United Nations Headquarters' General Assembly Building and Secretariat Building in New York City, USA, Sept. 24, 2015.
Photo by Matt Campbell/EPA

Why Trump sees routine accomplishments as unique triumphs


In response to the latest North Korean missile tests, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions against the dictatorship last weekend. Yesterday, Donald Trump said all the credit for the developments at the United Nations should go to him personally.

“I will say getting the 15–0 vote at the United Nations from the Security Council the other day, that’s something that very few presidents would have been able to get.”

Look, I was glad to see Saturday’s vote at the U.N. It would have been possible for Trump’s team to have messed this up in some way, but fortunately that didn’t happen. Everything went smoothly, just as it should have.

This was not, however, an especially heavy lift. North Korea has been isolated for many years, and its latest antics have no defenders on the international stage. The appeal for sanctions passed unanimously, not because Trump is a master of diplomacy, persuading foreign nations to go along with a plan they were skeptical of, but because members of the U.N. Security Council were already inclined to support such a resolution.

Also note Trump’s self-aggrandizing boast that “very few presidents” would have been able to shepherd such a resolution through the Security Council. That’s not even close to being true.

Wikipedia has a page listing Security Council resolutions related to North Korea, and the list isn’t short. It makes clear that plenty of modern presidents have successfully guided measures like these.

Indeed, Michelle Nichols, the United Nations bureau chief for Reuters, added yesterday that the United Nations has approved eight resolutions against North Korea since 2006 – and each of them passed unanimously.

As is too often the case, Trump got this backwards – because he’s so desperate to show some kind of accomplishment, some kind of evidence that his administration is capable of governing, that’s he’s happy to turn a routine development into a historic breakthrough. If that means misleading people with strange boasts, it’s a price the president is willing to pay.