Funny thing about Donald: he’s always accusing others of having the bad attitudes and doing the nefarious things he himself has and does, often claiming that his detractors are committing the very misdeeds he is himself in the midst of perpetrating. It’s a little, you know, tell of his. When Trump makes a charge about somebody’s malfeasance, lying, or lack of good faith, it’s invariably something he’s guilty of himself, right that instant. You’re the puppet.
This is a little bit unnerving in light of current events in Iraq, as in the aftermath of the drone strike on Iran’s Quds Force commander Qassam Soleimani, folks all over the internet have been digging out clips of Donald ranting on the eve of the 2012 election, asserting that in order to secure his re-election, President Obama was sure to provoke a war with Iran. Is Donald executing the playbook he once ascribed to his hated predecessor? Does he figure that a good, wholesome war will distract from all this impeachment nonsense, maybe even squelch the whole process as being unpatriotic and dangerously distracting to America’s wartime president, while carrying him to victory on the swelling wave of a rally-round-the-flag effect amplified by the sweaty, semi-hysterical chants of “USA! USA!” bellowed by millions of true believers wearing MAGA hats?
Ridiculous, right? We’ve heard this sort of bunkum before, haven’t we? The same charge was made against Bill Clinton during his impeachment, when the popular political satire film Wag the Dog lent its name to what many suspected Bubba was up to when he ordered a massive cruise missile strike against various targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. He was just trying to distract the electorate from what Monica Lewinsky had been doing to his presidential pecker in the Oval, right? The charge was levelled again when a subsequent set of strikes was made on targets in Iraq, and yet again when the US intervened in the war in Kosovo. What better way to keep everybody’s mind off of his misbehaviour? What else could all that bombing be about?
Well, that was all bullshit. The strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan were an attempt to destroy elements of Al Qaeda, whose growing strength and hostility towards America, Clinton’s intelligence briefs kept insisting, were beginning to pose a grave threat to American lives and interests – intelligence briefs, as we found out all too soon, that were right on the money. The strikes in Iraq were made against suspected Iraqi chemical weapons facilities, part of the ongoing, years-long campaign to keep Saddam Hussein in his box while avoiding a resumption of all out war, a policy which, with the benefit of hindsight, seems more attractive by the week as we contemplate the sorry aftermath of George W. Bush’s hubristic Operation Iraqi Freedom, the unintended consequences of which continue to plague us – are, in fact, plaguing us as I write this. The intervention in Kosovo was a response to an appalling genocide which nearby NATO members were doing far too little to halt, and was thoroughly justified, not to mention one of the few recent US military interventions that achieved its political objectives. The “wag the dog” accusations were pure partisan hackery inspired by political low-lifes like Newt Gingrich, upon whose doorstep much that is now broken in the American political system can certainly be laid.
So it was bunk back then. Surely it’s bunk again today? Could Trump, bad as he is, really be that much of a self-centered moral degenerate? Even at this point it’s difficult to credit, despite everything we know to be wrong with how the man thinks and behaves. Yes, Donald is rash and impulsive, a tendency he exhibited even when he was young and enjoyed a sound mind, and one which the repeated absence of any real consequences, no matter how many ill-conceived, shoot-from-the-hip fiascos he weathered, did nothing to moderate. Yes, he’s mentally unwell, and his natural impulsivity may well be growing even worse as he suffers the effects of incipient dementia, or some other sort of mental affliction manifest in his erratic behaviour and repeated lashing out on social media. Yes, he loves to appear tough and decisive, qualities he believes to be his hallmarks even as he dithers, reverses course, and repeatedly gets out-maneuvered and generally slapped around by cackling foreign potentates. His staggering ignorance and blithe refusal to learn anything certainly make it highly unlikely he’ll have any good ideas of his own. Moreover, having fired anyone with the backbone to tell him anything he doesn’t want to hear, and having also dismantled the National Security Council apparatus vital to strategic presidential decision-making, Donald has left himself with almost no one to turn to for advice but ridiculous sycophant Mike Pompeo, who, despite his purported intelligence, keeps stepping in the dog’s business, and clearly thinks that upping the military ante in the Middle East is a really great idea. For all these reasons the assassination of Soleimani could have seemed, absent the sort of sober second thoughts of which Trump is incapable, like both a booster to his own reputation and a stroke of geopolitical genius. But could any of these character flaws and process malfunctions possibly lead Donald to do such a thing in the hopes of starting a wider war, just to squirm out from under an impeachment, and win another term in office?
This is Donald we’re talking about here, and the toxic stew of flaws and cognitive defects that brews under that ridiculous hairdo have made him much more than a poor decision-maker. He’s Donald the liar. Donald the thief. Donald the conniving schemer. Donald the rapist. The man with no principles, no moral compass, no inhibitions, no shame, no long term plan, no ideology, no capacity for cost/benefit analysis, and no driving motivation save the feral imperative to survive at all costs, no matter who gets hurt. This is the grifter whose whole life has been a litany of immoral and often illegal cheating and stealing. The craven power junkie who decided it was fine for the United States to become Putin’s bitch so long as his Russian pals would rig the election for him. The gambler who, having been caught out in his schemes with Russia, decided, just as soon as he figured he’d gotten away with it, to initiate another round of election rigging with another set of foreigners in Ukraine. The cad who pays hookers and porn stars hush money after bedding them while his wife stays home with his newborn, who cheats on his taxes like nobody since Al Capone, whose long history of financial desperation and money-laundering skullduggery ties him to all sorts of highly unsavoury players in Russian organized crime. The miscreant whose first impulse in any moment of peril is to throw somebody under the bus, sell out his friends, lie like a rug, and escape by doing something even worse than what got him into trouble in the first place, often right out in the open, because who cares? – nothing ever sticks to him anyway. He’s the Teflon Don, not that asshole Gotti, who got caught – Trump prefers mobsters who don’t get caught, OK? Besides, kicking Iran’s ass would be easy, wouldn’t it? Donald has said so repeatedly, as recently as just a few days ago on New Year’s Eve. “It would be over very quickly”, said our Donny, and you can bet he believes it. Maybe a short, sharp, glorious victory seems like just the thing to get him out of his current political mess. Let’s see them try to impeach the Warrior Chieftain of the Persian Gulf! Let’s see if poor, tired old Joe Biden can win a manly-man competition with The Lion Of Iran, Defeater of Perfidious Islam! The winning! Oh, the winning!
I wish I was in a place where I’d put it past him, but gentle readers, at this point I wouldn’t put it past him. I’m still inclined more to the notion that what we’re really seeing is just more of Donald’s thoughtless, ill-conceived blundering about, not any sort of devious scheme, but that’s not terribly comforting either, is it?
As I type here, there are more US air strikes being prosecuted against more Iranian-backed militia targets in Iraq. Were that I could tell you to rest easy tonight.