* “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China or Napoleon Bonaparte.” President Trump’s inimitable response to critics who say his Syria withdrawal amounts to a betrayal of the Kurds while accommodating Russia and Iran.
* Too bad there is no Kurdistan. The U.S. could use a reliable, Middle East nation-state ally. The Kurds were actually promised a state after the Ottoman Empire collapsed in World War I. Obviously, it never happened. Wonder if Trump knows that?
* “Who Can Trust Trump’s America?” That’s the question asked on the cover of the latest issue of The Economist magazine.
* Trump’s foreign policy: sanctions and tariffs. Next question.
* We know that ambassadorships can be a reward for hefty political contributions. But it’s more likely to be Guinea-Bissau than Great Britain. Some assignments are too important–even for party political payback. Which brings us to Gordon Sondland, whose $1 million donation to Trump’s inaugural resulted in Sondland becoming America’s ambassador to the European Union. That would not have been for sale if Europe were still a Trump Administration priority. And speaking of priorities, there was Sondland, America’s representative to Brussels, working behind the scenes in Ukraine as Rudy Giuliani’s accomplice and enabler. No wonder State Department professionals are embarrassed and appalled about America’s international decision-makers and the accompanying, alarming ramifications.
* Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, acted more like Sean Spicer the other day with his flummoxed parsing of “quid pro quo.” But it did briefly divert attention from his imperious “get over it” directive to journalists. “Elections have consequences.” Then he did a “clarification.” Professional spokespeople shouldn’t need instant, CYA mulligans. The next day, amid a walkback of Trump’s self-serving plan to host the next G-7 summit at his financially-struggling Doral resort, Mulvaney acknowledged that Trump still thinks of himself, emolument scenarios notwithstanding, as working in the “hospitality business.” Think Don Jr. and Eric didn’t already know that?
But, no, don’t look for Mulvaney on “Dancing With the Stars.”
* Trump continues to disparage former Defense Secretary James Mattis for being “overrated.” By whom? The one who nominated him? And, yes, Trump no longer refers to him as “Mad Dog,” which makes him sound like a tough guy who doesn’t respect a chaotic, isolationist, bone-spurs president.
* “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”–That’s William Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, foregoing typical diplomatic rhetoric.
* Alas, Facebook’s fact-checking rules do not apply to political ads. As a result, candidates can spread misleading–or worse–claims. Basically, that means the Trump campaign can show ads that traditional TV networks have declined to air.
* Two-term Florida Republican Congressman Francis Rooney made news lately with his declaration that he was open to presidential impeachment. Good. So much rides on a constitutional reset and the removal of this existential threat. Then Rooney announces that he will be retiring at the end of his term. Not good. “The system we have now, which would probably disappoint our founders, is so oriented toward re-election, raising money. … Everybody is quaking in fear of being criticized by the president,” explained Rooney.
Sorry, Congressman, but as someone who sees what is happening to our democracy through a relatively non-partisan lens, you have to do more than further disappoint our founders. It’s not enough for you or Jeff Flake to publicly call out this president–and then walk away from doing more with your statewide and national forums because your gutsy stands will likely get you primaried in your (Fort Myers-Naples-Marco Island ) Trump-friendly district. It’s got to be country first, something our founders would emphatically endorse.
* It goes without saying that this president is without precedent. George W. Bush, upon reflection, has never seemed so prudent and prepared.
But American fissures have broadened into serious societal fault lines before. Here’s a Henry Kissinger take on a previously combustible era a lot of us lived through. “Perhaps the most serious, surely the most hurtful, domino which fell as a result of the Vietnam War was the cohesion of American society.”
Only this time the cohesion-cratering context is a perfect storm. Start with an unfit, pathologically dangerous, authoritarian president who demonizes non-supplicant media; fuels the fires of white nationalism; emboldens adversaries that attack our electoral system; and ignorantly and arrogantly retreats from global commitments. One who gets along a lot better with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un than Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkle. Then add an under-informed and under assault electorate that is easily manipulated by social media and cherry-picked talking heads. With 65 million followers, Trump has weaponized Twitter.
Some dominoes are easier to recover from than others.