You know, the guy is all slavering id. No matter what you do, he slips the leash, and before you know it, he’s saying things in his outdoor voice before anyone can stuff a sock in his yap.
He’ll pivot yet, the pundits used to say. He’ll start to act Presidential. If he couldn’t muster that up on his own, somebody would come along to make him. Somebody would save us! Maybe Reince! Maybe Ivanka! Somebody!
Remember how the media swooned when General John Kelly took over the helm as the President’s Chief of Staff, following the inevitable public execution of the quivering husk that was all there was left of Reince Priebus? Saved at last! Things were going to change now, kids, sure as shootin’. Kelly was a military man. He’d impose discipline, keep Der Trump on message, stifle the stream of poison tweets, and finally quell the post-apocalyptic chaos that reigned in the West Wing.
I know, it seems like such a long time ago. Actually it wasn’t! It just feels that way because The Donald does so many crazy and reprehensible things, with such metronomic regularity, that your mind compensates and imposes a perception that all those shocks to your system occurred over a much more lengthy period. It’s just natural – normally, a person can expect to experience this sort of trauma maybe once a month, two tops. Unless, you know, you’re a Navy Seal, or Delta Force, or something. When you’re getting the cattle prod five times a day instead, your brain subconsciously fits events within the normal template, and thus perceives that many months must have passed.
Look, I can prove it: when the President of the United States came out today as a Grand Dragon/Imperial Wizard of the KKK, it seemed to you that all that upset about war with North Korea must have crested a couple of months ago, right? Ha! See? That was just a couple of days ago.
Anyway, General Kelly has been imposing military-style order as the new Chief of Staff for just a couple of weeks, now. You can look it up.
Then today, just 15 days into the campaign to restore sanity and decorum to the Executive Branch, the General was standing off to the side in the lobby of Trump Tower when Herr Donald hauled his ponderous frame up to the podium and proceeded to shoot off his mouth about the white supremacist atrocity that happened over the weekend in Charlottesville.
I’m going to assume that you know only too well what the bloviating idiot said. Let’s just summarize by saying he strayed a little off script, and gave vent to his inner Brownshirt.
Poor General Kelly was standing there looking disconsolate, his head bowed as if praying for it all to end, while his Commander-in-Chief did everything short of whipping out a white robe and a big pointy hat while screaming “the South Shall Rise Again!“. At one point, I think Kelly was afraid that the North Koreans wouldn’t drop an H-bomb on New York.
Look at the poor SOB. That’s some body language, yes? That’s a guy pleading to his Maker, begging for deliverance – “please merciful Jesus, oh please, stop up yonder sinner’s mouth with thy finest Portland Cement. Failing which, smite me unto death“. Now: should we have felt sorry for the General, as he stood there, a pathetic portrait of utter defeat, realizing that there was no way he was ever going to be able to rein this moron in? Or do we snort derisively and say “that’s what you get for hitching your wagon to a slime-ball, dumbass – you get slimed”. Do we advise the General to hang ’em up and take his pension? Or do we implore him to hang on by the skin of his teeth and try that much harder to keep his pig-ignorant boss from careening backwards through one disastrous shit show after another?
What do you do if you’re an honourable man, serving a godawful thing like Trump? Where does your duty lie? And how much can a good soldier be expected to endure?
Generals McMaster and Mattis must face the same crisis of conscience every time they suit up for another day at the office, probably after a morning ritual of first throwing up their Pop Tarts for twenty odd minutes. As key players in the national security apparatus – National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defence, respectively – they must feel it their awesome, awful duty to limit the geopolitical havoc their boss would surely wreak if left to his own devices.
I wonder, for example, whether it isn’t down to Mattis that despite Donald’s bellicose tweets about how his military options for hitting North Korea were “locked and loaded”, nothing at all has changed in what military types call the “force posture”. No carrier battle groups are steaming west. No extra aircraft are deploying to Guam. Leaves haven’t been cancelled, ships full of armour and munitions aren’t being loaded, reinforcements aren’t being sent to buttress forces in South Korea, the DEFCON hasn’t changed, nothing is going on. It’s as if Mattis sent out a directive saying, in effect, “nobody so much as twitch an eyelid”. The signal from Trump’s windy blow hole may make it sound like it’s bombs away at 0800 Zulu Time, but the more important signal, the one sent by what’s actually happening on the ground, is that there’s nothing to get all excited about. If that’s Mattis at work, aren’t we glad he’s there?
It seems likely, too, that it’s the influence of McMaster that has helped change the tone in US relations toward friend and foe alike – there’s no more talk about reneging on NATO commitments, or telling allies to pay up or get their own goddam nuclear weapons. Doesn’t that mean we want McMaster to stay where he is?
It’s a lot to ask, though. A lot. These men are both distinguished, accomplished and intelligent; Mattis, indeed, is known to be a scholar and a keen student of history. It must make them want to eat their sidearms to work for such a ridiculous dunce. Think of the strain, running around all day after Donald, like parents trying to corral a kid who keeps trying to climb on the stove and stick forks in the toaster. The White House, sadly, wasn’t designed to be child-proofed.
I’d sure quit that noise, in a heartbeat. On the other hand, I don’t have duty, service to country, and personal honour bred into my DNA. I think the poor bastards simply can’t bring themselves to abandon ship. What else can be keeping them there, if not the fear of what might happen if they left?
The question is, can these Generals really succeed at being the adults in the room that keep Toddler Trump from drinking all the Windex under the sink (it’s so pretty and blue)? In Kelly’s case, apparently not. For McMaster and Mattis, maybe – just maybe. As with everything involving Trump, we can only hope for the best and keep our fingers crossed. The man is an ungovernable ball of incoherent and irresistible impulses. He likes to make a great big mess, and throw things at the servants when they come to clean it up. I can’t help but feel pity for those who would try to constrain him.
Oh well, at least the malicious dingbat is so busy defending Nazis that he seems to have forgotten all about his hard-on for Kim Jong-un.