Last month at the G-7, Trump couldn't be bothered to attend a climate change meeting. This week, he's repeating that stunt at the UN.
For the second time in just a few weeks, Donald Trump is blowing off a high-profile climate change meeting. This time, he's ignoring scores of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly so he can instead convene a meeting on religious persecution.
If this sounds familiar, it's because Trump skipped out of a climate change meeting at the G-7 gathering of world leaders last month. That time, though, he simply lied about it, telling reporters it was happening "in a little while" when it had already occurred. Now, he's scheduling what even the normally pro-Trump New York Post characterized as a "hastily organized" meeting about religious persecution.
Trump's so desperate for attention for his little stunt that he booked a large conference room on Monday in the U.N. headquarters in New York — at the same time and location as the climate change summit. It allows Trump to disrupt something that everyone else recognizes as important. It also gives him the chance to "clog up the whole system," as Mary Robinson, ex-U.N. high commissioner for human rights, put it.
The irony is that it is highly unlikely Trump would have been allowed to speak at the climate change summit in the first place. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that only the "boldest and most transformative actions" would be heard at the meeting. Given Trump's abysmal track record on climate change, it's doubtful he qualifies by that criteria.
The religious right is fawning over Trump's "religious persecution" presentation, even though there are scant details. It is set to last all of one hour and the invitees seem to be this administration's usual group of conservative evangelicals. Additionally, it's pretty tough to take Trump at his word that he's genuinely concerned about religious persecution across the globe when his administration is stacked with people who hate Muslims.
The most absurd moment of this comedy of ego and error came from some poor unnamed administration official who was tapped to explain that Trump does want to talk climate but not in a group setting. Instead, he wants to talk one-to-one, the official said, because he's so good at it. "I think what we're really looking at is the importance of some of these particular bilateral relationships. The President has talked with a number of these leaders and he continues to believe that this kind of personal diplomacy is his strength."
But Trump has pulled out of the Paris climate accords, he tries to bury scientific evidence about global warming, and he's coming to blows with the state of California over auto emission standards. It's a topic about which, like many others, he is deeply petulant, deeply unprepared, and deeply wrong.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.