Most of what President Trump has done and said in his brief time in office has bordered on squalid, incompetent or unbalanced. The bold moral clarity of his missile attack against a Syrian air base involved in chemical warfare deepens rather than resolves the mystery of the real character of this president.
He started his campaign calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers.
He thinks you can grab women by the pussy.
He wants to ban Muslim refugees from America based on their religion.
He has told you who he is, over and over and over. At this point even the guys from True Detective are like, “I think we have this figured out.”
I suspect that Trump had something like that deterrent effect in mind as he ordered the missile strikes shortly before he sat down with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Palm Beach to discuss the urgent threat to global stability presented by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. It is much more difficult now for Kim Jong Un — and Xi — to dismiss Trump’s warnings as bluster.
They struck an airfield from which planes were flying again later. Trump spent a year on the trail promising to “bomb the shit” out of anyone who looked at him funny. I think Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping know exactly what they’re dealing with.
Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson know the Arab, Sunni-led regimes of the Middle East well. Unlike the anti-Muslim activists on Trump’s White House staff, they are well-positioned to fashion a Middle East policy that should recognize and respond to the real dangers that Iran and Syria pose, without letting their Sunni clients’ fears of, and paranoia about, Shiites lead the United States deeper into dangerous quagmires like the civil war in Yemen.
They’re only “well-positioned” in the sense that their offices are physically within shouting distance of Trump. They have the ability to craft a policy … I WOULD FUCKING HOPE SO, given they’re the secretaries of State and Defense. The problem isn’t that Trump had no one to write nice memos. The problem is that the asshole can’t read.
Perhaps Trump will come to see the wisdom in Charles de Gaulle’s adage that nations do not have friends. Instead, they have interests.
Perhaps I’ll suddenly become a DD cup and learn to make soufflés. All things are possible in Christ. More likely, the first time Trump’s asked about Charles de Gaulle, he’ll respond that de Gaulle is doing a splendid job for us and should be recognized for all his hard work, because it’s early days in this presidency and I don’t think they’re that far down in the flash card deck.
In his statement announcing the U.S. retaliatory assault on the airfield from which the chemical attack that killed at least 80 Syrian civilians was launched, Trump characteristically emphasized his personal revulsion and horror at the images of the gas attack.
But he also identified the “vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” It is a clear commitment to principle that has been uncommon in his presidency.
And which does not mean dick without massive amounts of follow-up and a consistency that is beyond Trump, demonstrable if you have paid any attention to the candidacy and presidency that currently exists, instead of the one in your head.
A missile strike does not a policy or a worldview make. Giving this spasm of violence real meaning will depend on Trump showing a consistency, discipline and attention to detail that have been foreign to him in two-plus months in office.
He has instead publicly shown a blithe inability to care about the consequences of what he says and does. He has seemed content to say, tweet or do whatever pleases him at the moment, and let others clean up after him.
But presidents, like all humans, are the product of their experiences as well as the creature of the character they bring into office.
I spent 8 years of Bush’s presidency watching the national press try to convince the public that a deeply unintelligent human being would suddenly transform himself into Alexander Hamilton, and 8 years of the Obama administration watching the national press make a middle-of-the-road safe-as-houses moderate into the second coming of Eugene Debs. I didn’t think they had this much fiction still lurking in their souls.
I doubt that Trump will ever be the kind of person that many of us can admire. His blatant disregard for his monumental conflicts of interest — his surrender to greed, in other words — is too great for that. But if he can learn to let people who know what they are about be about it, there may be hope for him yet.
There isn’t any. Give it up. I’ve been saying this from like day three: Save as many as you can, for as long as you can, and fight them til you can’t. Don’t wait for help, don’t look for aid, don’t think anyone’s gonna come. Because if all Trump had to do was send out a few missiles and make a speech without falling on his keys for everybody to sigh with relief that we were “back to normal,” we’re not anywhere near normal at all.