Winston Churchill delivered what would come to be known as the “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., on March 5, 1946.
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe,” he said.
Not only did the speech mark the beginning of the Cold War, but also, the first articulation of the “special relationship” between the United Kingdom and the United States. Said Churchill:
“Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organization will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States.”
Churchill described the “fraternal association” between the two nations, our “kindred Systems of society,” and the “intimate relationship between our military advisers.” That military link has extended from the First World War through the War on Terror.
Sadly, President Trump has just sullied that special relationship, and he did so on the heels of abdicating our position of global leadership relative to climate change.
Armed with just his android last Sunday afternoon, the president’s initial reaction to the London Bridge terror attack was to re-tweet a Drudge Report headline within minutes of the news breaking. An hour later, he sought to turn the tragedy to his own political benefit. (“We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”) Only thereafter did he say that which was most appropriate and should have come first: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U.K. we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”
But by the following morning, he was again playing bad cop. At 7:31 a.m., he picked a fight. (“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is `no reason to be alarmed!’ “) In doing so, the president took the words of the city’s first Muslim mayor out of context given that the comment he quoted was preceded by “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days.”
The Brits deserve better from us. And Trump’s willingness to engage with a grieving ally is particularly alarming after his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. In that case, he made a decision of global importance not based on science and diplomacy but on what appears to have been a political calculus.
While the move generated a still-growing list of cities, states, and businesses promising to honor the terms of the accord, there’s been no noticeable rebuke from those who supported the Trump campaign. The decision was the delivery of a campaign pledge made to the 46 percent of voters who carried him to victory, especially in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
After all, thus far, they’ve had little to show for their support beyond the addition of a conservative Supreme Court justice. Despite Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, the president hasn’t ended NAFTA; China has not been labeled a currency manipulator; there’s been no repeal and replacement of Obamacare; no tax reform; not even the moving of the embassy in Israel.
The president needed to deliver on something he promised.
So he cloaked his opposition in the promise of jobs, casting our lot with fossil fuels and not with renewable energy.
Unfortunately, fulfilling this commitment rebukes an environmental agreement signed by 195 nations — and our standing in the world community. By joining the ranks of Nicaragua and Syria, we’ve abdicated our leadership role and provided China with a perfect branding opportunity.
There’s now an open question about America’s role in the world. Do Americans care what that will be? Are we back to the isolationist days of the 1930s and 1940 when FDR ran on the platform of keeping us out of war? A war we eventually waged alongside allies, one of whom was the victim of a third terror attack in as many months. An ally the president had just cast aside.
Our middle son is scheduled to study for a month in London this summer. Google maps tells me his dorm room is three-tenths of a mile from the Westminster bridge where, on March 22, a sole terrorist killed four and injured more than 50 with his car before stabbing a police officer. He’ll be 1.6 miles from London Bridge, where, on June 4, three terrorists in a van killed eight and wounded 48 others. My son has no interest in canceling the trip due to terror; his mother and I have not even discussed the matter. Juliette Kayyem, the former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and author of Security Mom: My Life Protecting the Home and Homeland, approves of our parenting.
“I get the phone calls, ‘Should I send my kids to Europe or should we still travel?’ You’re in Pennsylvania. If you think you can guarantee perfect security for your kid wherever they are, sure, keep them home. But kids and even adults have a capacity to minimize the risk themselves.
“You can put tens of billions of dollars in prevention, but there is still going to be that 24-year-old guy who has access to a car. It’s not that hard to radicalize online and drive down a street.”
Michael Smerconish can be heard 9 a.m. to noon on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124. He hosts Smerconish at 9 a.m. Saturdays on CNN.