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Is Trump’s Turkey distraction a miscalculation?

The president has riled up the very senators he may need to save him

October 7, 2019

4:19 PM

7 October 2019

4:19 PM

In pronouncing this morning in his ‘great and unmatched wisdom’ that it is wise for America to abandon the Kurds, Donald Trump has just slightly increased the possibility that the Senate will vote to impeach him. Fooling around in Ukraine is one thing. But dissing the Kurds is another for congressional Republicans. A chorus of Republican hawks has emerged to decry Trump’s move.

Mitt Romney called it a ‘betrayal’. Susan Collins told Politico, ‘This is a terribly unwise decision by the president to abandon our Kurdish allies, who have been our major partner in the fight against the lslamic State.’ Terribly unwise? For Collins, who usually confines herself to expressing ‘concern’, those are fighting words. Still, Romney and Collins have been mildly critical of Trump all along. But now Lindsey Graham, who has been auditioning to become Trump’s new Chris Christie, complained about Trump’s impulsivity on Fox & Friends: ‘I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view.’ Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN ambassador, often touted as a potential replacement for Vice President Mike Pence, declared, ‘The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against Isis in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend.’ Is her real aim to run in 2020 if Trump gets the heave-ho via impeachment proceedings?

For good measure, Trump’s former emissary Brett McGurk wrote, ‘Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.’

There are a variety of reasons that Trump may have made the move. One possibility is that he believes it’s the right one. He campaigned on American First and on extricating America from entanglements abroad, particularly in the Middle East. This is a ‘deliverable’ to his base. He hasn’t succeeded in the larger task of pulling out of Afghanistan; Syria is an easy one.

Another reason might be that he reckoned it would help distract from his impeachment woes. But here Trump may have miscalculated. He has succeeded in riling up the very senators whose support he needs to weather the impeachment storm. Romney can now add the argument of Trump’s general irresponsibility in foreign affairs in seeking to persuade his coevals to back the ouster of Trump from the White House.

But putting aside the decision itself, the manner in which Trump has expounded upon his own sagacity is bound to raise further questions about his mental stability. He’s no benign Lord Emsworth pottering about the manor but a kind of Roderick Spode who seems to have lost whatever marbles he ever possessed. After sounding off about his wisdom, Trump promised that if Turkey does anything he deems ‘off limits,’ then ‘I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).’

Jeepers, creepers. This is reminiscent of his fire and fury days when he was threatening North Korea with destruction before he started playing kissy-face with Kim Jong-un. Who knows? Maybe Trump will execute a volte-face on Syria. But for now he has ignited a firestorm of indignation in the Republican party that may ultimately consume his presidency.


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