In “Bart vs. Australia,” one of The Simpsons’ best episodes, Bart starts a diplomatic crisis with Australia after prank-calling a gullible Australian boy and racking up 900 dollary doos in long-distance charges. Most of the jokes are about how Australians are parochial, beer-guzzling, boot-loving simpletons, but the episode’s big joke is the very idea of a diplomatic crisis between the United States and Australia. (Explaining Simpsons episodes is the worst—just watch the damn thing.)
But on Wednesday evening, Trump really did create a diplomatic crisis with Australia, which is remarkable. Having reasonably good relations with Australia is perhaps the easiest diplomatic hurdle to jump over. And yet, on his twelfth day in office, Donald Trump couldn’t clear it.
According to transcripts of a call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull obtained by The Washington Post, Trump berated Turnbull about a deal made with Barack Obama in which the U.S. would take hundreds of refugees. “This is the worst deal ever,” Trump reportedly said. He also characterized these refugees as “the next Boston Bombers.” After 25 minutes of what was supposed to be a one-hour call, he said that, of the five calls he had made with world leaders that day, “this was the worst call by far” and hung up. During the call, Trump also bragged about winning the Electoral College—he presumably didn’t mention losing the popular vote. Shortly thereafter, Trump took to Twitter, as he is also wont to do.
Every indication is that Trump learned of this deal—one of many such deals—very recently. In any case, a few hundred refugees are not the most important aspect of diplomatic relations between the United States and Australia, which have historically been very strong. But Trump has promised to be a bull in the china shop that is the international order, and that’s exactly how he behaved with Trumbull. This won’t be Trump’s last diplomatic crisis over a minor issue—and it won’t take long for moments like this to irreparably damage the U.S.’s standing in the world.