Many words have been used to describe the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency and, before Wednesday, “exquisite” was not one of them. That, nonetheless, is the word House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) reached for when effusively praising Trump’s “leadership” shortly following the GOP’s final tax victory.
“There are ass kissers, there are sycophantic ass kissers, there are shameless ass kissers, there are embarrassing ass kissers…and then there’s Mike Pence.”
Despite the fact that “by all accounts, the president did not participate in the legislative deliberations,” praise for the president after the GOP’s passage of a $1.5 trillion tax bill quickly became the theme of the day.
Vice President Mike Pence kicked off the “sycophantic” lovefest with what commentators could only describe as a sort of “prayer of thanks to Trump”—reminiscent of that infamous White House cabinet meeting over the summer, during which administration officials hailed what an “opportunity and blessing” it is to work alongside the president.
“I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here,” Pence said.
And that was just the beginning. During a gathering in front of the White House Wednesday, congressional Republicans stepped to the podium one-by-one to christen the least popular first-year president in modern American history as “one heck of a leader.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)—the author of a provision in the GOP tax bill that will further enrich himself, Trump, and more than a dozen other Republican senators—outdid them all, fawning over the president’s “sheer will” and saying “I just hope that we all get behind him every way we can, and we’ll get this country turned around in ways that will benefit the whole world.”
“We’re going to make this the greatest presidency that we’ve seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever,” Hatch added.
“I think the exaggeration of having to kiss the ring of Donald Trump—it almost seems like a scene out of ‘The Godfather’ we just saw, not what you would expect from the president of a democracy,” said historian Douglas Brinkley.
The whole world; “Fuck you Trump and the horse you rode in on”
The United Nations general assembly has delivered a stinging rebuke to Donald Trump, voting by a huge majority to reject his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The vote came after a redoubling of threats by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, who said that Washington would remember which countries “disrespected” America by voting against it.
Despite the warning, 128 members voted on Thursday in favor of the resolution supporting the longstanding international consensus that the status of Jerusalem – which is claimed as a capital by both Israel and the Palestinians – can only be settled as an agreed final issue in a peace deal. Countries which voted for the resolution included major recipients of US aid such as Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Although largely symbolic, the vote in emergency session of the world body had been the focus of days of furious diplomacy by both the Trump administration and Israel, including Trump’s threat to cut US funding to countries that did not back the US recognition.
But only nine states – including the United States and Israel –voted against the resolution. The other countries which supported Washington were Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.
Twenty-two of the 28 EU countries voted for the resolution, including the UK and France. Germany – which in the past has abstained on measures relating to Israel – also voted in favour.
Thirty-five countries abstained, including five EU states, and other US allies including Australia, Canada, Colombia and Mexico. Ambassadors from several abstaining countries, including Mexico, used their time on the podium to criticise Trump’s unilateral move.
Another 21 delegations were absent from the vote, suggesting the Trump’s warning over funding cuts and Israel’s lobbying may have had some effect.
While support for the resolution was somewhat less than Palestinian officials had hoped, the meagre tally of just nine votes in support of the US and Israeli position was a serious diplomatic blow for Trump.
Immediately after the vote the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, described the result as a “victory for Palestine”. The Palestinians’ UN envoy, Riyad Mansour, described the result as a “massive setback” for the US.
“They made it about them,” Mansour told AFP. “They did not make it about Jerusalem, so when you make it about them and to only be able to get nine votes to say ‘no’ to it, I think it was a complete failure for their campaign.”
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected the UN vote out of hand.
“Israel thanks President Trump for his unequivocal position in favour of Jerusalem and thanks the countries that voted together with Israel, together with the truth,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office.
Speaking to the assembly before the vote, Haley – who earlier in the week told members that the US “would be taking names” – returned to the offensive.
“I must also say today: when we make generous contributions to the UN, we also have expectation that we will be respected,” she said. “What’s more, we are being asked to pay for the dubious privileges of being disrespected.”
Haley added: “If our investment fails, we have an obligation to spend our investment in other ways … The United States will remember this day.”
In his own speech Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, said UN members who backed the resolution were being manipulated. “You are like puppets pulled by your Palestinian masters,” he told the session.
While Thursday’s resolution was in support of existing UN resolutions on Jerusalem and the peace process, the clumsy intervention by Trump and Haley also made the vote a referendum on Trump’s often unilateral and abrasive foreign policy.
The debate and vote highlighted for a second time in a week the international isolation of the United States over the Jerusalem issue, following a similar vote in the security council on Tuesday in which it was outnumbered 14-1.
The threatening US posture, which had been denounced as both counter-productive and “bullying”, only seemed to have hardened the resolve of countries in opposing Trump’s 6 December move.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Turkey and Yemen, called Trump’s recognition “null and void” and reaffirmed 10 security council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
It also “demands that all states comply with security council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions”.