Saturday, December 22, 2018

Shutdown and Foreign 'ffairs Follies: Just Another Brick In the Wall

Let's look at the latest destruction of American norms this way: Which countries seem to be the happiest with President Trump's assault on the institutions that won the Cold War and have kept the peace since 1945?

China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and although not countries, let's add Hezbollah and ISIS just because.

Could anyone think of a more motley collection of autocrats, dictators, murderers, liars, usurpers, and authoritarians who flout what pass for laws, constitutions, respect for human rights and the dignity of having your own opinion? Vladimir Putin loves the idea of the US pulling out of Syria. So dies Recep Erdogan. They couldn't comment quickly enough.

And let's also look at who was angriest at him for even suggesting that he would sign a budget bill without money for the worst policy idea of the past 80 years: FOX, Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, Sean Hannity and the rest of the far right who did not then and do not now represent the majority view of how this country should comport itself domestically and in foreign affairs.

So naturally, Mr. 46% Small Hands, upon settling down in his bathrobe for the evening, sees that the TV is yelling at him and since the TV knows everything, he needs to shut down the government, deny workers their pay, deny everyone else the opportunity to visit national parks, and generally throw the country into an unsettling funk during the holiday season.

Of course, let's not forget that the president is also stomping on his own economic record by engaging in a silly trade war and being unpredictable enough that the business class, which should be reveling in the shower of money raining down on them, are flop-sweat nervous every weekday morning at 9:30, when the bell to open the stock market shouts its arrival.

The interesting turn in all of this is that I do not altogether disagree with pulling American troops out of quagmires in Afghanistan, Syria, and other nations where for 17 years we've been doing relatively little to solve problems. though we have, in some cases, prevented the political and social problems from getting worse. I supported President Obama's troop withdrawals and I would support President Trump's if I believed that he could do it the right way.

He proved that he could not. And my evidence:

Whither Bibi?

That's right, for all of the congratulations Trump received from the Killing Klass, we've heard not a peep out of Benjamin Netanyahu, who stands to lose a great deal, as does Israel, by an American withdrawal from the Middle East. Because the president, in one fell swoop, did more to strengthen Bashar al-Assad, the mullahs in Iran, Vladimir Putin and Hezbollah than anything they could have done on their own. And they all hate Israel. So the president who says that he loves Israel turns out not to really know what he's doing when it comes to our ally.

The same is true for our European and Asian allies as well. The president is talking about pulling back troops from Japan and South Korea because he doesn't see them contributing enough to their own defense. Making them pay more does make sense, but lessening our influence in a fit of FOX pique is irresponsible and dangerous. China is expanding in that area even with our troops present. Imagine what will happen if we leave.

Of course, Trump's real fear is that he will realistically lose his shot at history by losing the 2020 election, which is becoming more and more a probability. That's why he's focusing more and more on the far right elements of the electorate who supported him in 2016. 

The problem is that by shivving the economy with his unpredictable trade policies, advocating unconditionally for a wall that won't stop the ladders and tunnels (and private property lawsuits) that will inevitably breach it, and playing sandbox politics by telling the country that it's his government and if he doesn't like what's happening then he's going to shut it down, he is narrowing his supporters into only those elements and he will lose more of the moderate conservatives who couldn't stand Hillary Clinton and who then turned on the GOP last month. If he couldn't get a wall through a Republican Congress over the past two years, he's not getting it through Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senators who have their eyes on the party's nomination.

Perhaps cooler heads will resolve the shutdown this weekend. The long-term problems, though, will live on with the bathrobe.

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