First President Trump gave Steve Bannon the heave-ho from the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, then Trump damns Bannon with faint praise (“I like Steve, but. . .”).
Now in the chaotic, drama-filled, and ever-changing Trump White House, it appears Trump is pivoting towards the preppy looking 36 year-old Jared Kushner, the man married to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
If you’re a conservative who believes in small government and fiscal responsibility, this latest pivot by Trump isn’t anything to celebrate.
Both Jared and Ivanka Kushner have been called Manhattan liberal Democrats (they’re both registered Democrats), with ties to Wall Street, in favor of such things as creating another expensive entitlement like Ivanka’s proposed maternity leave program.
Some are celebrating Trump’s latest pivot as an example of his ‘pragmatism’ and ‘flexibility’, but I think this is a misread.
To understand why, take an NFL football quarterback, who would never set foot into a stadium without a comprehensive set of plays he has carefully gone over with the coaching staff and practiced endlessly with his team; sure, he has some flexibility to call an audible and scramble out of the pocket, etc, but this flexibility is always under the umbrella of a previously well thought out, endlessly practiced, established game plan.
The notion that Trump is being ‘pragmatic’ and ‘flexible’ is absurd. Rather, what we’re seeing is the chaos and disorganization that is brought about by a lack of knowledge and inexperience in governance, along with more than a fair share of palace intrigue, backstabbing, and fighting over who’s top dog in the pecking order (to mix metaphors).
Remember, most thought (even Trump, at one point in his campaign) Trump wasn’t going to win the election, and apparently Trump forgot or never learned the Boy Scout Motto.
What we’re seeing now is Trump stumbling and fumbling, learning as he goes, and some people around him know they can take advantage of him and play Jedi Mind Tricks on him to get him to adopt their position and point of view on a given matter.
The biggest problem is when the head coach lacks a philosophical North Star with which to serve as a guide to lead and create a coherent game plan and direction for his team. As a result, Trump flits this way one day and that way the next, allowing personnel and/or events to inordinately control him instead of him controlling events.
Trump’s saving grace in his nascent presidency is that he does have some adults in his administration, such as General Mattis as Secretary of Defense, General McMaster as his National Security Adviser, and Nikki Haley as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
Whether a great team can make up for a disordered, chaotic quarterback is yet to be seen.
With word of President Trump’s decision to conduct a missile strike against a Syrian airfield in the news (the Tomahawk cruise missile strike occurred on Thursday April 6, 2017), so much of my social media and Twitter feed is filled with uninformed bravado and fist pumping that is reminiscent of the scene in ‘Gone With The Wind‘ where young, hot-headed southern gentlemen learn of and celebrate news of war with the north:
In stark contrast to the impetuous Sons of the South stand Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler, two world-wise and even-keeled men who know something of the negative impacts on society wars cause and the horrors of bloodshed. Wilkes and Butler are a welcome counterbalance to the mansion full of young men with heads full of misconceptions of the glory of battle.
I am in favor of President Trump’s decision to conduct a tactical, limited missile strike on the air field reported to be where the aircraft that dropped the chemical weapons came from – Bashar al-Assad is a evil man and Russia and Iran are propping him up and are also our enemies.
But I am worried about our untested, impetuous president, while also thankful for his superb military leadership and our superb military.
Fun as it may be to engage in it, this isn’t the time for swagger and whoopin’ and hollerin’, but prayer, deliberation, and serious-mindedness.
A quote attributed to William Tecumseh Sherman, an actual Union general in the Civil War, sums up his view of war:
I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!
War is hell.
There are three legs to the Trump/Russia controversy stool:
- Russians meddled in our electoral process
- Trump’s ties to Russia
- Obama administration’s politicizing/leaking intelligence on Team Trump.
On March 30, 2017, Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and Russia expert, testified to Senator James Lankford (R, Oklahoma) that the Russians targeted Donald Trump with fake news and conspiracies at times they knew he was browsing/tweeting on-line.
Watts testified Donald Trump parroted the same fake news and conspiracies as known Russian propaganda outlets ‘Sputnik’ and ‘RT’ (election “rigged”, voter fraud, denying U.S. intelligence, Obama not a citizen, Ted Cruz not a citizen, etc.)
“I can tell you right now, today, grey outlets that are Soviet pushing accounts Tweet at President Trump during high volumes when they know he’s on-line and they push conspiracy theories.” (1:48, in the below video).
During the campaign, people speculated that Trump’s conspiracy mongering might just be a showman’s shtick and/or throwing red meat to his fervent base – but not any more.
Now we know this is who Trump is: a profoundly disordered man of low character who has a proclivity for believing in and spreading fake news and conspiracy theories.
The estimable Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center described Donald Trump as follows during an appearance on C-SPAN in the summer of 2016:
Now it appears Trump is deserving of another title for believing in and helping spread Russian fake news and conspiracies: ‘Useful Idiot‘.
Putin and his cronies are laughing at Trump and at us. I don’t think even Putin could have seen how wildly successful his espionage/active measures have been to roil and divide Americans and cause us to lose confidence in our democratic institutions.
There are a lot of bad actors in this story, and President Trump certainly has his share of the blame for this lamentable state of affairs.