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Trump scuttles Iran deal to please his rural supporters



So he’s done it. He’s left the accord.

The thing to realize is that Trump does things that appeal to his base, not things that are good for the country or the world.

Take the Iran deal. Ninety-nine percent of his base has no idea what’s in it. They can barely locate Iran on a map, much less understand how Iran can use its Arak heavy water reactor, or how the country will make its calandria inoperable, or how fuel pins are tested, or why 6 cubic meters is the limit of the shielded glove boxes Iran is permitted to build and operate, or why Iran can test an IR-5 centrifuge through 2025.

All of these things are explained in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iran signed on July 14, 2015, with the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), a lengthy document Trump claims to have read (but probably didn’t, since by his own admission he doesn’t read much). But does anyone think that Trump’s rightwing Tea Party/evangelical/Breitbart base has any idea what the deal means? Don’t be silly. All they know is:

  • Iran is bad, because Islam is bad. Therefore anything that Iran does, including signing the deal, is bad.
  • The deal was brokered by Barack Obama. Therefore, it’s bad, because Obama is a foreign-born Muslim.
  • The deal was negotiated on behalf of the United States by John Kerry, a war hero whom the Right despises. Therefore, the deal must be bad, because John Kerry is a bad man.
  • Republicans truthtellers such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Donald Trump say the deal is bad. Therefore, it must be bad, because everything those men say is always true.
  • The Allies who support the deal—France, the U.K. and Germany—are weak-kneed, lily-livered appeasers. They may mean well, but they’re too dumb to realize how bad the deal is.

Because the base “knows” these things, it’s easy for Trump to repeat his charges over and over, even if they’re absurd. Truth has never been a criterion for Trump’ supporters. Instead, they base their conclusions on their feelings and emotions, which Trump—who’s been a ratings-based T.V. entertainer for years—knows how to manipulate, in the same way advertisers know how to manipulate images to prompt viewers to buy stuff they’re selling.

Something else needs to be pointed out. In trashing this deal, Trump also is carrying Netayahu’s water. Netayahu’s own base–similar to Trump’s in religiously-inspired ignorance–consists of far-right, often under- or non-educated Russian immigrants, who, like American evangelicals, believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. These are mentally unstable, intellectually challenged individuals, but they have an undue influence in Israel, as they do here, due to the bizarre love affair between the American evangelical community and Hasidic Jews; and while Trump personally probably believes both are whack jobs–and Netayahu might, too–both politicians need them.

It’s not unusual for a politician to cater to his base, but better leaders try to educate their base when the base is wrong. A prime example of this was in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II. Franklin Roosevelt always understood that it was in America’s interests to stop Hitler (and imperialist Japan), who, if successful, would eventually have declared war on the Western Hemisphere and imperiled our country. The problem was that isolationists in America—Republicans as well as Democrats—had convinced majorities not to get entangled in foreign wars. George Washington himself had warned against this (but in very different times and under very different circumstances), and leading Americans, like Charles Lindbergh and Father Coughlin (the forerunner of neo-fascist preachers like Franklin Graham), were running around the country giving speeches in which they accused FDR of being an interventionist warmonger.

It would have been easy for FDR to knuckle under to the isolationists. But he had the courage to act upon his belief that they were wrong. He couldn’t plunge the country into war headlong (Pearl Harbor eventually gave him the opportunity), but he could educate his constituents concerning foreign policy as well as our own traditions of liberty and democracy, and why intervening on behalf of Great Britain and France was, in the long run, essential to America’s national security and in conformance with the liberal views of the Founders.

The difference between FDR and Trump is that Trump has no interest in educating his supporters about the Iran deal or anything else. They voted for him precisely because they are low-information voters. This is reflected in the polls that show college-educated voters preferring Hillary Clinton by substantial majorities. It is therefore in Trump’s interest to keep his base under-educated, not only about Iran but about climate change and many other things. An ignorant base is good news for Trump; an educated base is bad news for him. This is why he loves Fox News, a T.V. network that offers no real information on issues, but merely trumpets Rupert Murdoch and the Republican Party.

Let’s face it, this decision is a neo-con, warlike one, prompted by the likes of John Bolton, one of the guiding forces behind the Iraq War (and Trump’s speech was scarily reminiscent of George W. Bush’s 2003 speech announcing the start of that war). Trump’s supporters are now beating their chests and crowing about how tough America is. MAGA! U.S.A. kicks ass! Just like we kicked ass in Iraq, right?

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