The problem is that all this is not a game. Trump’s chaos has real consequences. Our soon-to-be former allies look on with amazement as Trump gets cover from a cowardly Congress.
Pardon me while I digress to create an analogy. I want to insert a vivid, visual image into your stream of consciousness. Imagine that Donald Trump gave up golf at the beginning of his presidency. Instead, he occupied himself playing paintball.
[The] paintball marker, also known as a “paintball gun” is the primary piece of equipment, used to mark the opposing player with paintballs. …Paintballs, the ammunition used in the marker, are spherical gelatin capsules containing primarily polyethylene glycol, other non-toxic and water-soluble substances, and dye. The quality of paintballs is dependent on the brittleness of the ball’s shell, the roundness of the sphere, and the thickness of the fill; higher-quality balls are almost perfectly spherical, with a very thin shell to guarantee breaking upon impact, and a thick, brightly colored fill that is difficult to hide or wipe off during the game. The highest-grade paintballs incorporate cornstarch and metallic flake into the fill to leave a thick glittery “splat” that is very obvious against any background color, and hard to wipe off.
But instead of colored gelatin, in a fit of mischievousness, or more likely as a maleficent tool to use against his perceived enemies, suppose that Trump fills his paintball gun with plastic baggies filled with doggie doo-doo (puppy poop, if you prefer). It gives a whole different meaning to the old phrase “shoot the sh!t.” Or, as Steve Bannon once pronounced, ‘the way to counter his critics in the media and elsewhere is to “flood the zone with shit.”’
Now your vision has president of the most powerful nation on earth playing poopball. All that would certainly attract attention. Instead of sh!t, substitute “chaos” and there you have the theory espoused by today’s columnists: that Trump practices the use of chaos to garner for himself a load of attention. His apparently random acts are really intentional devices wielded for the purpose of grabbing the attention he craves.
Two years in office can be parentally characterized as Trump’s Terrible Twos. It’s been one poopball splat after another.
Susan B. Glasser (New Yorker) surveys The Year in Trump Freakouts. Jim Mattis is out, the President is leaving Syria without consulting anyone, and that’s just this week in crises of the President’s own making.
President Trump is ending the year as he began it: outraging Washington with a Twitter diktat, one that was cheered in Moscow and jeered on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday morning, the city awoke to an unexpected Presidential announcement that Trump was unilaterally pulling American forces out of Syria, despite having agreed this fall that U.S. troops would remain on the ground there indefinitely. Trump portrayed the decision as both a final victory over the Islamic State, which had overtaken much of the country from the Russia-supported regime of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, and the fulfillment of a campaign promise to exit the Middle East. A full-scale bipartisan freakout ensued, culminating late Thursday with the long-awaited, long-feared news that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would join the procession of Trump officials calling it quits. Was it a direct result of the abrupt about-face on Syria? “I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to the President, “because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.” What we do know is that all the chaos at year’s end is a powerful reminder that the manner in which the President operates is so outside of any normal parameters for governing, so disdainful of process, and so heedless of consequences that his decisions don’t resolve crises so much as create them.
The signature problem with the Trump era is that there are so many Syrias, so many mornings when the President distracts us from the previous day’s controversy with yet another outrage of his own making. But consequences, as with Mattis’s exit and the investigations that appear to be rapidly closing in on Trump himself, are also accumulating. …
So what will Trump do about that accumulation of aggravations? (And it does seem that Trump brushes aside any consequences of his actions as mere aggravations.) Think of it. Trump talks turkey with Erdogan and then withdraws U. S. troops from Syria leaving what is believed by other observers to be a significant ISIS force in place and exposing our allies, the Kurds, to Turkish attacks and Secretary of Defense Mattis resigns in protest. Unprecedented! So we attend to Trump’s latest travesty.
The answer to my question is that he will shoot some more. Splat! More chaos. A governmental shutdown he blames on the Dems (even though he took responsibility last week - but that was last week).
John Cassidy (also at the New Yorker) reveals Donald Trump’s Survival Strategy: Chaos, Diversions, and Lily-Livered Republicans and explains his view of the chaos-as-attention theory.
Amid all the hot air that has been exhaled over the past twenty-some hours over the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and an impending government shutdown, the sharpest comment I saw came from the eighty-year-old Leon Panetta, someone who has seen and done virtually everything in Washington—from serving in Congress for sixteen years to heading the Office of Management and acting as the White House chief of staff during the Clinton Administration, and serving as the director of the C.I.A. and Secretary of Defense under Barack Obama. When interviewed by CNN’s Erin Burnett on Thursday evening, Panetta bemoaned Donald Trump’s failure to heed, or even listen to, the advice of his advisers, such as Mattis, and added, “He enjoys chaos because he thinks chaos produces attention for him.”
When there is a disturbing new headline every few hours, it can be hard to know which ones really matter, or even to remember them. (In a look back at the year in Trump freakouts, my colleague Susan B. Glasser stresses this point.) Last week, it was the announced departure of John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, and the incriminating court filings from Mueller and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. This week, it is the swoon in the stock market, the shuttering of the Trump Foundation, the Mattis resignation, and the Trump-induced spending-bill deadlock. At ten-thirty this morning, the great Orwellian shit spreader was back on Twitter, where he announced, “The Democrats now own the shutdown!”
It is not the case that Trump is without moral convictions. It is the case that Trump’s actions, because they are in service of his own self-serving craving for attention are malignant as Bret Stephens posits, in his letter in the NY Times Dear Anonymous Inside the Trump Administration. He corrects the supposition that Trump has no moral compass. Stephens says “The problem with the president isn’t that he’s an empty vessel. It’s that he’s a malignant one.”
It’s time we revisit that famous op-ed of yours.
In September, you acknowledged that you were a member of the “quiet resistance” within Donald Trump’s administration. You told us that you and others were “working diligently” to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” You said that while you agreed with many of the president’s policies, you were appalled by the president’s amorality, his chaotic management, his “repetitive rants,” his fondness for dictators.
You also believed that your efforts to resist Trump were often successful. On foreign policy, you noted, the administration’s policies were far more sober and serious than the president’s reckless rhetoric.
You were wrong. This week proves it. Assuming you haven’t departed the administration already, now would be the time for you to go. Ditto for all of your fellow “resisters.”
This is the central lesson of James Mattis’s stunning resignation on Thursday. …
Mattis resigned because he no longer shares your analysis. He no longer believes he can be a steadying or blocking force in the councils of government because it isn’t clear there are “councils of government.” Donald Trump made a snap decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria following a phone call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He did so over the unanimous objections of his national-security team. He did so after leading members of that team had said publicly and recently that the U.S. would not withdraw.
A president who sticks it to his own team while sticking with a foreign strongman is not worth sticking by.
Mattis also resigned because he has concluded that the problem with Trump isn’t that he’s an empty vessel. It’s that he’s a malignant one.
Here was the fundamental mistake in your view of Trump: You thought he could be handled. You thought of him as a child who simply needed to be kept away from dangerous toys, as former economic adviser Gary Cohn did when he removed a letter from the president’s desk ordering the end of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.
But our Commodus-in-Chief isn’t just an irascible buffoon whose worst impulses can be confined to Twitter but whose policy instincts largely align with yours. Trump thinks of himself as a man of ideas. Withdrawal from Syria, along with partial withdrawal from Afghanistan, is consonant with the quasi-isolationism he’s preached for decades. He is sympathetic to Erdogan, as he is to other tyrants, because he is indifferent to considerations of human rights and civil liberties.
So it is with you, Anonymous, wherever you might work in the administration. Until now, you may have convinced yourself that real honor lay in putting up with it — with the craziness of your boss and the disdain of your neighbors — because the good of the country (as you see it) demanded it. And until now, you had Mattis to serve as your role model.
But Mattis is going. And the argument can no longer be sustained. If Trump is capable of doing this to Mattis, what’s to keep him from soiling your carpet, too? And even if he never gets to it, you must know by now that you are no longer keeping a bad thing from getting worse. All you are doing is disguising how bad it is, thereby helping it to become worse.
Trump will never have trouble surrounding himself with ambitious and unscrupulous flunkies. Do you want that to describe you? Get out while you still can, whoever you are.
Scriber looks at “ambitious and unscrupulous flunkies” in a broader way: What an awful condemnation of the “Lily-Livered Republicans” in the Congress of the United States of America.