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Donald Trump Jacob Heilbrunn Politics US Politics

Yet again, bluff and bombast are Trump’s policy

Trump supporters may continue to hope for a grand revolution in American affairs, but Trump himself is focused on sublunary matters

December 31, 2018

12:32 PM

31 December 2018

12:32 PM

Well, well, well. So President Trump isn’t serious about Syria. Sen. Lindsey Graham has announced that President Trump is pondering his declaration that its time to bring the boys back from the wasteland of Syria within 30-days. ‘I think we’re in a pause situation,’ Graham said on Sunday. Trump himself tweeted, ‘we’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting ISIS remnants…’

This is classic Trump. Announce a bold policy, create a furor — and then move on. Disarm North Korea? Extract real concessions from Canada and Mexico? Improve relations with Russia? Bulky China into a trade deal on American terms? Build a wall? His attention is too fitful and episodic to follow through on any of his pronouncements. Bluff and bombast aren’t substituting for policy; they are the policy.

Trump faces an additional difficulty in trying to promulgate a new strategic vision. He’s vulnerable to suasion, not from Russia but the Republican Senate. He needs lawmakers such as Graham more than they need him. If it took only one lunch meeting with Graham to dislodge Trump from his much-ballyhooed exit from Syria, imagine the pressure that Trump would face if he really tried to yank troops from Afghanistan. GOP grandees, wedded to the Bush-Cheney doctrine, would go into an uproar. Bottom line: No regime change in Washington on foreign policy.

As the multifarious investigations into his shady past progress in 2019, including apparently hiring illegal aliens as a matter of course at his golf clubs, he will rely on the willingness of Republican senators to shield him, as far as possible, from any serious consequences. He will need the likes of Graham to bolster his contentions that it’s all a gigantic witch-hunt aimed at reversing the verdict of the voters in 2016. Trump supporters may continue to hope for a grand revolution in American affairs, but Trump himself is focused on sublunary matters.

First and foremost is retaining his perch behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. If that requires irresolution on his part, so be it. He knows that the Democrats will be performing the political equivalent of a colonoscopy on the nether regions of his financial affairs. Meanwhile, a crowded field of Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has just announced her candidacy, are eager to show they have the mettle to oust him in 2020. If American troops remain in Syria by 2020, will it be the Democrats who flay Trump for flagrantly failing to deliver on his promise to end America’s wars abroad?


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