It is certainly a perilous time for our republic when such an obvious hawkish nut job as John Bolton will be missed. It should be clear to everyone that Bolton — the just-fired national security adviser — was right in his dispute with President Donald Trump, whose quixotic attempt to invite the Taliban to Camp David led to Bolton’s dismissal.
Bolton is no normal bureaucratic infighter, so the nation probably will not have to wait long for him to fulfill his promise to “have my say in due course.” Bolton is a prideful man and no shrinking violet, which means his “say” could be very interesting, especially given that Trump wasted no time before lashing into his former aide. “You know, John’s known as a tough guy. He’s so tough, he got us into Iraq. That’s tough,” Trump said. For a president who demands absolute loyalty from subordinates, Trump once again showed that loyalty is not a two-way street for him. “He made some very big mistakes,” Trump said of Bolton.
On the issue of talking to the Taliban, I agree with the aphorism usually attributed to Winston Churchill, “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.” (Churchill apparently said something like that in Washington in 1954, but the actual quotation is from Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, uttered in Canberra, Australia, four years later.) But, while talking is better than shooting, the optics of meeting, close to the anniversary of 9/11, at Camp David were, to say the least, terrible. That was obvious to everyone but Trump, but the White House is now a place where there is no one with the authority, the courage, the moral rectitude, or whatever it takes to say, “No, Mr. President, you cannot do that.”
The lack of adults in the room allows Trump to pursue his worst instincts. And, his instincts are the worst, and getting worse and worse. He wants to negotiate with terrorists like the Taliban on home ground. He becomes his own weatherman, tweeting roughly a dozen times that he was right about Hurricane Dorian threatening to hit Alabama and, then, crudely altering an official government map (a crime) in a juvenile attempt at redemption. Business Insider quotes a former White House official, “No one knows what to expect from him anymore.… He’s losing his shit” (Business Insider was more discreet, using dashes for the last three letters).
The suggestion that Trump is getting worse is truly scary, given how bad he was from the start. This is a man who believes countless conspiracy theories (or at least uses them for his own nefarious purposes): President Barack Obama was born outside the United States, Senator Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, climate change is a Chinese hoax, wind farms cause cancer, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered. It does not take much imagination to predict that when Trump loses in 2020 — he trails, by substantial margins, all the leading Democratic contenders in head-to-head matchups and his approval rating is tanking — he will cry “Fraud!” and refuse to vacate the White House.
Am I trafficking in conspiracies in suggesting Trump would cling to office even if he lost the election? Consider his past actions. In the third debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump said, “I will look at it at the time” when asked if he would accept the results of the balloting. Trump never took back his allegation that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election — his explanation for his losing the popular vote — and he established a commission to look into alleged voter fraud, then shut down the panel when it could find no evidence of fraud (because there was none) while refusing to acknowledge the board’s failure. Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping after the ruling Communist Party cleared the way for Xi to serve indefinitely. “He’s now president for life…. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” he told cheering supporters at a fundraiser. A joke, perhaps, though Trump is not noted for his sense of humor.
And, if the past is not frightening enough, consider this tweet from Trump on September 10: A picture of a Trump 2024 placard. Interestingly, the sign does not say “Trump-Pence,” leaving open the possibility, I suppose, that in his dreams he dumps Vice President Mike Pence in favor of first daughter Ivanka. Or, it could refer to the beginning of a dynasty: Ivanka, then Don Jr., and so on. In June, though, the putative president-for-life tweeted a video showing Trump placards for 2024, 2028, 2032, and on and on, indefinitely, set to Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” It ends with a picture of Trump behind a placard that reads, “Trump 4EVA.”
Of more immediate danger is the prospect that Trump will not accept the election results. Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by three million ballots. Current indications are that he will lose in 2020 by even more. While the possibility of a 2020 repeat of 2016 is possible — the Democratic candidate wins the popular vote only to have Trump prevail in the Electoral College — it is becoming more and more likely that Trump will lose, period. Will he leave? Would he spin a conspiracy suggesting the so-called “Deep State,” aided by the “Fake News” media, rigged the election?
He could, and he may well do so. We live in a world conjured by George Orwell, where in 1984, the masses are told what to think by the Ministry of Truth. For hardcore Trump supporters, the only truth is what their leader tells them is the truth. All the rest is “Fake News,” which bows before the president’s “alternative facts.” Backed by his base of true believers, might Trump, spinning his conspiracies, refuse to leave the White House? Will the newly elected president have to send in the military to remove him physically? Would the military comply?
If you think I am being unnecessarily worried, remember this: Trump keeps dropping hints.
Posted September 13, 2019