Mac Deford: Impeachment; Trump on Track to Beat Nixon by Five Years
Thursday, February 16, 2017 11:13 AM
Writing about the bumbling chaos that has enveloped Donald Trump’s not-yet-a-month-old presidency — on a Wednesday morning when it won’t get published till Thursday — is like reporting on the impact of a just-occurred major earthquake: who knows how the facts on the ground will change over the next 24 hours.
Trump is a dangerous man.… Even when not operating under pressure — the pressure of trying to keep hidden long-standing business relationships in Russia — his foreign policy blunders have set a record for incompetence, and we’re not a month into his presidency.
What we know, as of Wednesday morning, is that ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn called the Russian ambassador in late December, after President Obama had hit the Russians with sanctions while expelling 35 Russian spies because of overt Russian interference in the just-concluded presidential elections (which not coincidentally was a key factor in Trump’s victory). Flynn told the Russian ambassador — and this was the day after Obama had announced the sanctions — not to worry, that the incoming Trump administration would quickly ease them. Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin, was obviously informed of the conversation, and, acting completely out of character, refused to retaliate against Obama’s actions.
Meanwhile, the White House is asking us to believe that Flynn was a total wild card, operating completely on his own. Let’s put the best interpretation — for President Trump — on Flynn’s behavior: Flynn knew that Trump, for whatever reason, wanted to warm up to Putin’s Russia, so he single-handedly took the decision to reassure their ambassador about Trump’s pro-Russian views. Flynn had already concluded — without ever discussing it with Trump — that Trump would want him to take such an action. And of course he also knew that Trump would not want to be advised of Flynn’s secret dealings with the Russian ambassador. With all his background in intelligence, Flynn had apparently forgotten that his confidential discussion with the Russian had taken place in a phone call and would undoubtedly be picked up by our intelligence agencies.
If that seems a little unbelievable, here’s an alternative: shortly after picking Flynn, Trump told him that he wanted warmer relations with Russia but that since that was bound to be a controversial policy, Trump was authorizing Flynn to lay the groundwork, but in so doing, specifically not to inform Trump, or anyone else in the new Trump White House, of any pro-Russian actions Flynn was taking.
But back to reality. Trump obviously had confidence in Flynn, but does anyone really believe Flynn was authorized to establish a secret new initiative with Russia while keeping Trump totally out of the loop about how and when? As the Trump White House implodes, the ghost of Richard Nixon is surely haunting the place: What did Trump know? And when did he know it?
And — forget Nixon — what has been Republican Trump’s real relationship with Putin’s Russia?
Would you rather have a President Trump who purposely chose to have the most important element of his future foreign policy handled in secret without any input from him? Or one who was, from the beginning, conniving with Flynn on his illegal, possibly treacherous, conversation with the Russian ambassador, thus purposely undermining the existing American president?
Trump is a dangerous man. His current approval ratings are in the low 40s. Historic lows: and that’s before the Flynn/Russian bombshell has been factored in. And how will a severely damaged Trump behave going ahead? Even when not operating under pressure — the pressure of trying to keep hidden long-standing business relationships in Russia — his foreign policy blunders have set a record for incompetence, and we’re not a month into his presidency.
First there was the travel ban aimed at those seven Muslim countries. Hastily conceived, it’s been criticized from both the right and the left. Struck down by a federal court, the ban is, reportedly, being re-written. Or is the White House going to take it to the Supreme Court? Who knows. (And there are more important things on Trump’s plate now.)
Then there was the abrupt cancelation of the planned meeting with the president of Mexico; next, the angry telephone call with the prime minister of our close ally Australia.
And his amateurish nod to Taiwan, which the Chinese quickly, and disdainfully, forced him to backtrack on.
Not to forget his promise to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: scratch that.
Indeed, with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington this week, it’s a nice time to revisit Trump’s view of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. At first, he was supportive of further expansion. Then Jordan’s King Abdullah made a quick, uninvited trip to Washington to tell Trump that such a policy could easily destabilize Jordan, one of the few Arab states that so far has escaped the Arab Winter.
So backtrack again, in an unsurprisingly ambiguous White House statement: “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”
But cut the poor guy some slack. Spending a few hours with Netanyahu will help deflect Trump’s mind from the total meltdown going on around him: a little respite for an overwhelmed president, far out of his depth.
Of course, on top of Trump’s demonstrated total incompetency when it comes to the world outside the White House (and indeed in it), Trump’s foray into the already disastrous Middle East via Netanyahu will surely only make things worse.
(Unverified) Rumor: Odds in Las Vegas that Trump will eventually be impeached are reportedly close to even....