My next newspaper column:
Did everyone have a merry Christmas? Swaddled in the psychic ataraxia born of rationalization and, let it be said, from ignoring the teachings of the One whose birth they just celebrated, no doubt Trump’s remaining supporters did.
Last week, though, rationalization must have been especially enervating. For years, they’ve attributed Middle East chaos to President Barack Obama following the timetable for Iraq withdrawal agreed to by Bush and the Iraqi government. Not de-facto president and oil-man Cheney convincing figurehead president and oil-man Bush that March, 2003 was the perfect time to abandon Afghanistan and invade Iraq in the first place. For (wink-wink) democracy.
And it was President Obama’s pre-negotiated pull-out that birthed ISIS, not Bush disbanding Saddam’s army, which led its officers to join the resistance. So Trump’s abrupt announcement of withdrawal from Syria and precipitous drawdown of forces in Afghanistan must be a mind-bender. But wait: the DOD says it’s only seen Trump’s tweets, has yet to receive orders. And Bolton vowed we’re not leaving Syria before Iran does. Is anyone in charge? It’s insanity.
After Trump trumpeted vanquishing ISIS and lied that Russia is “very unhappy” with his decision to leave, ISIS killed 700 people, the Taliban crowed they’d “defeated the world’s only superpower,” and Putin said he agreed with “Donald.” Rationalize that!
The upshot is to have handed Putin a double-overtime win of the Cold War, evoking withering words of resignation by the last of Trump’s “my generals.” In effect, Mattis said he found it impossible both to share American values and serve Trump. Then anti-ISIS Special Envoy Brett McGurk quit; originally a Bush appointee, elevated by President Obama, ignored by Trump. Integrity walks.
Since US meddling in that part of the world has produced only bad outcomes, Trump’s decision to leave, assuming it’s real, isn’t indefensible. Other than timing. And giving Putin, Assad, and Erdogan everything they want, and abandoning the Kurds, a people who’ve been valiant in fighting ISIS, to the slaughter they fear at the hands of Turkey.
Gratifying for Trumpists, though, was his eagerness to lay off eight-hundred-thousand government workers right before Christmas, showing those supporters his commitment to a wall his acting Chief of Staff once called “absurd and almost childish.” Imagine the chants at Trump’s next “Adore Me” rally: “Build The Artistically Designed Steel Slats!! We Will Pay For Them!!”
After it accomplishes a great deal of not-much, Trumpists still won’t question his fabrication that see-through slats on far less than half of a two-thousand-mile land border, ignoring sixteen-hundred miles of beach along the Gulf, was indispensable to border security. Bone spurs a-jingling, Trump marches to the tunes of Fox “news,” Rush, and Vlad, keeping supporters distracted from his self-enriching, economically unsound, planet-degrading agenda. Which, as they demonstrate, works like a person not laid off.
Speaking of bone spurs, was his last-minute bolt to Iraq, where he hallucinated bizarrely about military pay raises and outed a covert Seal Team, related to the unsurprising “never-had-‘em, daddy-bought-‘em” revelation?
More dissonance for Trumpophiles: after gifting him with Syria, Trump eliminated sanctions on Putin’s oligarch pals. And who benefits from the government closure that followed, more than America’s rivals? Presidents are responsible for a shutdown, Trump once declared, referring to Obama. I won’t blame Democrats, he just said, right before blaming them. “Donald’s” kowtowing to our enemies is at pyrexia pitch, as if he’s been warned to wrap up his to-do list before he goes down.
And now the year might end with investors in worse shape than when it began. Wall Street, where profit is paramount, has taken notice. Predictably, Trump and Trumpists, who demand credit for not killing President Obama’s recovery, are contorting away from any accountability Trump, his egotistical trade wars and diaphanous deals, massive deficits, and increasingly irrational pronouncements might bear for the reversal. Unlike Trump’s acolytes, stock markets prefer stability. (One day doth not a recovery make.)
Claiming to know more about everything than anyone, Trump trusts his “gut” over advice from people who do know things; is given to paranoid rants, threatening critics, off-loading ill-considered announcements, contradicting himself, daily affirming his untrustworthiness; is unable to comprehend complex policy, and genuflects to foreign adversaries. That this is frightening, dangerous madness is obvious to all but the gratefully pacified. Soon, the moneyed donors who spent big to own Republican Senators, expressly to protect their interests, could well come to demand their purchases join those willing to stand up. We’ll see.
Either way, Happy New Year.[Image source]