This was excerpted from the September 22 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
(CNN)”Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” Donald Trump told supporters in 2018. On Monday, as the terrible milestone of 200,000 Covid-19 deaths loomed, the US President put his motto into action.
“We’ve done a phenomenal job. Not just a good job, a phenomenal job,” Trump said on Fox News, referring to his leadership in the pandemic. “On the job itself, we take an A+,” the President said.The entire Trump mythology rests on a bubble of self-delusion. The US has around 4% of the world’s population — but more than 20% of its coronavirus deaths. And while few governments have fought this pernicious disease perfectly, any fair assessment would put Trump’s performance closer to a D than an A.Here are just a few of Trump’s missteps:He knew how bad the virus was in February, but hid the truth.He leans on US health authorities to put politics before science.He failed to put in place a national testing and tracing system, arguing that testing doesn’t matter much.He pushed states to reopen before the virus was under control — helping to trigger a summer of sickness in the Sun Belt.He undermines his own government’s advice on mask-wearing. He is actively organizing mass gatherings in the US — campaign rallies.And he is politicizing the vaccine. In search of an “October surprise” to boost his campaign before the election, Trump has claimed every American can get a shot by April — even though no dose has yet been proven safe or effective.Read More’Use my words against me’ Senate Republicans tried to make their resistance to new Supreme Court picks in an election year seem like a matter of principle in 2016, crying it was undemocratic to appoint a new justice months away from the vote. What a long time ago that was. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already vowed to take up Trump’s choice to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with the support of Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz.Here’s what they said in 2016:Graham in March 2016 argued against considering Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court bench: “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”In February 2016, McConnell on the Senate floor accused then-President Barack Obama of trying to make the nomination part of a “campaign roadshow”: “[Mr. Obama] could let the people decide and make this an actual legacy-building moment, rather than just another campaign roadshow.”And at a rally in Aiken, South Carolina, in February 2016, Cruz invoked US history to make his argument: “In the last 80 years, we have not once – has the Senate confirmed the nomination made in an election year and now is not the year to start.”No dealTrump wasn’t the only top administration official trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear on Monday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put on his own routine over new sanctions imposed on Iran.The US says fresh sanctions are mandated by the JCPOA nuclear deal. There’s just one problem: The US withdrew from that very deal two years ago, fracturing the international front against the Islamic Republic. The deal’s remaining signatories now say Trump has zero legal power to reinstate its multilateral “snapback sanctions” on Iran. The question now is what steps the US might take to force Europe, China, Russia and their businesses to stop dealing with Iran, anyway.”We have made very clear that every member state in the United Nations has a responsibility to enforce these sanctions. That certainly includes the United Kingdom, France and Germany,” Pompeo said on Monday.Trump’s administration argues that the deal was a bust because it failed to rein in Iran’s missile programs and regional belligerence. But the world judged that the most dangerous threat from Iran was actually the possibility that it could get to the cusp of a nuclear weapon, and struck the deal to freeze development. Tehran honored the pact until the US pulled out — then it set its centrifuges spinning to enrich uranium again.So far, unilateral US sanctions have not achieved Pompeo’s goal of fracturing and eventually toppling the country’s clerical leadership, though they are causing extreme economic hardship to Iranian people. Meanwhile, unleashed from the deal, Tehran is closer to the “breakout” threshold from which it could build a nuclear device.Trump’s new claim that Tehran will beg him for a deal that satisfies his terms after the elections is fanciful. So while the White House got a big headline for trashing the agreement and made progress toward Trump’s dream of demolishing Obama’s legacy, what exactly has his Iran policy actually achieved?