Now that President Trump has formally announced he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, Americans are left to speculate over what his true motivations really were.
Did he have an issue with the science of climate change? Was he just fulfilling a campaign talking point that met with thundering applause at his many infamous rallies? Or was it an 11th hour phone conversation with FOX News host Kimberly Guilfoyle that tipped the scales?
The answer may, in fact, be something far simpler and infinitely more trivial. He may have just done it in retaliation to a P.R. stunt pulled-off by French President Emmanuelle Macron at Trump’s expense.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that Trump’s decision on the Paris Agreement was largely made before he met the French head of state in Brussels. Their much-talked about on-camera handshake, however, in which Macron took the initiative and gave Trump a visibly stout grip for an uncomfortably long period of time, appears to have nudged Trump over the edge.
“My handshake was not innocent,” Macron said. He likened Trump to a pair of authoritarian strongmen — Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — and said that he was purposefully forceful because he believed his encounter with Trump was “a moment of truth.”
Hearing smack-talk from the Frenchman 31 years his junior irritated and bewildered Trump, aides said. A few days later, Trump got his revenge. He proclaimed from the Rose Garden, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
This kind of petty rational for a huge decision may sound like a reach on the surface, but a look at recent decisions Trump has made shows that such motivations aren’t beneath this President. In fact they’re quite common, almost a pattern.
He reportedly decided to finally fire FBI Director James Comey after he saw him ‘showboating’ in televised testimony before congress. The day after taking office, Trump sent Press Secretary Sean Spicer out to deliver a belligerent statement to the media insisting his inaugural crowd size was the largest in history, despite photos clearly showing otherwise.
Trump’s presidential ambitions also appear to be one giant campaign to spite President Obama. Many have speculated that his desire to win the Presidency was born the night of Obama’s speech at the 2011 White House correspondence dinner, in which he humiliated Trump for the failure of his “Birther” campaign to prove the Obama was born in Kenya. The whole effort collapsed earlier that week when the White House released Obama’s certified ‘long form’ birth certificate Trump insisted didn’t exist.
Did the Macron handshake seal the deal? History suggests it might have.