprecedented and dangerous assault on national security norms and led to his impeachment. But the extortion of Ukraine for personal gain was far from the only national security norm that Trump attacked in 2019.
In 2019, Robert Mueller’s report outlined in extensive detail how Trump’s 2016 campaign asked for and received Russia’s help in attacking his campaign opponent. While the story of Trump’s collusion with Russia has gone on so long that it can sometimes seem to have faded into the background of the national consciousness, the 448-page Mueller report should be treated every day like the bombshell it is – the story of how Trump worked with a foreign power to win an election.
In 2019, the American people also learned that Trump’s attempts to get foreign help to further his political interests extend beyond Russia. In addition to Ukraine, Trump also asked China to help smear his political rival.
In 2019, Trump also attempted to circumvent Congress to fund his border wall by taking money from the military and sending US troops – who are not supposed to be deployed on US soil – to the border.
In 2019, Trump’s administration formally began the process to remove the US from the Paris climate agreement. Unless we get our act together, humanity will look back on America’s withdrawal from this global effort as unforgivable. This is not normal: while climate is too often treated in Washington like a policy disagreement, Trump’s actions must be seen for the shocking disregard of reality that they reflect. One of the president’s top priorities should be tackling the existential threat of climate change, not denying its existence and adopting policies that will make it worse.
In 2019, in both Afghanistan and Syria, off-the-cuff interventions by Trump shattered delicate, hard-fought progress and undermined national security. In the 18th year of America’s war in Afghanistan, and after months of talks, the president blew up a potential deal with the Taliban in a moment of haste. And in Syria, after years of American troops fighting side by side with Kurdish partners against Isis, Trump gave the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the green light attack the Kurds as American forces abandoned them.
And while it almost seems like a joke, in 2019 the president of the United States cancelled a trip to visit a US treaty ally – Denmark – because the country would not sell him Greenland.
Trump also continued to attack people because of their race, ethnicity and religion in ways that erode the very model of America as a welcoming, tolerant and diverse society. He told members of Congress (who of course are Americans) to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”. He repeatedly accused people of being antisemitic and questioned their national loyalties because they do not blindly support the dangerous policies of the Israeli government. And he encouraged the Israeli government to prevent two members of Congress from visiting Israel. The list goes on.
None of this is normal. These actions go far beyond policy disagreements. They are not only disturbing and unbecoming the office of the president – they undermine the democratic values America embodies, and damage America’s national security.
Trump hopes that his offensive and dangerous actions are normalized by the sheer force and volume of them. He obfuscates, gaslights and lies – in his three years in office has made more than 15,000 false or misleading claims, according to the Washington Post.
As 2020 begins and Trump teeters on the edge of starting a war with Iran, it is a stark reminder that America no longer knows what it’s like not to be at war – roughly a quarter of Americans have only been alive while America has been fighting a war. This should not be normal – but sadly America has already begun to treat it like it is.
We may not be able to dedicate the same level of outrage or oversight to every single one of Trump’s despicable actions. But we cannot allow them to be seen as normal, and we must push back on them all.