Thursday June 20th 2019, Washington, DC.
Washington is abuzz with both the visit of Prime Minister Trudeau as well as reports of an Iranian drone that is said to have been flying over international waters ostensibly against international law.
Prime Minister Trudeau arrived at the White House where he is participating in a working lunch with President Trump presumably to discuss the USMC (NAFTA 2.0) Trade deal. Given rising tensions with Iran, one would imagine that an American response to so called “Iranian escalation” would have been on the menu, but of course nothing is ever as expected with this president.
President Trump has previously expressed a willingness to meet with Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, as he did with America’s former sworn enemy in the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.
The president has additionally expressed hesitation toward the push for escalation and opening further war fronts in the Middle East, both during his campaign as well as after becoming president, even once joking that he was sometimes responsible for tempering National Security Adviser John Bolton. It should not be forgotten that John Bolton was responsible and right at the forefront of the lies that led the US into the still continuing and disastrous misadventure that was the war in Iraq.
Given the president’s opposition to the Iraq war it is actually quite surprising that he would have gone with John Bolton for the NSA position, and seeming push for another war in the Middle East.
Questions from White House press pool regarding what the US response to Iran would be were met with a coy “you will see” from the president. However, the president went on to express caution and a seeming hesitation to wage full-scale war.
It’s a bit surprising that president Trump seems to be so swayed by John Bolton’s hawkishness toward war and regime change given that Trump’s foreign policy stance is actually not only popular with his base, but in fact enjoys widespread support. De-escalation and a retreat from foreign adventures, and bringing troops home are popular policy ideas across the political divide. The president has absolutely nothing to gain politically by escalating tensions with Iran. His base truly believe that he de-escalated tensions with North Korea and would similarly believe it if he reported similar positive progress with Iran.
Escalating tensions with Iran seems to be a puzzling move that has potential for self-inflicted wounds that would only serve to erode the president’s support. This seems right in line with another extremely puzzling kowtowing of the president to an advisor, in Steven Miller on the question of immigration. Again, Steven Miller’s push to the extreme has only served to inflict harm on the administration. Both Bolton and Miller seem to be advisors who are pushing their own extreme agendas at the president’s expense completely unnecessarily given that the president is aware that his supporters would believe him if he simply told them that he’s dealt with the issue of illegal immigration. They would fully believe him if he told them that the wall on the Mexican border has already been built and they would stand by him if he told them that he has made peace with Iran, exactly the same way that they believed him on North Korea.
I truly believe that in the same way that it was Nixon who could go to China, and Reagan that could make peace with Moscow, Trump could end all military adventures abroad, and even bring troops home from places such as Germany, South Korea and Japan without any push back from the political class and he would actually gain in popularity. Trump could literally pass comprehensive immigration reform with a full pathway to citizenship and not lose any support from among his base. He has, in fact, already shown them that he’s willing to do their bidding. Furthermore, his base believes anything he tells them, so he could literally say anything he wished, while working across the aisle with Democrats to pass some of his pet policies which included raising taxes on hedge fund managers, remaining pro-choice and ending military adventurism abroad.
It therefore beggars the question as to why he seems to bend over backwards to Steven Miller’s extremist immigration policies, to John Bolton’s extreme hawkishness and military adventurism abroad, Mulvaney’s extreme right wing budgets that gave hedge fund managers massive tax cuts, Pence’s extremist bigotry towards the LGBTQ community or the general racism of the right wing. It leaves one wondering whether Trump is actually aware of the policies being enacted in his own administration or whether in fact, these extremists aren’t merely enacting policy and then just bringing it to the president to sign into execution. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Trump is some sort of dove, or that he’s somehow innocent in some of the egregious policies of his administration. His rhetoric leaves no doubt about his willingness and tendency toward cruel callousness. What is clear however is that some of his campaign rhetoric diverts from many of the policies enacted by his administration, begging the question as to whom is really running the country, as Nancy Pelosi has suggested in recent statements about the president’s handle of either his mental faculties or administration policy. It’s quite scary to see just how fragile the so called checks and balances in the American system are in the face of banana-republic-style ruthlessness and corruption.