Trump’s Dream Come True: Trashing Obama and Iran in One Move

The president could have protected American interests without scrapping the nuclear deal. But that’s not all he wanted.

Comments: 189

  1. This president would never agree to improve on anything President Obama ever did. For someone who spent his entire political life trashing his predecessor, cancelling the Iran deal was a foregone conclusion. The president has thumbed his nose at our allies and forfeited America's goodwill around the world, all to spite Barack Obama. That is this president's shameful legacy.

  2. Nicely summarized, my friend. There really was no surprise how this was going to go. No mystery why.
    By the way, I very much enjoyed your counter argument to me yesterday! Never hesitate to disagree with me. I always appreciate thoughtful responses and new perspectives. ;)

  3. Silver vibes , this is what I find all the more astounding, about this President: Nothing is “beyond the pale”, when it comes to exacting some kind of revenge, on Obama.
    Especially at the expense of the people that Trump supposedly represents. This is one of the most glaring of Trump’s character defects, he doesn’t seem to care to count the costs of ‘getting even’ with Obama, and the cost to us is enormous.

  4. @Lionel Hampton (Silver Vibraphone): It will be interesting to see the next president return the American embassy to Tel-Aviv. If Bibi's still in office and wants to contest the move, the new president might summon his (her?) ambassador back to Washington for "consultations." Everything that Donald Trump will be undone in the next four to six years. I hope he lives long enough to gorge on the shame that is his rightful portion. But, of course, when one knows no shame...

  5. Mr. Friedman,
    Bravo! Now, will you please ask your editors to hold a town hall panel discussion -- with you, congressional leaders, and members of the presidential cabinet -- in which these issues are addressed!

  6. It is a fool’s errand for an outsider to try remaking another country’s power structure. (You can ask Mr. Friedman’s wise wife how well that was ever going to work in Iraq. Language is not the only realm in which she shines).
    It is also transparently hypocritical for a man to say he stands with democracy and human rights activists in Iran when he stands with ruthless dictators like Putin and Duterte, and has no use for human rights in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and more.
    All we can do is contain outright threats and offer a seat at the table to world leaders who may not be allies, but who don’t have to be mortal enemies, either. That’s what the Iran deal accomplished.
    By withdrawing, Trump hasn’t advanced anything good, only his sense of vengeance against President Obama. There aren’t expressions, singular or conjoined, to capture that level of irresponsibility.

  7. @NM -- well stated, my friend, as usual. Why world leaders would put their faith in a faithless human being who's flawed beyond measure is a mystery. This president's entire raison detre is to extinguish his predecessor's accomplishments. His campaign promises were based on negatives, not for the betterment of America, but his supporters didn't care. Negatives cannot produce positives. Thanks for your input.

  8. Obama was right, change in the middle east will never come from outside forces. Lasting change only ever comes from within. The best thing we can do is stay far far away but a combination of oil and hubris makes doing so highly unlikely. Trump will never take responsibility if tossing the Iran deal further destabilizes the region but the rest of us will pay for his arrogance going forward. He's damaged our credibility and future presidents will have a much harder time negotiating with the international community in good faith that the agreement will be honored.

  9. The idea that change in outsiders cannot help with changes in the Middle East is essentially a bigotted notion. Outsiders have helped with change in Europe, Japan, South Korea, Latin America, and South Africa, but apparently "liberal" thinkers believe that there is something deficient among Middle Easterners that will not allow them to be influenced for the better.

  10. The checks and balances - to wit, Senate and House - have not curbed trump's out-of-control and thoughtless actions although they could have - heck, they won't even speak up!

    No matter how much of a contrast with trump a future president may be, what the rest of the world will remember is that we went back on our word in a number of places.

    The issue is no longer trump, but the knowledge that a SINGLE president elected by the people can do so much damage to environment, global harmony, and financial in so little time. our word is now worthless.

    trump may win these skirmishes but he has lost us the coming war.

  11. You seem to contradict yourself, by first writing; ''by taking a hard line on Iran, drew some needed attention to Iran’s bad behavior and created an opportunity to improve the nuclear deal. ''

    This administration made a unilateral decision against the express and explicit recommendations of all other parties within the deal and even a majority of experts on policy matters within this administration.

    You further go on to say that the administration SHOULD HAVE extended the ban from 15 to 25 years, used diplomacy and so on. I agree, they should have gone that way as well.

    Regardless of whatever ''bad behavior'' the Iran was engaged in, a deal is a deal. Now the world ( especially any ''rogue'' nations ) are going to be suspect of future offerings of ''deals''

    This administration has made the world less safe. Not more.

  12. Donald Trump never had a plan to either re-calibrate (improve?) President Obama’s 2015 agreement with Iran (and several allies). His first error was his ignorance.

    This American president surrounded himself with a stop-and-start State Department that he de-funded and a SecState that he humiliated and neutered. In place of Rex Tillerson and ex-National Security Adviser Gen. H. R. McMaster, the cat-on-hot-tin-roof president sought out tired, worn regime-change mongers who would do the work the lazy commander-in-chief refused to do.

    Trump’s racially-motivated animus with his predecessor—goaded to no small end by Bibi—gave him the cover he needed for his red meat “base” and an indifferent Congress (heard anything from them lately?) to both embarrass President Obama and to tell the world what was unnecessary because it was too well known: that Iran is a rogue state with a capital “R.” But Mr. Obama insisted on strict verification. He also sought to coax Iran into harnessing the vast potential of its talented and educated people, all with Iran’s incorporation into a vital player in an area larger than simply the volatile region in mind.

    But Trump cannot see very far ahead. Insecure, he has gauged his questionable successes and tethered them to what he hopes will be an international acclaim that he is his predecessor’s superior in every way.

    He out-fixed himself, though. His Singapore summit is in grave danger, perhaps a down payment on his ripping up the Iran deal.

  13. Yes, yes and yes. Trump has taken a match to the world the past few days, ripping up the multinational Iran deal, sending his family for a repulsively slick opening of a building that will serve as a middle finger, and also borrowing victory and so tempting fate with a tenuous peace breakthrough.
    Ivanka's smiles and Jared's blaming bloodshed on those who dare stand up to oppression were infuriating. The notion of him brokering peace is a cruel joke.
    We were so much better off with President Obama's diplomacy, coolheadedness, and willingness to reject Bibi's conniving. If only...

  14. Friedman writes as if "the Europeans" are some collective with whom Trump could negotiate an improved deal. And that's before tackling Iran with said new deal, ready to be watered down once again.

    Despite what the various European players are saying, they won't in the end defy US sanctions for the benefit of Iran. Whether Iran will cave or not is an open question, but the state of their economy is perilous.

  15. This was a multinational deal - Trump is pandering to his casino buddies and Netanyahu- Bolton is past his expiry date and Pompeo is another overweight lightweight. Trump is looking like the idiot that he is - China, Russia, and N Korea are pulling their strings.

  16. Trump has his son-in-law and his bankruptcy lawyer working on the Ultimate Peace Deal in the Middle East. Their no diplomacy approach to international affairs will result in another million deaths and another lost generation in the Middle East , in addition to breaking our Treasury. Ever wonder why Trump is gutting the federal government except for defense? There are no future Mount Rushmore profiles sitting in the White House today.

  17. The Donald and Netanyahu
    Are very corruptible, too,
    Indictable pair
    Don has more false hair
    Goes bankrupt without much ado.

    Netanyahu's spouse just like her man
    Grabbed all of the perqs that one can
    Used Gov workers freely
    May cohabit, really,
    Incarcerated in the Can.

    For none will there be vindication
    More likely an annihilation
    Unleash Fire and Fury
    Guilty to a Jury
    3 scoundrels guilty of predatiom.

  18. Yes, Trump wanted to erase another Obama accomplishment and, of course, he seems to dislike May and Merkel---one suspects because they have 2 X chromosomes. The worst part is that he takes these rash steps without telling us what the plan is after that. We are all left awaiting his next tweet and hoping that it is thoughtful rather than vitriolic. I imagine we will be waiting a long time.

  19. Actually the more common thinking is that it has nothing to do with having 2X chromosomes and all to do with their very poor mastery of the let’s-show-adulation-to-Trump game. In contrast to Trudeau, Macron, to name a few.

  20. At first I thought, "didn't he mean 'lay in it.'" Then I realized it works either way with Trump.

  21. If we are trashing Iran, why did Boeing just seal a Deal with Iran? See Michael Avenatti, Crusader of Truth.

  22. Obama is an easy target. His 8 years of appeasement and the American apology tour destabilized the world. Obama left a big mess for Trump to clean up. Had he paid more attention to world affairs and less attention to his NCAA brackets, the world might have benefited. Slowly but surely Trump is reversing the tide of disgrace and dishonor that was Obama's sordid legacy.

  23. Seems to me TF is making a great argument here. If you’re up to it you should refute it rather than simply parroting unfounded and vague Hannity proclamations like “Obama destabilized the world”.

  24. Put down the comic book. Handing off an intact economy to a con man like Trump while having him stick Americans with his Maralago Swamp & Golf weekends at millions a pop and saving jobs- for China- is more like it. Trump in bed with porn stars and religious bigots could use an Apology Tour- apologize to McCain while he’s at it.

  25. i get it steve..... you think the guy down the street lets his dog go on your lawn so you see him walk by one day and you punch him in the face..... problem solved, right??

  26. Every day, in every way, he fights to outshine Obama. The measure of a tiny man, and tiny mind. Just saying.

  27. And of course, a monumental bigot and hater of the first order. The foul mouthed birther himself.

  28. That darn Obama. Such a thoughtless, unread, uninformed, unaware, poorly-spoken, irrational President. And from Kenya, no yet. Perfectly understandable that the current president would want to dismantle everything Obama did. What kind of person would not want to do that?

  29. Looks like Trump's plan is to help China keep it's jobs while sanctioning Western Europe.

  30. Why is there so little mention of the tremendous profits American oil companies will make with less competition? Trump has been all about oil and it’s a bonanza. This is about more than undoing Obama’s legacy, its about money, Honey.

  31. Not to mention that Russia benefits from higher oil prices. Somehow it always goes back to the motherland.

  32. The price of crude has nearly tripled since trump took office. That's a windfall of about $500 million per day for putin. The big payback.

    How many hackers can vladi hire with that chunk of change?

  33. Yup. Follow the money by turning back the hands of time.

  34. "Good for Trump for calling Iran out"

    Can we cool it with the moralizing? No one takes the US's "calling out" on human rights seriously. Not when we commit egregious human rights violations at home. We have no moral standing (and especially after the United State's condoning of the IDF's massacre of Palestinians this week).

  35. I'm reminded of an old old tribute that seems quite appropriate here with regard to Trump and his merry band of incompetents:

    Here lies our sovereign lord the king,
    Whose word no man relies on;
    He never says a foolish thing,
    Nor ever does a wise one.

    The only difference is that Trump is always saying foolish things and appears to be incapable of doing a wise one.

    The Middle East as a region is unstable. The leaders are unreliable. They'd double-cross each other in a second even if it destroys the peace. With all that said, Trump has made a mistake pulling out of the deal with Iran. He hasn't got anything to replace it with and he's giving Israel the go ahead to do whatever it wants to. It's not good diplomacy or politics to give your friends or enemies the means to start a war especially when it comes to nuclear weapons.

    Trump might want to destroy every thing that Obama did. But he should keep in mind that some destruction can be worse than what went on before. Obama wasn't blind to the duplicity that went on in the Middle East. But Obama didn't have as much of a need to be publicly flattered and praised as Trump has and every head of state is playing to that. Flattery is nice, good results that come from hard work are better.

  36. Friedman gives Trump credit that he does not deserve. The main issue should be whether Iran reneged on its treaty commitments. The answer is a clear "no." This has been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) itself. Tehran's commitment to the treaty's stipulations should be the sole criteria on which Trump's decision should be judged. If Trump found other reasons to pull out of the treaty, neither Iran nor on other signatories to the treaty - which include France, Germany and Britain - should shoulder any blame.

    During the Cold War, successive U.S. administrations focused on Soviet compliance with arms reductions treaties. But no U.S. administration abandoned these treaties because they failed to demand "regime change" in Moscow or the end of communism.

    Friedman argues that Iran was not punished while Israel was "censured" for its illegal settlements on Palestinian lands. Whatever happened to such a 'censure?' Did Israel cease building illegal settlements? Did Israel pay any diplomatic or economic price for its settlements? No. But Iran has - rightly or wrongly - been subjected to a wide range of U.S. sanctions since 1979.

    The treaty may not have been perfect but it was very effective and achieved its goals. It eliminated the threat of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. Whatever Trump's reasoning and hidden motives may be for withdrawing from the treaty, they stand in stark contrast to the treaty's success.

  37. Perhaps trump's motive is to be offered money to build a hotel or somesuch in the appears to have happened with trump's bizarre jobs-for-china directive.

  38. The nuclear deal with Iran, aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is an agreement, not a treaty. To be a treaty the Iran deal would have had to be ratified by the Senate. Then Pres Trump would not have been able to withdraw from it on his own.

  39. I am not a fan of Israel's settlements, but Israel does hand over these towns in peace settlements - as it handed over a working economy and well-built structures in Gaza.

  40. The US should build a vast Air Force complex in the golan heights. Nuclear equipped, drones, jets, cyber, and chlorine gas stocked. That will put the big kabosh on Iranian aspirations. Kick turkey out of nato and move all weapons to this base and insert Israel into NATO. That will put significant assets 2 miles from the Russians.

  41. We shouldn't fight another war in the Mideast for Israel.
    If Bibi wants a war with Iran, don't ask America to send our soldiers again. US taxpayers send Israel 3 billion dollars a year.
    I didn't hear of any Israelis fighting in Iraq during the Iraq war, or Afghanistan, Americas longest war.

  42. When did breaking deals to ‘renegotiate’ them become a thing?

  43. Wait a Minute. Do Secondary Sanctions apply to Russia? Why all the talk about Western Europe? What about China? (see also ZTE, Iran Deal with Boeing, etc. Bribery with Qatar, etc. Avenatti )

    See also Failed Policies all over the World like Paris Accord and The Theft of the EPA.

  44. Your “better” deal lacks one element: something for the Iranians. You dictate terms without offering anything in Tehran, and so exemplify imperialist America in much the same way as Trump. I expected mores from you.

  45. You give Donald too much credit. There is, and never was, a strategy aimed at pointing out Iran's other bad actions in the Middle East. He hasn't even acknowledged the bad actions Russia has inflicted here in the U.S.A. Trump's only reason for walking away from this deal, the TPP and the Paris accords was that Obama midwifed them. That's it. Just childish petulance because Obama made fun of him, in public, at the White House Correspondents Dinner. His only strategy is to try to erase all of the Obama Legacy. But, the jokes on him because with every reactive overreach he only burnishes Barack's reputation. The contrast between these two leaders will have historians laughing harder than the invited guest at that fateful dinner.

  46. Exactly, because "Obama made fun of him in public....", and with style, after what he had to endure from him!
    Let us not forget that Obama never stooped down to Mr. T's insulting level.

  47. The petulance does not consider that Donald Trump spent years slandering Barack Obama's rightful claim of US citizenship. That delusion still persists among Trump followers.

  48. Absolutely agreed, except for one point: referring to Trump as a “leader.” He is nothing of the sort, and he does not deserve that title. His deeply cynical “candidacy” was merely a stunt to increase his brand and to feed his ego; he never expected to win, and his thoroughly inept, idiotic and aimless, disgraceful behavior in office has proven how deeply unfit he is for the job. Obama was a leader, someone who’s words inspired and uplifted. Trump is just a petty grifter and a crook.

  49. Trumps policy is vandalism

  50. Since Trump is all about winning tiny daily battles, settling scores and listening to his foreign policy advisers on Fox and Friends there will be no policy unless Jerod buys one. Like a gambler at a slot machine, Trump’s casino foreign policy is bound to hit one winner which will prove to Trump that he is a genius, convincing him to continue to pull the lever, to trust only his own genius, and boy, is the world in for it.

  51. The by now conventional wisdom that Donald Trump has been motivated by a desire to undo Obama's 'legacy' seem to have some truth to it. The spectacle of a petty, embittered, bellicose and semi-deranged man trying to erase history continues to amaze me. Nothing Trump does can _erase_ Obama's legacy. Obama did what Obama did - it's in the Book of History as testimony to his graceful rationality and compassion. What Trump owns : the mass destruction of social and political norms in the United States, the burning wreckage of American prestige and moral leadership, and a nauseating tangle of venality, nepotism and lies.

  52. To Paul in Palo Alto - trump has never seen a regulation he likes. An Obama regulation or idea or move or concept or deal just must go. And, to phooey with the country and its citizens. Jenny speaks

  53. To state that Iran has been censured less than Israel by the US is laughable.

  54. Another mixed idiom that applies to this situation: "Don't count your chickens after the horse has been stolen."

  55. Sowing chaos and volatility is what Trump's backers want. Getting retribution on the black President who so accurately eviscerated him on a very public stage is what he wants. Who cares what the rest of the US or world wants.

  56. Trump thinks the world is his play-thing. Why is it no other sitting politician has found his/her voice to loudly and meanly counter this poison?

  57. His strategy is chaos and tough talk, confusion and keep 'em guessing. He's been consistent with that. There is no end-game except an abstract "win" and therefore careful strategic planning is not important.

    It's the near opposite of Obama, his base likes that. The strategy also includes breaking social norms and lines of decency. Again, he's been consistent with that.

    This is not how an educated, experienced, seasoned politician or businessman behaves. But it is how a swarmy real estate developer/lifetime huckster behaves. So we can work with that. Avenatti has figured it out, so can we. There are ways to respond, we just have to do it.

  58. I don't suppose it occurred to anyone that to the folks in the region, the US meddling might not look any different that what we are accusing Iran of doing. What was that old line... one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter? And one might suspect that one of the factors in that mess could be traced back to the way the West carved up the middle east for their own administrative convenience after WW 1. And continues in the same vein.

  59. Middle East was being "carved up" long before the Western Europeans showed up. You do remember the Greeks, right? Persians didn't much care for them either.

  60. I don't suppose it occurred to you that the US is not engaged in genocide.

  61. Important point: At the time when the "West carved up the Middle East," that concept did not include the United States. (One interesting point, of many, from the PBS special on the Vietnam War was that originally Ho Chi Minh approached America for help against the French, because he admired our founding fathers and we had never been a colonial power. The road not taken!)

  62. The key to whether Europe, focused on Germany, will give in to Donald Trump's Iran move, might come down to their belief that Trump is focused on regime change. Europe has a lot of reasons to try to hold the Iran deal together, but, as Mr. Friedman has pointed out, regime change in Iran will lead to even more Middle East refugees flooding into Europe. Which is the current, most toxic, third rail subject in European politics.

  63. Dear Mr. Friedman,

    This was an excellent analysis of the Trump created Iranian situation. The proposals set forth are worthy of state level consideration. Unfortunately:

    There is no one in the Trump administration that is capable of understanding your analysis.
    There is no one in the Trump administration that cares one bit for your analysis.
    The commander in chief truly believes that he doesn't need anyone else's analysis.
    And to top it off, Trump will continue to destroy everything Obama touched, much to the delight of his base. Obama, not being one of us true Americans with that mixed race blood of his and his high and mighty speechifying. The nerve of that guy!

    Only if Sean Hannity and Bibi Netanyahu wrote this piece would Trump consider it and that is a big if because as we all know, Trump is the greatest thinker in the world.

    It would be more useful if you devoted your future works to helping to guide us out of the carnage and global mess Trump will leave us with after he is out of office. The mess will be gargantuan and his base wont even notice. They got a $10/week tax cut.

  64. and a $50 a month hike in gas prices

  65. For an untimely misquote of Tom Wolfe, Trump must represent the bonehead-fire of the vanities. Obama must render Trump very uneasy because he is everything that Trump cannot be, probably to include a Nobel titleholder.
    Iran must be the ultimate Obama counter trophy.

  66. A personal vendetta has been the primary driver of much of our foreign and domestic policy since Trump took office. This is an undeniable fact, obvious to anyone paying attention. In most if not all instances there were clearly superior and less risky alternative policies that could have better addressed any legitimate philosophical objections to the existing policy. These alternatives would not, however, satisfy Trump's obsession with vengeance. It's unthinkable that the most powerful nation on earth is hostage to this sick malignant mind.

  67. When liberals criticize Donald Trump and his policies they are often accused of having "Trump Derangement Syndrome" by Republican conservatives. That may be so, but theirs pales in comparison to the Obama Derangement Syndrome that afflicts our current president. As long as he can undo something that Obama has done he's happy, regardless of whether it is good or bad for the country. America's well-being is not in the equation if he can stamp out the accomplishments of his predecessor, a man he knows is superior to him in every way imaginable. He's obsessed, and he doesn't know it.

  68. Trump is not fit to shine President Obama's shoes. And I fully understand the historical references in that sentence. It's true, and delicious.

  69. Foreign affairs have never been as simple as the biggest and most aggressive country tells all others what it wants and they do it or be crushed. Successful actions are rarely accomplished with one grand and decisive action whether it's naval warfare or conquest by the most ruthless and powerful armies or diplomatic breakthroughs like the U.S. with China and the U.S.S.R. in the 1970's. Events over many years made that diplomatic coup possible, and neither Nixon nor the Communist leaders planned it to happen, it just became the best move under the circumstances. The sea battle of Midway ended Japan's offensive juggernaut but it took another year and a half of terrifying battles to make it's defeat certain. The same for the battle of Stalingrad on the way to the defeat of Nazi Germany. People rarely decide such momentous events, they are just able to find good ways to use them for good ends. Trump has not the kind of mind that can do that, he never wants to think through all the likely possibilities and to reason out a likely best way to proceed. He wants instant gratification, and that is why he acts as he does.

  70. It is better to think of "Trump’s team" as a profoundly dangerous mix of warmongering interventionists and religious zealots. The prior still don't understand the limits of power, while the latter, largely evangelicals, yearn for Armageddon. As to Trump, forget about trying to determine what he believes, and what his plans are after throwing out the Iran deal. He has no plans. Trump hates his predecessor, who was not only much smarter and far more decent than Trump, but most infuriatingly, a black man. The only things Trump is consistent about are policies driven entirely by personal animus, vengeance, and hatred, none greater than his pathological need to destroy anything and everything that President Obama accomplished. Look at any of the very few things Trump has tried in any consistent way to undo and destroy and you'll see that every single one of them was something Obama accomplished. Everything else is purely transactional, subject to whatever Trump can personally get out of any situation, as in his recent attempt to save Chinese jobs because the Chinese obviously offered to enrich Trump personally if he helps save ZTE. For regular folks this is known not just as a bribery, or influence peddling, but since it's a foreign power, treason. I've said before; Trump isn't just any criminal, he's a true narcissist and psychopath. It's what distinguishes him from a garden-variety corrupt politician who may have incredibly weak morality, but has some limits. Trump has none.

  71. You have this right. The Chinese government is investing in a Trump resort in China so he has to give something back. Protect and create jobs in China, import H1B workers for his resorts in the US .

  72. I'm glad Mr. Friedman points to the youth in Iran. I have a lot of hope in them, they have been exposed to western culture and seem much more moderate than Ali Khamenei. They also are not supportive of Iran constantly interfering in the neighborhood. But as Mr. Friedman points out, ending the deal does not make their lives any easier. The best way to make the regime more moderate is to work through them.

  73. Yemen is not a "humanitarian crisis" to which the Saudis "contribute." The Saudis "have gotten away with murder, mass murder."

    As for mass murder, whose snipers just the day Friedman wrote this shot hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children, killing 60 in that one day and maiming for life hundreds more?

    Iran's bad actions? Obama was right, they are all bad actors. Just stop the nukes.

    Don't excuse the Saudis or pretend they are not bad actors.

    Same for Israel, where one MK just yesterday said they've "got enough bullets to kill them all." How very Holocaust of him.

    Confronting "Iran’s bad behavior" is far from the most important issue in the region, even after the nuke issues, just measured in numbers killed this week.

  74. Mark Thomason: Correct you are Mark: President Obama had it exactly right when he acknowledged there was blood on everyone’s hands in the Middle East and Diplomacy at arms length was the only possible approach to a solution. Mr. Friedman will never admit it however his opinions have not been terribly prescient, exhibit “A” would be his participation in the lies that led to the bombing of Iraq, issuing in an era of planned destabilization in the Middle East, the objective so apparent as to be insulting. It was designed to weaken or destroy every enemy of Israel and Saudi Arabia, which in the short term I would say they almost succeeded, in the longer term they will fail miserably as the animosity “We” along with Israel and The Saudis increases: we are finding ourselves more and more isolated from an international community upon which we have hoisted numerous ills particularly the, refuge problems in Europe which led to Brexit and a swing to the right across the board, very sad indeed, like watching a once formidable yacht slowly sinking with Bibi, Adelson and Trump aboard spewing obscenities and waving tattered flags as the stern slides below the waves, this while crowds representing the developed world and its new leader China cheer.

  75. Yeah, Israel should have let Hamas inspired protesters who want to drive the Jews into the sea enter their country. Not to mention who in his right mind would bring kids to an obviously dangerous situation unless the overriding motive was to make a point. Finally referencing the Holocaust in a land dispute trivializes the horrors of that event.

  76. Just as Donald has destabilized the United States by systematically catering to the lowest common denominator, he is slowly destabilizing the world with the same destructive technique.

    Everything Donald touches turns to fecal matter; it may not happen right away, but give his natural poison time to work and he will destroy everything he touches.

    The appeal of smashing everything to smithereens has great appeal to simple infantile minds.

    He tried to destroy the ACA....and replace it with nothing and send about 15 million Americans hurling into the outer healthcare atmosphere where they would waste away.

    He wants to destroy the Paris Accord...and replace it with accelerated manmade global warming that trashes our climate every waking second.

    He destroyed the Iran agreement...and replaced it with the Art of Acting Like A Tough Guy.

    He incited Muslim religious fanatics by idiotically moving the American embassy to Jerusalem to please Christian and Jewish religious fanatics, putting a final nail in the coffin of Israeli peace.

    We don't know what he'll destroy yet on the Korean peninsula, but he's working on it.

    Add in his domestic destruction by signing a one-sided tax law that bypassed all Congressional legislative norms, his abandonment of national infrastructure, and his comprehensive lack of ethics, curiosity and knowledge, and he's destroyed the dignity of the Presidency and the United States.

    The only thing Donald has built has been a ticking Presidential time bomb.

  77. And now we have a new ites to stew over: “The president does not have a lot of respect for people whose sole job is to carry out the law." This from Sanders as the WH official position on 'Rule of Law'.

  78. Socrates, you should think of running for President. I would so love to see a debate between you and Trump. Then, again, Trump (and his base) is probably too stupid to understand how thoroughly he had been thumped by you. But it would be incredibly entertaining!

  79. To me, the main effect of Trump pulling out of the Iran deal is that it has sundered the Atlantic alliance. Europe will no longer trust America. This is devastating for the long run and what Putin has been dreaming of for years. Cuo bono?

  80. China and Iran have viable plans for the future. The US has no plan.

  81. Perhaps, but what Friedman is overlooking is that the clerics are facing great opposition for the terrible economic conditions that they have brought to the people, especially the young who are tired of not having what their fellows in the West have, to include the natural rights of free citizens.

    What the clerics are discovering is that economic and political freedom trumps the persistent drone of inflexible dogma.

  82. Neither Friedman nor Obama overlooked that point. Part of the allure of the deal was that lifting sanctions would shine light on the regime, thereby encouraging the citizenry to lobby to become less isolated and more like citizens of the world.

  83. Mr Friedman,

    Trump wants to trash Obama because Trump was, is, and always will be a racist, all the way down. That is all there is to his motivation. It's not the Iran deal: it's the black man who forged it.

  84. Here's another mixed-up idiom for Mrs. Friedman's museum: (referring specifically to America's Stable Genius in International Affairs) "Dumb as the New York Post."
    It's worth noting, first off, that Iran's aggression in the Middle East (and most especially in Syria) is matched only by that of Russia which, needless to say, already has a nuclear arsenal and whose foreign policy has never been questioned (let alone criticized) by our own feckless leader.
    Second, I'm afraid I can't agree that Mr. Trump has no plan to push Iran back if its leaders refuse to cry uncle. "We have nuclear weapons so why can't we use them?" was a question he famously posed during his election campaign. And if he should decline to go on the attack there's always his pal Bibi chomping at the bit to do so. Trump will just need to make sure that Ivanka has grabbed the last plane out of the Middle East before he gives the Israelis the go-ahead to demolish whatever looks like an Iranian missile site from a few dozen miles up.

  85. That photo is a painful and dissonant juxtaposition to have to witness again, but at least it is good to see Barack Obama (an intelligent and compassionate adult) back in the Oval Office. When is Trump going to reciprocate and invite Obama back to the White House?

    I particularly like #2 on your top-three fix list: we need to guard against Iran lobbing a rocket into Israel with anything on it, including a dirty bomb or any other WMD. Israel was absolutely right to take out the Iranian missile batteries in Syria. It is unlikely Iran will get anything into Israel by land, sea, or plane, so prudence and vigilance with Iranian rocket technology is absolutely warranted.

    Obama was forced to enact the Iran deal by Executive Order, which is why it can be undone so easily. Your suggested alterations are spot-on, Mr. Friedman. The saddest part of all of this is that with Republicans in control of Congress and the Executive Branch, your version of the deal could be legislated into a formal treaty with Iran and our European allies. Unfortunately, that opportunity now appears to have come and gone.

  86. This plays perfectly into Putin's hands, diminishing the power the US projects and filling Putin's pockets with higher oil prices.

    Same with the Embassy, it further isolates us and diminishes us.

    How can I NOT see Trump as a Russian agent?

  87. There's also the probability that Trump and the Saudis (home of 15 of the 19 Wahabi terrorists that brought down the WTC) have made a deal to benefit American multinational oil corporations and the Saudi government, which has to have the oil revenue, by sanctioning Iran oil off the market and thereby inflating the price.

  88. It's a good thing we have fracking. We are on the verge of being an oil exporter. Part of that "energy independent" meme.
    So maybe your thesis is 20 years too late.

  89. TF neglected to say that an important factor behind Iran's projection of power in Arab states was the US invasion of Iraq, which he supported. Saddam Hussein opposed Iran with the blood and treasure of Iraqis, and removing him opened the door to Iran's meddling. Trump's rejection of the Iran nuclear agreement is just the latest bad decision in America's dismal history in the Mid East.

  90. Saddam was funding the Intifada in Israel 20 years ago. Nobody likes Intifada.

  91. There is a strategy but the strategy has little to do with US or European interests. Have you noticed what we're not talking about right now? Trump's multi-front war with his own actions. International policy under this administration amounts to news cycle disruption. That's why we've managed to alienate the entire world in such a short period of time. The strategy isn't about the world; it's about Trump. Kicking sand at Obama is just an added bonus. Maybe I should say attacking Obama is Trump's defacto response. In the end though, Trump is all about making storms in order to divert attention from his own, ahem, *storms.*

  92. In his column on Feb 18, 2018, Mr. Friedman expressed the view that, “President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool” given that Trump seems to unable to stand up to Putin and Russia, giving Putin what he wants. The same analysis applies to Trump in relation to Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel.

    Trump has given Netanyahu exactly what the Netanyahu wants (Iran, Syria, Palestinians, Gaza, at the UN), and he refuses to take any position in, or voice any, opposition to anything Israel does, no matter how egregious and contrary to long-established US policy. Trump seems to be doing Netanyahu’s bidding just as much as he has been Putin’s lackey.

    Following Mr. Friedman’s analysis and comment about Trump and Russia in February, it is just as reasonable to state that, “President Trump is either totally compromised by Israel or is a towering fool.”

    I’m waiting for Mr. Friedman to acknowledge this.

  93. More turmoil, confusion and pagaille, all to the detriment of America and ultimately its People. It is becoming harder by the day to read The News.

    If President Obama would consider hosting a T.V. forum, a panel of differing views, it might help some Americans in this dark hour of political instability to give us a sense of direction.

  94. Yeah. A panel, that's the ticket. Obama could tell the panel to develop a solution and he'll check back later.

  95. Good for Ms. Haskel. She is well qualified. Another win for Trump. I am getting tired of all this winning.

  96. The look on Obama's face is so obvious he can't believe Trump is sitting next to him on that day.
    He knows his legacy will melt away. All the Liberals ,media, and deep state efforts failed and he has to sit there with Trump.
    Just imagine what Obama was thinking.
    Now after a year and half its obvious, to honest folk, that Trump changing the world for the better.

  97. Oh My God

  98. Let’s start small, with you explaining how things have become better in Pottsville. Without please simply repeating those meaningless Fox-phrases like “now the world respects us”.

  99. Wow Joe Paper, do live in the same country as me? Maybe you're on a different plane of existence.

  100. Mr. Friedman, dare I suggest you made a misplaced assumption when you inferred that president Trump is astutely aware of Iranian misdeeds.

    The president has never articulated a single cogent criticism of the Iranian nuclear deal. What we have repeatedly heard is, "It's the worst deal ever. Very, very bad. Horrible." This tells us nothing, which is the reflection of what the president knows. I bet you, and this is sad to think, that president Trump would be unable to locate Iran on a world map.

    The Trump presidency's primary political goal is to completely efface Obama's legacy. Trump's thinking is simple: if Obama said it was good, it must be bad. It's really quite that simple. That is unfortunately the shallow depth of Trump's capabilities.

  101. You give this president too much credit when you say he believes. President Obama's deals are bad. This president's only motivation to kill the Iran deal, and Obamacare, and DACA, etc. was revenge without regard to the merits or lack thereof.

  102. Many of Iran's supposed misdeeds are projection of the misdeeds of our friends with our help. Yemen is being done by the Saudis, with our help. Syria was destroyed by the Sunni extremists, with our help. The Palestinian problem is not just that Iran sends them some money.

  103. Stephen Colbert said on this point that if Trump could, he'd bring Osama bin Laden back to life.

  104. Contemplating repercussions is beyond the capabilities of this president. If bad actors don't behave in accordance with his expectations, the fall-back position is "Might makes right." Of course, that too has repercussions but I fear that Trump believes those aren't his concern. Clean-up will be left to whomever is in charge of clean-up.

    That attitude of not thinking of ramifications and repercussions extends to his personal life. If we believed only half of the stories pertaining his philandering, we are left to wonder why he ever thought of running for the presidency with so many trysts in his background. Did he honestly believe that they would not be divulged at some point?

    It leads to my addition to your list of mixed idioms:

    "A fool and his money are a girl's best friend."

  105. Great analysis by Tom “Olive Tree” Friedman. But, excuse my cynicism. Trump campaigned on blowing up the Iran deal. And on putting the embassy in Jerusalem. Why?

    Trump, for all his many faults, does nothing without a personal quid pro quo. He is our most kleptocratic president.

    Sheldon Adelson announced he was giving the GOP $30 mil for the midterms, probably just a down payment. He is one of America’s Hawkiest Zionist. Netanyahu cheered both the embassy and Iran agreement violation decisions by Trump. Do we have to draw a Venn diagram to see how these things intersect?

    I have one rule to make sense of the Trump era: “don’t over think it.” Ever.

  106. The Europeans are really ticked, and rightfully so. The foreign ministers of France, Germany, the UK and the EU met today with the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zarif, trying their best to at least save most parts of the Iran accord.

    The Germany weekly, Der Spiegel, which already had a picture of Trump with the decapitated head of Lady Liberty in his hand right after the inauguration, has a new one this week with Trump showing Europe the Middle Finger.

    The Art of the Deal man in the office knows only one kind of deal, namely a quid pro quo with both the Russians and China. enriching himself and his greedy mob-like family.

    Yet, no matter what, he has the full backing of the oh-so-pious Evangelical end-timers on his side, the leaders of which Jarvanka schlepped to the love fest at the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

  107. Trump's 'strategy' doesn't extend beyond his next adoration rally.
    Where he can claim 'wins' for himself to stormy applause, from the only people he cares about, the hard core, low information bigots of the Republican base.

  108. "Trump's 'strategy' doesn't extend beyond his next adoration rally... stormy applause, from the only people he cares about... the Republican base."

    I am waiting, and hoping, for the Stormy applause.

    I never thought of myself as a stripper fan, but today, I'm With Stormy.

  109. A variation; You buttered your bread, now lie in it

  110. Mr.Friedman, Mr.Trump never keeps anything as simple as one, two, three.He withdraws from treaties to make a statement.Usually the statement is that Mr.Obama did not get the best deal.He has no strategy for an answer.In keeping with your wordplay theme, " he crosses his bridges after he takes a fork in the road".

  111. It was never a treaty... Obama did not present it to the Senate for ratification because he knew he did not have enough votes. That's what happens when you don't follow the Constitution -- the next president does not have to honor your commitments.

  112. Just today Mitch McConnell and the GOP senators again normalized Trump, forgave him for the disparaging comments against McCain which the White House refused to acknowledge. The awareness here described of Trump's trashing of the Obama legacy is horrific to me. I find it racist. Whatever one's views on the Middle East, the timing and photo contrasts on the "occasion" of the opening of an American Embassy in Jerusalem, are jarring.

  113. The great negotiator has reneged on the Iran what end? Does he want a more submissive Iran? Regime be replaced by what?

    Will unilateral sanctions achieve these goals? Not likely.

    Will the US put a million troops into Iran? Even less likely!

    What does that leave? Basically Trump will have to credibly go “rocket man” cray-cray on Iran, or allow the salivating pit bull, Bibi, to use his own launch codes. And then I will live in an outlaw nation that has done the unthinkable.

  114. “Obama’s view of the Middle East was that it was an outlier region, where a toxic brew...made positive change from outside impossible; it had to come from within.“

    A key ingredient of the toxic brew was added by Obama’s predecessor, who attempted to effect change from outside, but with disastrous results. Since Tom Friedman was gung-ho for the Iraq War I suppose it’s not surprising he doesn’t mention that fact.

    Donald Trump is well on his way to repeating GW Bush’s mistake of sticking his fist into a hornets’ nest.

  115. With each Trump debacle, I aghast anew with despair at my fellow citizens who still love Trump. Just two days into this new week: massacre over American embassy move to Jerusalem, help ZTE!, EPA blocking publication of chemical pollution report, unwinding of unit investigation fraud at for-profit colleges... are they seeing these? If not, why not?

  116. Fox News!

  117. "It made Obama a policy minimalist on the Middle East: keep it simple and focus on the biggest threat....By lifting sanctions on Iran as part of the deal, Obama hoped Iran would become integrated into the world and moderate the regime. The latter did not happen,...The deal never covered Iran’s regional aggression or its ballistic missile program."

    Mr. Obama was indeed a minimalist. He was so in Syria and was so re Iran. Unfortunately, "little" problems left to fester grow into big one. Think Aleppo. Think Iran in Syria now and as Mr. Friedman has already pointed out, Iran's attempts to attack (and subsequently if successful) and destroy Israel will probably be the cause of the next war in the Middle East.

    Maximalism may not solve all the problems. Minimalism often just cultivates them, lets them grow and flourish and eventually turn toxic.

    "What a shame. Just improving on what Obama started would have greatly advanced U.S. interests."

    Reading the continuation of Mr. Friedman's essay re Iran, I find it hard to believe that Mr. Friedman himself believes the above sentence. But anti-Trumpism eventually trumps all logical claims.

  118. One day at a time. You can't plan on anything nowadays because we have so little precious time we spend on this Planet Earth. And times are not what they used to be. It's for those who survive that will live long enough to see the end and know what it was before. A toe hold into the unforeseeable future. Maybe without wars. No, it is not excited times now. Even as the Capitol of Israel is now Jerusalem by building a new U.S. Embassy there. It's not where the U.S. Constitution is from. The birthplace of the American Revolution.

  119. Trump's only qualification for running for President was lording over a multi-generation criminal family enterprise. Unlike his role on reality TV, being President of the United States requires real skills - skills he doesn't have. And to make everything worse, he's a terrible manager and a horrific judge of character, especially when it involves hiring people. This will not end well for America. Or the rest of the world.

  120. Trunp is the worst kind of leader. He gets all worked up about what he opposes, but hasn’t a clue what he wants or how to get it.

  121. Like Trump or not, Iran understands America will go to war if it builds a nuclear weapon. It understood this when it agreed w the Obama plan having no there choice, and knows Trump will never allow it near the bomb.

  122. Years ago, I watched the video of the 2011 White House Correspondents dinner. I have not brought myself to watch it since.

    I'm age 70, but that made a lifetime impression: I never had seen, or imagined, such intensely focused and determined rage as I saw in Trump's eyes as BHO continually belittled him. And by a person who had succeeded astoundingly at everything he ever had tried, a billionaire before age 40, decades ago when that was almost unthinkable! And I wondered over and over, how this would end. I knew that SOMEthing would happen; I just didn't know what.

    Of course, I couldn't have predicted the 2016 election and its aftermath. Or its consequences for so many people. Including but not limited to the people of Iran. And here in the US, my many immigrant friends.

  123. Actually, Trump needed repeated bailing out financially by his father. He lied about his wealth to makes the Forbes wealthiest lists by calling reporters and lying to them using the name John Barron. He has declared bankruptcies 6 times and renigs on contracts so often he has been sued 4500 times. He is an accomplished liar and con. All this information is easy to find.

  124. Trump inherited his fortune and was never considered an ethical or worthy businessman. And he has not been well received in his own hometown as evidenced by that Alfred E Smith dinner in NYC before the election. His relentless campaign against Barack Obama deserved much more than he got at that WH C dinner. World Leaders clearly don’t like the man. He is petty, immoral, uneducated, obnoxious, unsophisticated, single minded and racist and decidedly low-information in a country that has fought its way through history to better itself despite the corruption of its so called representatives in Washington. America is in deep trouble with this unworthy person in the WhiteHouse. We know we are so much less as a people these days, divided, messy, angry, and until Trump is out, we’ll stay that way.

  125. The players of the USFL, the investors in Trump's casino properties, the people who rode the Trump shuttle, might have an issue with the idea that he's succeeded at everything he's tried.

  126. Technically, Stormy Daniels is a pornographic actress, not a stripper. Otherwise this piece is spot on.

  127. The best idea, in the hands of the wrong man, becomes the worst idea. - Anything that can slide from 1 to 10 will be a 1 under Trump.

  128. Trump has such a short attention span he could never get through an article like this. He could never carry out any of these ideas because he is totally clueless and he remains clueless because the only things he cares about are money, self aggrandizement, and sticking it to Obama.

  129. "Trump should have kept it simple, too. Rather than scrapping the deal, he should have told the Europeans that all he wanted to stay in the deal were three fixes: 1. Extend the ban on Iran’s enriching of uranium to weapons grade from the original 15 years Obama negotiated to 25 years. 2. Europe and the U.S. agree to impose sanctions if Iran ever attempts to build a missile with a range that could hit Europe or America. 3. The U.S. and Europe use diplomacy to spotlight and censure Iran’s “occupations” of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon."

    I believe this is the wrong approach. What trump should have done was to make a deal for crippling U.S./European economic sanctions directed at Iran's ballistic missile tests and military build-up in Syria.

    The Euros were ready to agree to this, and it could have been done independently of Russia and China.

  130. Mr. Friedman is confusing Trump's over-reactions and disdain for Obama with planned, thoughtful behavior--which is far beyond his capacity.

  131. While I concede the intuitive appeal of questioning Trump’s capacity for complexity or subtlety, Trump has already improved, though incrementally, the horrible situations he inherited in North Korea, Syria, Russia, and Iran. There is hardly a point on the globe where American interests or regional stability were not worse off after eight years of Obama. The argument that the subtle mind of a President Obama was more suited to the problems at hand is unsustainable. The bottom line is that Trump is president whether we like it or not. We must hope that he can do a better job than Obama did, and fretting that he is doing it differently than what failed is ridiculous.

    Mr. Friedman argues that though Trump may be right on the merits, we should ignore the genocidal crimes of Iran being committed on a regional scale. He doesn't actually say “ignore.” He talks of intense “diplomacy,” which for all practical purposes means the same thing, and is what got us is in this mess in the first place. Since Obama engaged in intense diplomacy, Iran’s behavior has only gotten worse, enabled by billions of dollars of assets we unfroze. Furthermore, he is effectively willing to allow these genocidal maniacs to eventually have nuclear weapons. A delay of a few years, knowing that Iran will find ways to cheat (they always have), is not meaningful.

  132. Charles,

    How would you rate Mr. Trump’s efforts thus far with our allies in Britain, France and Germany? Or with Canada and Mexico, our two largest trading partners? “Incrementally better?”

  133. Remind me again how people have died in Iraq because of America’s war. Let us not be too sanctimonious.

  134. Get real: no president has experienced worse faith from the Republican Party in my lifetime than Obama. He was set up and then sabotaged.

  135. "And that’s my subject for today. Trump, by taking a hard line on Iran, drew some needed attention to Iran’s bad behavior and created an opportunity to improve the nuclear deal."

    I really wish that we leave the final judgment on good and bad behavior to history, and focus instead on what is in our interests and what is not. Even someone as lacking in self awareness as Trump has questioned our reflexive assumption of always being "the good guys."

  136. Permit me to add a personal note in agreement with Mr. Friedman. I asked President Obama, late in his term, why we didn't just sign a mutual defense treaty with Israel and station some troops there, that perhaps Israel would then become less fearful of the Palestinians and its neighbors. And then both Israel and its neighbors would find their minds being concentrated and be more willing to take risks for peace if we had some troops there..
    It seems as if we get all of the negatives of Israel being an undeclared ally and none of the foreseeable benefits of its being an actual one.
    But President Obama responded exactly as Thomas Friedman describes that there really isn't anything outsiders can do, that they have to come to a solution themselves. He said this with sorrow and resignation. Obama no longer thought there were leaders there who really want peace enough to compromise. So he wasn't going to put American soldiers in harm's way or a hostage situation.

  137. After Ukraine, I would not accept an American security guaranty. We were obligated to defend Ukraine from Russia and we did nothing. Recall...this was in exchange for Ukraine giving up...wait for it.....their nuclear weapons. No country will again trust America to keep it safe...that is part of President Obama's legacy.

  138. President Obama understood a very complex situation that could not yield to simple minded sophomoric solutions. I do not need to explain further.

  139. Three years ago I read the 159 page agreement.

    The deal:

    ▪ Does not provide for anytime/anywhere inspections.

    ▪ Does not reduce or control Iran’s production of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    ▪ Does not require Iran to dismantle centrifuges.

    ▪ Enables Iran to continue increasing their weapon-grade nuclear capabilities, likely ensuring a nuclear weapons race among neighboring countries.

    With all due respect to Mr. Friedman and to those who feel that there just is no alternative to this deal, let me suggest that sometimes the status quo is better than a deal that gives Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief and allows it up to 24 days before inspectors can even enter their nuclear facilities. Incredibly, that is actually part of the deal.

    Those billions of dollars have been used to foment unrest and support terrorist groups in the region.

    Regardless of Trump's obsession with his predecessor, his decision to tear up the deal was the right decision.

    While I am no fan of Trump, sadly, Mr. Friedman’s zeal to denigrate the president prevents him from looking at an issue like the Iran deal with the objectivity one would expect from a renowned journalist.

  140. Could be all the time he spends with bowlers. A two-bagger always is better than a standalone strike, and a ton better use of two balls than a single spare.

    Other than persona, six inches of stature and sheer guatamaliness, that could be the one material difference between Tom and Trump: where Tom sees merely the possibility of a safe spare, Trump sees a potential two-bagger.

    The problem with salvaging any part of the Obama/Kerry Iran deal is that it never started with the absolute resolve that Iran could not be permitted nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver them. Consequently, we already had lost when we sat down at the table: the convenient assumption always was that they were going to get nukes and delivery vehicles no matter what we did that we were prepared to do, so … may as well kick the can down the road a few years. Not that different from the deal-less approach to North Korea, and not that different from Munich. Depend on the “reasonableness” of VERY tough customers who knew what THEIR interests were and were ready to do ANYTHING to secure them.

    But Trump isn’t so innocent and if he sees anything in his adversaries of the moment, he sees their resolve to do anything necessary to secure their objectives. But both adversaries are playing very weak hands, Trump isn’t known for showing mercy, and will play EITHER the rock OR the hard place.

    Too late to keep North Korea from nuclear delivery capacity, but that will be walked back; and Iran never will get it.

  141. The blackmail, eventually, could be pricey, but a rational and responsible leader could conclude that an extortionate blackmail would be better than a nuclear arms race in the Middle East among people who flog children for kissing, and a very possible nuclear war, there or instigated from Asia.

    That’s the difference: Trump will be starting negotiations with an absolute resolve that the Korean Peninsula will be cleansed of nukes and that the Middle East will see no players get them that don’t already have them; and particularly not Iran.

    I don’t believe that Trump’s ambitions extend to “positively changing” the Middle East – or even North Korea. If they’re bent on killing one another until almost all of them are in Hell and very few left on Earth, that’s their business. What they WILL NOT be permitted to do is exterminate themselves with nuclear weapons that can be targeted as well to Euro capitals, to Israel or to our West Coast.

    So, get set for a ride: but that ride won’t be on any conveyance architected by Barack Obama. The world really has no more business with more Munichs – the real one came very close to destroying us.

  142. You have a few problems with your thesis. One is exactly how a man, as Mr Friedman put it, unable to deal with a porn star, will be able to get North Korea to denuclearize. Today's news regarding NKs statement is just one fly in the ointment. One might contemplate the history of negotiations with NK and realize this has all happened before, such as in the Six Party talks in 2003,when they agreed to abandon all nuclear weapons, before balking at verification requirements and ultimately withdrawing from further discussion.

    Part of the tragedy of Trumpism, led by a man who refuses to read or learn, is the notion that every day is a blank slate, uninformed by the past. It's just the way a semiliterate real estate developer and reality show host might think of the world, but surely the rest of us can do better.

    Your other big problem is connecting "rational and responsible"to any discussion of Donald Trump. Talk about ahistorical.

  143. Yes, Mr. Friedman, I'm afraid you're right, Mr. Trump seems bent on destroying Mr. Obama's legacy. Prior to being elected president, Mr. Trump spent a good deal of time casting doubt on Mr. Obama's place of birth. He gained quite a few followers with that nonsense, which he never really repudiated.

    Then of course, there was the signature Obamacare, which was horrible, terrible, the worst, awful--you name it. And there was always the promise of something better if Obamacare was repealed. Here in Florida, the state legislature turned down federal Medicaid assistance, promising something better for Floridians. In both cases, nothing better ever materialized.

    The accomplishments of the Obama era at the EPA have been severely turned back, the latest being the CAFE standards for automobiles. No hint of promising anything better there. The better is that the free market is less fettered to save money by polluting the environment.

    So we have the Iran Nuclear Agreement, which again was horrible, terrible, the worst in history, and the promise of negotiating something better. But how can you negotiate something better by giving up something you've got, something that worked, however imperfectly? In the mean time, do we have any more leverage curtailing Iran's destructive meddling in the Near East?

    The important thing is to play "Wreck-it-Ralph" with the accomplishments of the Obama era. Somehow, this makes the current Mr. Trump feel better about himself.

  144. I've also heard, "She opened the can of worms and then rubbed salt in it."

  145. "It is true that Iran has projected its power deep into the Arab world. But that was not because of money it got from the nuclear deal and sanctions relief, as argued by Trump & friends. It was because of the weakness of the Sunni Arab states and their internecine fighting, which created power vacuums that Iran has filled with its network of Shiite proxies. That’s how Iran today has managed to indirectly control four Arab capitals: Beirut, Baghdad, Damascus and Sana."

    Iran is in control of Baghdad because the previous Republican administration killed the Sunni despot who formerly ruled there and disenfranchised the Sunni ruling class precipitating a civil war that destroyed the country's infrastructure. At least the parts we didn't destroy ourselves.

    George W. Bush removed the great natural bulwark against Iran's ambitions in the Arab world. He created the power vacuum. He destabilized all of southwest Asia... Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. It's much too late to simply gloss over this.

  146. President Obama had it right - "keep it simple and focus on the biggest threat."

    Had George Bush followed a well-reasoned plan like that, he would have focused on Afghanistan and al Qaeda and never have invaded Iraq, costing us trillions of dollars, thousands of killed and wounded and the empowerment of an Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq had kept in check.

    Sensible people know that the Iran deal was working precisely because Obama kept it simple enough to enable a coalition that included our allies plus Russia and China and limited its focus to the biggest threat - preventing a nuclear Iran when it was on the brink of becoming a nuclear power.

    Undoing the Iran deal with nothing to replace it with will be a disaster. Obama was right. Trump is wrong. So, what else is new?

  147. Had George Bush followed a well reasoned plan he would have confronted Saudi Arabia - home of 15 of the 19 hijackers and source of funds for the 9/11 attack on America.
    Instead Bush Cheney mired us in Afghanistan and Iraq, enflamed the Middle East for generations, and with the help of Mitch McConnell and a feckless GOP set the stage for Trumpism.
    Mission Accomplished indeed.

  148. I really liked the mixed metaphor "we'll burn that bridge when we come to it."

    But isn't the Trump philosophy really

    "We'll burn that bridge BEFORE we come to it"?

    or better yet

    "We had to burn that bridge to save it"?

    Viz climate change, trade, health care, education...

  149. It’s a quintessential American way of operating. Zero thought was given to Iraq war consequences, we will be in and out they told us, but they burnt them bridges and could not leave. To this day.

  150. Upon catching her daughter and me alone in her house, my college girlfriend's ultra-conservative mother (comically) mangled a pair of opposing idioms as she was chasing us down the stairs and out the door...and I've never forgotten the experience. Seeking to dissuade me from ever again feeling comfortable under her roof, she angrily shrieked that I'd be, "Up a tree without a paddle," if I ever tried it again. (I never did.)

    Nearly 40 years later, Mrs. Silva's magnificently mixed-up idiom is the perfect encapsulation of life in the Trump era.


  151. The problem with your last statement is that it's not Trump lying in it. It is all the rest of us who are left with the rubble, which always has been his business strategy.

  152. Contrary to calling out Iran in Syria, the US, under Trump and under the banner of “ISIS elimination” intervened in Syria militarily, turned its back on the Kurds who bailed us out of Iraq, and actually helped to tip the balance towards Assad and his Iranian (and Russian) backers. This is not actually calling out and punishing bad behavior.

  153. If, if fact, Iranian leadership is pursuing a regional strategy as evidenced by Mr. Friedman's one, obscure citation, that's one more strategy than the U.S. is pursuing in the region. Incoherent demonizing is hardly a strategy.

  154. Here's one for the blog on mixed idioms:

    A fool and his money should be seen and not heard.

  155. Let’s not blame Trump alone. When TF writes, “ But to do so would have required Trump to admit that there was merit in the deal Obama had forged and to be content with limited, but valuable, fixes that our European allies likely would have embraced.” It should sound familiar to all of us. The GOP position has been consistent throughout the 2009-2016.

    Imagine the benefits to millions of Americans if the GOP had taken the approach to health care that we should fix the ACA instead of voting over 60 times to destroy it. Who knows how much suffering could have been avoided.

    No, Trump does not deserve all of the discredit.The day Mitch McConnell announced that his party’s number one priority was not to better the country but to defeat president Obama we all lost more than we will ever know.

  156. “Donald, “You’ve opened your can of worms, now lie in it.””

    This is a super mixed idiom for Trump. The problem is the international and human consequences of Trump’s singular contempt, pettiness, and hate are not all about him. We will all have to lie in the can of worms he opened. This was not the first can he opened and there are others lined up within his reach.
    It is not as if Trump is opening these cans alone. There are special interests, domestic and foreign, who take advantage of the linearly transactional President armed with a can opener who appears to be unable to think in broad terms of cause and effect or does not care. Evidence of this exists in Trump’s numerous inconsistencies.
    Logic dictates there is likely an underlying motive for decisions that do not make sense. Otherwise, the decision is just needless, nonsensical chaos. There have been too many decisions that do not make sense from this administration, indicating a pattern of purposeful instability.

  157. Trump's team represents industries of military thought, with an afterthought to morality, or abstract ideas of democracy. They are practical. They will all get paid for their belligerence.

  158. To me, the obvious question here is where do the Russian’s stand (and China for that matter)? It appears they stand directly behind Iran with staunch support. Any US interference, other than tinkering with the present agreement, it would seem would be met with resistance by the Russians.

    What’s most worrisome is that this and the Israeli embassy are all steps towards a real confrontation in the region with Israel as our proxy and Iran as Russia’s. Trump’s section of John Bolton and security advisor would certainly point to this type of thinking.

  159. There is another phrase about bridges that is apt: "that's bridge under the water". The Iran "deal" was never ratified by the US Congress, rendering the deal "under the water" from the outset. President Obama's strategies in the Middle East (and also elsewhere in the world) did not produce good results. Time to try something new. As Albert Einstein once famously said: Insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

  160. "Trump is less impeded than ever, a fact that impresses even those he has mocked and spurned. Stephen Bannon (who Trump said had “lost his mind”) recently told me, 'He is unchained. This is primal Trump—back to the leader he was during the campaign, the same one the American people voted into office. There are no more McMasters in the apparatus. He’s got s(tuff) he’s got to get done, and he’s just going to get it done.'"

    The above is from Evan Osnos' excellent yet highly disturbing expose in The New Yorker entitled "Trump vs. the "Deep State". The "deconstruction" isn't limited to the US. Strategy? You must be joking. This is all a big show. And it's up to US voters to put a stop to it in November, or else.

  161. Thomas Friedman wisely avoids the obligatory Trump bashing and, at the same time, shines light on one of the sadder aspects of American foreign policy -- it is too often driven by presidential ego. Friedman can be faulted for not speaking to President Obama's drive to complete the Iran deal on his watch, but by pointing to Trump's "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it" approach to any and all aspects of an Obama legacy, he makes comparison to Obama's short-sighted need to get the deal done obvious.

    There is no reason why Secretary of State John Kerry and the rest of the P5+1 could not have packed up and temporarily walked away from the negotiations, leaving the economy-crippling sanctions in place. Do we really think that the Iranians would have refused to stretch the deal? However, Kerry could not play hardball because the sand was running out of an hourglass that should never have been on his desk in the first place.

    Unfortunately, presidential-driven foreign policy is a fixed part of our government. In a better world, the appropriate Congressional committees could have played an advisory role in the JCPOA negotiations, but both sides of the partisan divide made that impossible.

    Once, we believed that "Politics ends at the water's edge," and though it appears that Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Bob Corker sincerely wishes that the idea of bi-partisan foreign policy could escape the walls of his committee room, I won't hold my breath.

  162. Bennet ignoresFriedman’s point that obama had a policy whereas trump has none. Bennett instead chooses to join in the fake anti obama bandwagon in favor of ...? He has no policy just an animus

  163. It's also likely that Trump's dream of trashing Obama and Iran deal could turn out to be a security nightmare with Middle East causing new headaches to the US.

  164. America has proven time and again that it lacks foresight. It’s highly paid foreign policy advisors and consultants, not to mention spies and operatives, military strategists, present countless scenarios of what likely outcomes their actions might generate. But these remain in theory because their decisions are not made from the heart, with thought of dealing with humans rather than monsters they make their made-up enemies to appear. They twist themselves into a pretzel trying to strategify an already complex world. Picture a snake eating it’s own tail.

  165. As the late Richard J. Daley of Chicago, the King of Malapropisms might have said, "It's one thing to criticize and find fault, but what trees do you plant? Where are your programs? Where are your plans?"

    It's really very simple. Trump does not do subtle. He does not do incremental. He does not do cautious. He does not do reflection. He is all buzz saw, hammer and nails, bashing and pounding and driving, with no time for finished carpentry. Once a builder, he has become a destroyer with an anger management problem, leaving rubble and devastation in his wake, with little to no informed thought as to what comes next.

    He is quick to anger, expansive in his rushed, ill-considered judgments of others, and excessively sympathetic to the wrong people while given to boundless self-promotion and self-congratulation without reason other than his own vanity.

    Details do not grab his attention, and the complexity of world problems are all about details, subtleties and nuance. He is prone to 50,000 foot flyovers and broad brushstrokes rather than the deep and introspective examination which, to further the art analogy, is the hallmark of pointillism.

    Trump is not going to change. He may, indeed, be living his dream-come-true, but his dream is becoming our national nightmare and, I daresay, the world's, and it's keeping a lot of us up at night.

  166. I think you give Trump too much credit for understanding Iran. In my opinion, his actions show no understanding of the situation whatsoever, he just wants to burn any bridge Obama built. I hate to be so cynical but Trump has given us no reason to believe that he knows what and who he's dealing with, and there's no evidence that he's thought his way through this situation--or any other-- at all. In fact, it's a point of pride with him that he doesn't sit around reading briefings or histories.

  167. Trump does not seem to have the attention span of being able to read full sentences or anything other than an abbreviated tweet. He probably falls asleep when his advisors give him long winded explanations. Cliff notes short brief bullet points is all he has attention for.

  168. Mr Friedman, the rhetorical questions that you pose presumes that tRump has thought about these matters. As we know, he doesn't think about anything that does not involve self enrichment or self promotion. As with the looming talks with North Korea, tRump is so consumed with walking away with some sort of "win"; any sort of "win" ---that he will endanger the national interest just so he can say he accomplished something.

    tRump only cares about tRump. And obviously, the Republicans in Congress are not about to confront him in the exercise of their Constitutional responsibilities.

  169. "By lifting sanctions on Iran as part of the deal, Obama hoped Iran would become integrated into the world and moderate the regime.
    The latter did not happen, but the former did."

    A little early to judge, don't you think? What's the likelihood the current U.S. administration will moderate in the next two years?

  170. That's it! If Obama hosted a TV show Trump would wind up chewing the carpet in the Oval Office.
    Obama could save the nation,and return sanity and dignity to the White House, by just hosting a reality program based on.....reality.
    It would give Trump a taste of his own method to his madness.

  171. Is it possible that Trump is so petty, vain and insecure that his driving motivation to seek the presidency is the result of the jokes at his expense from President Obama and Seth Meyers at the WHCD? And is it possible that pure spite is behind his obsession with undoing everything President Obama has done?

    Yes, it is. If there's a cure for what ails Trump, it's likely to be some combination of therapy and psychotropic medication. Instead, enough "real Americans" and the Electoral College made him president. That's the textbook definition of rewarding bad behavior.

  172. Regarding your three fixes:
    1. Extend the ban
    What, precisely would have been gained with another ten years that couldn't have been gained in the fifteen? If Iran were to remain in compliance with the ban, by the end of the fifteen years they would have been so tightly integrated into the world community, that they would not have had any desire to bomb anybody. People who buy from one another don't want to shoot at one another.
    2. Limit their missile range.
    That can also be read as limit their aspirations to space exploration and commerce. Why should aspirations to indigenous exploration of outer space be good enough for China and India, but not good enough for Iran?
    3. Use diplomacy to spotlight and censure Iran.
    That was always possible before. Why does there exist a need to "upgrade" the JCPOA to enable that?

    Here's another mixed-up idiom for you: "The proof of the eating is in the pudding".

  173. I think Mr. Friedman ascribes too much thought to Mr. Trump, who knows nothing and thinks about less.
    Message to the world...just bide your time, we understand the colossal mistake made and he and his people will be gone soon enough.
    Things will return to normal, please be patient.

  174. This is what happens when our elected leader is someone who is not interested in policy, not interested in history, has no use for nuances, and only goal is to undo ANYTHING associated with the Obama administration, whether it is good for this country or not. IQ45 has been a complete and total disaster for this country and the world. No wonder China and Russia are stepping into the vacuum.

  175. "We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it." Very nice.

    I believe Mr. Trump's trashing the Iran agreement is principally about trashing the legacy and accomplishments of President Obama. I don't believe Trump knows anything about the Iran agreement. I don't believe Trump accepts advice from credible experts. On the other hand, trashing Obama is one of the only consistent themes of this White House. It goes nicely with another such theme--racial innuendo and racial resentment.

  176. Mr Friedman, you give Donald Trump far too much credit. He hasn't the faintest care in the world about Iran's treatment of Sunni Muslims or knowledge of the finer points of nuclear non-proliferation. Rather, he is simply terrified of the idea that Ron Dermer will talk over him at a big meeting, and in doing so will actually look intelligent, rather than like a two-bit marmot as when he spoke over President Obama.

    Also, Netanyahu would likely have no trouble at all rolling Trump into a disastrous conflict with Iran, if he were so inclined. The idea that Trump won't recklessly engage U.S.forces in the middle east hinges on a) Trump being rational and b) lack of a precedent for such a foolish action (see: 2003). Good luck with that.

  177. When I was a youngster, I loved taking things apart, like watches and old televisions and such. But I had no desire -- nor ability -- to put them back together. I liked to set off big (and illegal) firecrackers to see how much damage I could do to neighbors' garbage cans and other inanimate objects that didn't belong to me. That's Trump: a child who revels in destruction, but has no idea about the workings of what he destroys nor the intelligence to understand them anyway. He's an abomination, and so are most of the people who voted for him.

  178. Making Obama pay for making fun of him at the WH Correspondents Dinner is the underlying motive of nearly every decision Trump makes. Yes, he’s that petty and small-minded, and yet he is leader of the free world. It’s incredible

  179. His parents were epic failures when it came to parenting Trump.

  180. Yes, it speaks poorly on Trump, but also on Obama.

  181. As a contributor to the Daily Kos observed recently, there is a plausible explanation for Trump's trashing of the Iran deal. Russia has been hurt really badly by low oil prices, since oil is their only real source of revenue. There have been real rumblings of protest despite the iron hand of state police. Even more serious for Putin is the jeopardization of his ability to pay off his oligarchy with oil funds. Now, with the stability of Iran's oil supply in serious doubt, oil prices have begun to spike and Russia's oil profits stand to increase by $100 billion or more. This could actually save Putin's regime. Is this Trump's final big payoff to Putin?

  182. The Iran deal was barely a year in when Trump took office. Iran was having internal struggles as moderates were wrestling with the hardliners who wanted to prove that the deal did not weaken their religious hold over its people and the region.

    Now, we can only speculate what would have happened over the years of the deal if the US had stuck to it. Change cannot happen over night. Obama learned from the mistakes of his and his predecessors. The Arab Spring was too fast and leaderless, the Libyan invasion without end plan. He focused this understanding on Iraq and we begin to see some light there.

    Obama did not expect all the best laid plans to be complete or bear fruit before his time in office was over. Iran had possibilities. It was the perfect state with its educated people, secular instinct and large diaspora of secular Muslims to evolve into a more open government.

    Trump doesn't understand time. The nuance of subtle change is alien to him. However, all good outcomes come from open minds and patience.

  183. The Obama policy was wishful thinking, or maybe it will just go away on its own.

  184. "Is Trump going to use U.S. forces to push Iran back? No"....
    The US has given Israel a blank check in the ME to do whatever it wants militarily. Hmm, who do you think will support Israel if they get into difficulty?
    BTW - Israel, Saudi Arabia , and the UAE were censured. What ,exactly , was the effect on these countries ? Nothing. They continue as if nothing has happened.

  185. I have been unable to figure out exactly what the Trump administration means when it seems to seek "regime change" in Iran. Certainly, pulling out of the nuclear agreement will only reinforce Iranian unity in resisting US threats.

    Iran is not Iraq of 2003, where the political power rested in the hands of one individual. The Iranian political landscape is far, far more complex and diffuse, where "regime change" would require the removal of literally several hundred, if not thousands, of individuals, from the senior clerics to the upper ranks of the Revolutionary Guards to President Rouhani's senior staff. Plus, the ghost of the 1950s Mossadegh affair is very much on the minds of the Iranian population, who would rise up against any similar foreign attempt.

  186. Some day I would like a factual account of all of Iran's crimes. What exactly has Iran done to earn wholesale American condemnation? How do the misdeeds stack up against Isreal's treatment of Palestinians? Saudi funding of terrorism, and human rights violations? Did I mention Russian interference in our democracy?

  187. For one thing, Iran is linked to the deaths of hundreds of US soldiers. Of course, the Obama Administration would never divulge this kind of data. It highly controlled the narrative when it was pursuing its agenda. Remember how it claimed AQ was on the run when it wanted the public to perceive, falsely, that it had terrorism under control.

  188. Destabilizing the middle east will drive up oil prices, thus benefitting Trump's friends in that industry (as if they needed help). It's the only way Trump's actions concerning Israel and Iran make sense that I can think of.

  189. Suddenly "strategery," from the classic SNL skit, seems ever more brilliant compared to this fumbling around by Trump. Who would have thought someone could make Bush look smart in comparison.