Donald J. Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president Thursday. “Here, at our convention, there will be no lies,” he said. “We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.”
And one of those truths: An extrordinary promise to break treaties. That’s the haunting metaphor from Trump’s speech.
“I have made billions of dollars in business making deals – now I’m going to make our country rich again. I am going to turn our bad trade agreements into great ones,” Trump said. “America has lost nearly-one third of its manufacturing jobs since 1997, following the enactment of disastrous trade deals supported by Bill and Hillary Clinton.”
The merits of the North America Free Trade Agreement are worth debating. But it is an international agreement signed by three nations. Trump says Bill Clinton signed one of the “worst economic deals ever made by our country.” So if that’s true, why would Mexico and Canada renegotiate? Or would Trump just walk away and break the word of the United States?
That’s exactly what he said he would do.
“Our horrible trade agreements with China and many others, will be totally renegotiated,” Trump said. “That includes renegotiating NAFTA to get a much better deal for America – and we’ll walk away if we don’t get the deal that we want.”
This was one of Trump’s themes: A promise to break the word of the United States.
Ah, but these are just “agreements” not treaties. Yet on Thursday Trump promised that, too. Regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organiztion, Trump said: “Recently I have said that NATO was obsolete, because it did not properly cover terror, and also, that many of the member countries were not paying their fair share. As usual, the United States has been picking up the cost.”
Every Constitution-loving American should be offended; Treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land. They cannot be tossed aside because terrorism is scary or because the United States borrows more money than it should.
One irony from Trump’s speech is that he promised to be the law and order candidate. Yet law and order is impossible without the rule of law, even international law.
Across the country tribes celebrate Treaty Days. It’s a community recognition of the deal made between First Nations and the United States. While it’s true that the United States has failed in so many ways, these documents remain viable because it’s still possible that the United States will step up. But if the president of the United States views treaties, indeed, any agreement, as an ongoing, permanent negotiation, then that entire premise makes no sense.
There will be no treaties. Only the Art of the Steal.
Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports
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