Editorials of The Times
Posted May 9, 2018 12:17 a.m. EDT
Where’s That Better Deal?
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By reneging on the Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump has said, he will be able to get an even better deal, one that will also control Iran’s ballistic missiles and its regional influence.
Sound familiar? It should. This is the same kind of gesture toward a better, smarter deal that Trump made when he pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, the same sort of empty promise he made in saying he would supply plans for Middle East peace and better, cheaper, more accessible health care. So far, again and again, he has shown himself to be adept at destroying agreements — an easy task for a president — and utterly lacking in the policy depth or strategic vision and patience to create new ones.
When it comes to the danger of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, there is no sign Iran or any of the other major powers in the existing and so far successful pact will simply fall in line with Trump’s notional new plan. More likely, his decision, announced Tuesday, will let Iran resume a robust nuclear program, sour relations with European allies, erode America’s credibility, lay conditions for wider war in the Middle East and make it harder to reach an agreement with North Korea on its nuclear program.
In other words, par for the course. This man who, apparently because of one book and a reality television show, has a reputation as a dealmaker despite a skein of bankruptcies and lawsuits, has been piling up quite a record of scuttled agreements that he suggests “never, ever should have been made” and broken promises for a “better deal.”
Consider the Paris agreement, approved by President Barack Obama in 2016. Trump labeled it an unfair “con job” and in June declared his intention to withdraw from it. Trump suggested he was open to renegotiating this voluntary agreement but has done nothing about it. Meanwhile, his administration chips away at environmental protections through deregulation as the nearly 200 countries that signed the deal remain committed to it.
Or take DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also established by Obama. It provides temporary work permits and reprieves from deportation for about 800,000 immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children. Trump ended it but said he was open to fixing it. But he hasn’t, ordering instead a crackdown by immigration agents that has torn families apart and left millions of other people in limbo.
Similarly, the southern border wall, the centerpiece of his presidential campaign that was supposed to be paid for by Mexico, is more mirage than reality — and whatever parts are being built are being paid for by the United States.
He promised a better deal on health care, with cheaper costs and universal coverage. He never proposed one. Instead, after Congress failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he attacked it administratively, increasing the number of people without insurance and raising premiums.
One of his first moves in office was to withdraw from the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he had called “a rape of our country.” Last month he raised the possibility of rejoining it but then stepped back again.
Then there is the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the United States, Mexico and Canada have been unable to amend after months of negotiations.
As for China, which Trump promised to browbeat into offering trade concessions, recent negotiations ended with few signs of progress toward avoiding a trade war.
The one agreement on which he forced new negotiations and seems to have scored modest success is the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea. Even so, the president has suggested he might delay finalizing the pact because it gives him a card to play, presumably with Seoul, while negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear program.
But no deal so stoked his disdain as the one that committed Iran to curtail its nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions, even though international inspectors along with American and Israeli intelligence and security officials have repeatedly judged that Iran is abiding by it.
It seems a counterproductive message as Trump has shifted from warmongering to diplomacy on North Korea and prepares to meet its leader, Kim Jong Un, to get him to abandon his nuclear arsenal of 20 to 60 weapons.
Why should North Korea now believe the United States, over the long haul, will honor a deal any president strikes?
The stakes with Iran are high; with North Korea they are higher. Will that be another deal too far for Trump?
In a few short hours Monday evening, Eric Schneiderman went from being known as one of the nation’s most progressive and influential attorneys general to being cast as a drunken, abusive monster who terrorized women in his personal life even as he publicly advocated women’s rights.
The immediate question before New Yorkers is who takes over one of the key law enforcement posts in the country. What can’t happen is for lawmakers in Albany to concoct a backroom deal to install someone they think will further their political games rather than the cause of justice.
Until voters have a chance to pick a new attorney general in the fall, the clear choice is Barbara Underwood, the state’s solicitor general, who became acting attorney general upon Schneiderman’s formal resignation Tuesday afternoon. Underwood has a stellar reputation and extensive experience as a litigator and would carry on the work of the office until the election.
Schneiderman’s fall was so fast, the allegations against him so appalling and the depth of his apparent hypocrisy so astounding that the lesson will take some time to sort out. But it is already clear that his betrayal operates on at least three levels.
First and most important is the betrayal of the women who were romantically involved with Schneiderman and who told The New Yorker of the physical and emotional abuse he inflicted on them. Their descriptions — of his choking, slapping, spitting, threatening their lives, insulting their bodies, mocking their professional ambitions and trying to control their appearance — are horrendous.
In a statement Monday night, Schneiderman flatly denied assaulting anyone or engaging in nonconsensual sex but said, “I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity.” The four women who have come forward so far evidently did not experience it that way.
The next betrayal is of Schneiderman’s office, of his position as New York’s top law enforcement official and of his obligation to uphold the rule of law. According to his accusers, Schneiderman appeared to enjoy exploiting his authority to threaten and terrify them into silence.
One former girlfriend, Michelle Manning Barish, recalled that one time, after Schneiderman violently struck her, he accused her of scratching him and said, “You know, hitting an officer of the law is a felony.” Another time, she said, he pulled her across the street, and when she said jaywalking was against the law, he responded, “I am the law.” Schneiderman might say comments like those were meant in jest, but the blood and bruises the women reported suggest otherwise.
In this regard, Schneiderman’s case may be the most egregious yet of the #MeToo era. As one of Schneiderman’s accusers told The New Yorker, “What do you do if your abuser is the top law enforcement official in the state?”
It’s a good question, and one that is sadly too common. Domestic violence in law enforcement families occurs at two to four times the rate in American families generally, according to the National Center for Women and Policing. In many cases, officers who abuse are not punished, and are even protected by colleagues and supervisors. It’s not yet clear how many people knew of Schneiderman’s alleged behavior, but these accusations come as such a shock in large part because of the values Schneiderman professed to hold.
This irony is at the heart of his final betrayal. Schneiderman made women’s rights a centerpiece of his agenda, going back to his time as a New York state senator, when he introduced legislation that made life-threatening strangulation a violent felony. He praised the “critical national reckoning” brought about by the exposure of Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men. His office had even begun an investigation of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., for his decision not to prosecute Weinstein in 2015 following a woman’s accusation that he had groped her.
Vance is now investigating the allegations against Schneiderman. Certainly an inquiry is warranted, although given the recent history between these two offices, it might be more appropriately handled by someone else.
After the 2016 election, Schneiderman styled himself as an avatar of the resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda, bringing more than a hundred actions against the administration. Recently, he pushed to change New York law to allow for state prosecutions of Trump aides in case the president pardoned them for federal crimes.
In the coming weeks and months, many qualified people will consider running for attorney general. We look forward to a competitive primary that delivers the honest, independent, moral — and perhaps for a change, female — law enforcement leader New Yorkers need. As Schneiderman said just a few days ago, “If a woman cannot control her body, she is not truly equal.” The state deserves an attorney general who will live by those words.
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