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The consequences of a Trump-era 'pause' in American leadership

Barack Obama recently acknowledged a "pause in American leadership." Donald Trump is going out of his way to prove his predecessor correct.
Image: Trump Designates North Korea as State Sponsor of Terror During Cabinet Meeting
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: (AFP OUT) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a cabinet meeting at...

Barack Obama invested considerable energy during his time in office to strengthening U.S. ties to India, and that continued over the weekend when the former president attended a leadership forum in New Delhi. Not surprisingly, there was quite a bit of interest in what the Democrat had to say about political developments in his country.

By all accounts, Obama was cautious -- lamenting those who use Twitter too often, for example, without mentioning any names -- while also acknowledging the "pause in American leadership" since his administration's role in helping craft the Paris climate agreement.

This came to mind yesterday, reading the New York Times' report on the reception Secretary of State Rex Tillerson received in Belgium yesterday, where America's chief diplomat has traditionally "been greeted in Europe's heart with broad smiles and open arms." Not anymore.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson's reception in Brussels was distinctly chilly, as disappointment among European diplomats in President Trump's nationalistic tone and insulting messages on Twitter built into quiet fury on the eve of an expected announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Such a move could infuriate the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be their capital in a future Palestinian state.In a brief public appearance beside Mr. Tillerson, Federica Mogherini, the European Union's top diplomat, gave the kind of stone-cold statement of facts that she would normally provide standing beside her Russian counterpart, not the American one.

The list of concerns wasn't short. The EU's chief diplomat, who already saw Donald Trump's opposition to the Paris climate accord as a major step backwards, urged the United States not to destabilize the Middle East with an announcement about Jerusalem, while also pushing the Trump administration not to abandon the international nuclear agreement with Iran.

Germany's foreign minister added yesterday at a conference in Berlin that that relations with the United States "will never be the same," in part because Donald Trump doesn't see Europe as a U.S. ally.

This, of course, followed Trump's decision over the weekend to boycott a United Nations gathering on migrants and refugees, "sending a blunt signal that the United States is no longer interested in forging a concerted response to the world's burgeoning migration crises."

While we're at it, this followed an international incident between Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May after the American president promoted racist online content from a fringe group in the U.K.

Trump recently boasted, "I think right now a lot of countries are starting to respect the United States of America once again." It's among the most ridiculous lies the president has told this year, and undoing the damage this president has done to our standing on the international stage will take a painfully long time.