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Donald Trump And The Inevitable Foreign Policy Crisis

Donald Trump Inauguration

Looking at the same falling poll numbers I was talking about yesterday, Daniel Drezner worries that President Trump may escalate a foreign crisis in an effort to rebuild his popularity:

For Trump to be polling this badly so early in his presidency is unprecedented. For this to be happening in a reasonably decent economy is even more unprecedented. What will an unpopular president who is obsessed with being popular do in such circumstances? Escalate a foreign policy crisis to get Americans to rally around the flag.

Daniel Larison isn’t so sure that Trump would benefit much from a “rally around the flag” effect:

Drezner notes that Trump’s low approval ratings at this stage of his presidency are unprecedented, and they are. Why is that? Most Americans don’t just think he is doing a poor job, but many of them also don’t trust that he knows how to do the job at all. If Trump were to escalate a foreign crisis in the hopes of boosting his approval rating, he would discover quickly that in doing this he had further eroded any remaining public confidence in his leadership.

For one thing, there would be widespread suspicion that he was making his decisions for cynical political reasons and not because he had legitimate national security concerns. Other ostensibly national security-related decisions that Trump has already made have been greeted with such suspicion, and with some justification. Given how tarnished (or non-existent) his credibility is with so many people already, a lot of Americans wouldn’t believe him no matter what he said about his reasons. It would also ensure that his presidency was dominated by preoccupation with foreign policy problems to the exclusion of almost everything else, and many of his supporters would not approve of that. Trump might still do something that foolish, but if he did it would be practically guaranteed to consume his presidency.

(…)

Instead of rallying the public behind the president, we see in the record many times that the president’s failure to avert and/or solve the crisis or his responsibility for getting the U.S. into a costly, protracted war hardens domestic opposition to him and causes many of his former supporters to turn against him. That is even more likely to be result if the president is seen as the one responsible for instigating or worsening an otherwise manageable crisis.

Until this crisis comes, and it seems inevitable that Trump, like every President since at least World War II before him, will face some kind of foreign policy crisis at some point in the next four years whether it comes in Syria, Eastern Europe, or the Korean Peninsula it’s hard to say exactly what might happen. On the one hand, it’s generally been true that Presidents do tend to see their popularity at home increase in the wake of a foreign policy crisis, but those instances have almost universally come in situations where the President’s overall job approval was in reasonably good shape to begin with and the American people had at least some innate trust in the person making the decisions in the Oval Office. In this case, we’re talking about a President with historically low job approval ratings who has absolutely no experience in dealing with foreign affairs beyond the women he’s dated. In such a situation, it’s likely going to be the case that the American people are less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt and more likely to question his judgment. Certainly, his most loyal supporters will probably rally around him, and he might see some uptick in support from people who have drifted away over the past two months, but it seems rather unlikely that President Trump would see the kind of massive increase in job approval and popularity that past Presidents have seen in the face of an international crisis. Whether this makes him more or less likely to lash out is an open question,

The more interesting question for me isn’t so much whether Trump’s popularity could increase or decrease in the wake of a foreign policy crisis, but whether the American people would either believe him or trust that he can make the right decisions. We’ve never really been in a situation where an unpopular President was forced to deal with a foreign policy crisis, so it’s hard to say how the public would react if Trump were to suddenly to try to rally public support for military action somewhere around the world. Given the general war-weariness of the American public, I suspect that the initial public response would be rather negative, but we can’t be sure about that. Additionally, we don’t really know how Trump himself will continue to react to the fact that he is becoming increasingly unpopular with the American public as a whole and how that could impact his response to a crisis somewhere around the world. At some point in the relatively near future, though, I suspect we will all find out. Unfortunately, my instincts tell me that it won’t end well for anyone.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    I too am very concerned about a Reichstag fire.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  2. michael reynolds says:

    The various factions in the White House are busily excluding Trump from his own presidency. He’s being treated like a toddler with ADD – let’s sit him down in front of the TV and hope to God he stays quiet.

    The question is whether, in a crisis, Trump can be kept from making decisions at all. If he can’t be kept from making decisions and belching out random tweets then we may see a crisis turn very bad, very quickly. There is a skeleton force of competent military, intel and foreign policy guys – McMaster, Mattis, Pompeo and Haley. But there are also irrelevant ciphers like Tillerson, random in-over-their-heads egomaniacs like Jared Kushner and Ivanka, and malicious cretins like Bannon and his creatures.

    Overshadowing everything are serious questions about Trump’s loyalty as an American citizen. And the dead weight of Trump’s previous idiot blurtings on the subject of foreign policy.

    The guy who should theoretically be in charge is so stupid, unprepared, reckless, lazy, dishonest and compromised that he has to be kept immobilized. No one believes the one who should be in charge. No one trusts him. His word is worth nothing. Our best hope is that the POTUS can be sidelined, and that his White House loyalists can be ignored. Which leaves who in charge of the crisis? Who is the decider?

    An incompetent president, an incompetent White House, an arguably competent (or at least sane) but understaffed and leaderless national security team.

    Imagine the Cuban missile crisis with this regime in charge. We would still be digging out from the radioactive rubble.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 34 Thumb down 0

  3. SKI says:

    @michael reynolds:

    No one trusts him. His word is worth nothing.

    THIS.

    Super unpopular is one thing. Demonstrated liar with no credibility is a much more problematic issue.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  4. MarkedMan says:

    The incredible ineptitude of what’s unfolding with Syria may give an indication of how it will go down. Trump spent months on the campaign trail expressing an embarrassing man crush on Putin for his “strength” and, pointedly, never mentioned the Russian enabled atrocities in Syria. In the past two weeks two senior Trump officials(Tillerson/Haley) spoke publicly to signal that the official US view was that whatever Syria did was an internal matter. (I’m no diplomat, but I’ve always understood that it is accepted diplomatic code that if you make a pronouncement in public you are showing that you are giving the green light officially and that it can’t later be claimed to be a misunderstanding.)

    I was disgusted when I saw this happen and was completely unsurprised when Assad started using chemical weapons on his own people. This was what the Republican party has taken us to, when the leader of their party publicly gives the go ahead to a butcher and the congressional leadership ignores it. It was clear though. He said we were too involved during the campaign. He said over and over that he admired Assad’s protector, Putin, for handling things with an iron fist. And then two separate administration officials very publicly said, essentially, we were looking the other way. As disgusting as it was, that was his intention right?

    Except, by his reaction today, it appears no one in the administration understood the consequences of Tillerson’s or Haley’s comments in the last week, nor Trump’s Putin-love over the past couple of years. They are dumbfounded that pictures of dead babies are on the news with the headlines that Trump gave the nod to Assad to go ahead. Their solution: blame Obama. Yes. Really.

    No, he is not going to get the benefit of the doubt. When a terrorist strike hits this country hard, I’ll be on the streets calling for his impeachment. We cannot have this buffoon at the controls when the sh*t hits the fan.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 0

  5. KM says:

    It crossed a lot of lines for me,” the president said during a Rose Garden press conference on Wednesday with Jordan’s King Abdullah. “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal that people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many many lines.”

    For god’s sake, this is what the national comforter came up with. Repeated babbling of simple words. “A gas so lethal people were shocked” because he couldn’t be bothered to know the actual name of what killed those “little babies” on his watch. Phrasing like internet clickbait headlines. Nonsense about lines – like children haven’t been dying horrible for years, like Aleppo and other tragedies weren’t over the line.

    Republicans, when its our turn and our dead in the streets, Trump’s going to repeat “lines” about six times and act like he’s not where the buck stops in these matters. He’s going to prattle on, blame someone else and do it so poorly a fifth-grader would do better at sympathy and eloquence. This is what’s going to be on TV when you need reassurance, need leadership. I hope you have time to regret your choice.

    We. Are. Screwed. Thanks a lot, GOP.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 0

  6. Pch101 says:

    I would bet that the odds of a terrorist attack on a Trump-branded property aren’t low.

    Of course, Trump will be inclined to overreact to such an act because it would be an attack on his brand. The response could be, er…interesting.

    His reaction to the healthcare failure and Bannon’s ousting from the NSC signal a pivot to the establishment. I suspect that a foreign policy crisis would push him further in that direction — although the establishment approach is preferable to Tea Party populism, it won’t exactly be a winner, either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. MBunge says:

    We’ve never really been in a situation where an unpopular President was forced to deal with a foreign policy crisis

    Jimmy Carter says “Hi!”

    Mike

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 20

  8. michael reynolds says:

    We can’t get further involved in Syria without running into Russians. So I doubt Trump will do anything about that, which, in my opinion, would be the right response. Obama was right to see Syria as quicksand. Do some condemning and some sympathizing and stay the hell away.

    Iran doesn’t seem interested in provoking a US response at this point.

    Korea is what worries me – if that heats up I may take a vacation a safe distance away from the west coast. What will Putin have to say about it? What is the Russian position? Enjoy seeing China and the US at each other’s throats? Use it as a nice distraction from a Russian move in the Baltics or the Balkans? I don’t think you can guess Trump’s reaction without knowing what his master prefers.Can the FP/DoD/Intel establishment force Trump to defy Putin? I dunno.

    I’d love to know if any additional aircraft carriers have gotten orders to head for the Sea of Japan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. grumpy realist says:

    Heck, I think that Trump is so egotistical that he wouldn’t care if North Korea took out NYC or San Francisco, as long as it gave him an excuse to lob a nuke back.

    (Do I think he’d really care about his wife? No. He’ll think he’s upset because she’s “his” wife, but I doubt his his wives have been anything more to him than arm candy for him to boast about.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. OT, but this is pretty inspiring. (I can’t figure out if I’m madder at the school principal, or the idiot school board who didn’t vet her.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. James Pearce says:

    @MBunge:

    Jimmy Carter says “Hi!”

    Herbert Hoover says, “Whut?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  12. CSK says:

    Good one, Doug: “…we’re talking about a president with historically low job ratings who has absolutely no experience in dealing with foreign affairs beyond the women his dated.” But you have to remember that according to Trump, he’s “slept with the top women in the world.” The. Top. Women. In. The. World. Surely that counts for something.

    @michael reynolds:

    If his manhood is questioned, or he thinks it is, keeping him in front of the tv might require sedatives and a strait jacket.

    @Pch101:

    You bet that the odds of a terrorist attack on a Trump property aren’t low. I concur. Didn’t Uday and Qusay Trump just open a new Trump International Golf Resort in Dubai?

    @michael reynolds:

    Oh, yeah. If Kim Jong Un says Trump has short fingers, Pyongyang gets turned into a sheet of blue glass, and so do San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Except, by his reaction today, it appears no one in the administration understood the consequences of Tillerson’s or Haley’s comments in the last week, nor Trump’s Putin-love over the past couple of years.

    This. Exactly. They have no f’ing idea what they are doing. Zero.
    McCain was screaming about it. But barely anyone was listening.

    That is one of the more unusual statements I have ever heard. I know Mr. Tillerson was busy, but did he miss the barrel bombing? Did he miss the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? Did he miss the Russians striking with precision weapons, hospitals in Aleppo deliberately killing people in hospitals? And to say now that we’re going to turn our backs on these people? What about the thousands we have trained and equipped? What about those people? What signal do we send people who struggle for freedom around the world? That Syria is determining its own future? Let’s go back few years. Bashir Assad was on his way out the door before Hezbollah came in with the Iranians sponsoring them and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. how can the syrian people determine their own future?

    I don’t think Obama did the best job with this, but it’s a difficult situation.
    But Trump gave Assad the green light, and then just blamed Obama when it went to shit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. gVOR08 says:

    On the one hand, it’s generally been true that Presidents do tend to see their popularity at home increase in the wake of a foreign policy crisis, but those instances have almost universally come in situations where the President’s overall job approval was in reasonably good shape to begin with and the American people had at least some innate trust in the person making the decisions in the Oval Office.

    Also, they weren’t seen as totally screwing up the response. What are the odds of that with Trump?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    I don’t think Obama did the best job with this, but it’s a difficult situation.
    But Trump gave Assad the green light, and then just blamed Obama when it went to shit.

    Wow… We all seem to be getting the Conservative gaslight treatment…

    When POTUS Obama was elected and spoke honestly about the Iraq war, and our position in the Middle East, Conservatives said that he and liberals should stop, and NOT blame Bush for the war that we were in.

    He was President now, he owned it.

    But now?

    POTUS Trump steps up, and bravely… blames the last guy.

    Where is the Conservative Greek chorus now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  16. teve tory says:

    @michael reynolds: “Korea is what worries me – if that heats up I may take a vacation a safe distance away from the west coast. ”

    NK doesn’t even have a missile capable of hitting hawaii. They have no nuclear warheads, they have damn few missiles period, and most of them are SCUDs, which are roughly as accurate as bottle rockets. What exactly are you askeered of?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. teve tory says:

    Retweeted Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl):
    Putin props up Assad.
    Syrians try to flee.
    Trump bans Syrian refugees because they’re Muslim.
    Assad kills them.
    Trump blames Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  18. Mr. Bluster says:

    In other news, the Makanda Township Board which has been in the iron grip of Republicans will be composed of three Democratic Trustees and one Republican Trustee instead of 4 Republican Trustees after yesterdays municipal elections.
    This IS YUGE!!!
    Makanda Township Democrat’s campaign literature states that the Republican’s have controlled the Township for “as long as anyone can remember”. I can only attest to the last 50 years that I have lived here.
    Maybe they will finally do something about the fact that the Township Road Commissioner, a Republican who ran unopposed, is the same guy who owns the private road construction company that wins all the bids for road improvements in the Township.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. michael reynolds says:

    @teve tory:
    Of a freighter pulling into the bay and setting off a nuke.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. teve tory says:

    @michael reynolds: a nuke, possibly, and they supposedly have biological weapons, and almost certainly have chemical weapons, so the freighter method is possible. It would be psycho and suicidal, but who knows, the last year’s events are enough to make anybody uncertain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Ig'nint in Transit says:

    @MBunge: Jimmy Carter and Trump in the same breath? Really? Honest to God?

    JEC=/=DJT. Not even close, even for you. You’re smarter than this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  22. Ig'nint in Transit says:

    @grumpy realist: Well clearly they were breeding cattle, too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Ig'nint in Transit says:

    @grumpy realist: I wish it weren’t true, but often due dilligence comes after the fact in school hiring.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Jake says:

    You guys are a bunch of cheerleaders hoping for the worst because Trump is President. Sad

    Cognitive Dissonance

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 22

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Jake:
    I’m curious. Are you so dense you don’t see the screaming hypocrisy? Or are you aware that you’re being a hypocrite but have convinced yourself that no one will remember the last eight years?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  26. James Pearce says:

    @Jake:

    You guys are a bunch of cheerleaders hoping for the worst because Trump is President.

    The worst has already happened. Donald Trump is in the White House.

    You’ll come around too. He is, after all, going to be most destructive to the stuff that you care about. Are you going to be dumb enough to cheer him on?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  27. rachel says:

    @Jake: Being sure bad stuff is going to happen ≠ wanting bad stuff to happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  28. Slugger says:

    Exactly who is in charge of America’s foreign policy? It appears to be the son-in-law. Jared just visited Iraq and is facilitating the Chinese state visit which is to be held at Mar a Lago. If I were a foreign leader I would assume that the US is a personal fiefdom rather than a republic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. MBunge says:

    @Ig’nint in Transit:

    You, however, are apparently not smarter than this. Carter’s Gallup poll numbers were, I believe, as bad or worse than Trump’s for basically an entire year BEFORE the Iranian hostage crisis. Carter’s supposed superiority to Trump is irrelevant. The point is that the contention that we’ve never had an unpopular President deal with a foreign policy crisis before is stunningly ignorant and Carter is merely one example.

    I mean, FFS, you don’t even have to know any history. All you have to know is that America’s been around for over 200 years. If you assume that in all that there was never a time when an unpopular President had to deal with a foreign policy crisis, you must be one of the dumbest people who has ever lived.

    Which Mataconis isn’t, of course, but he’s one of a great many who’ve decided they can turn their brains off because “Trump is awful” is now the answer to every question facing Mankind.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 13

  30. Pch101 says:

    You gotta love Trump. His comment about Assad:

    “I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact. My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much… You’re now talking about a whole different level.”

    It’s not exactly a secret that Assad had an atrocious human rights record prior to this. If Trump had spent a whopping five minutes on Google or if he had consulted with the State Department, CIA, etc. then he would have known a long time ago that Assad was an, er, “bad hombre.”

    Trump talks about affairs both foreign and domestic with less depth than a typical twelve year old. He truly is stupid.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  31. michael reynolds says:

    @Pch101:

    He truly is stupid.

    I always said he was. But frankly he’s even dumber than I thought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  32. Gustopher says:

    Well, now what?

    – Do we let in refugees, even though they are terrifying, brown and Muslim?
    – Go after Assad, even though the Russians are supporting him?
    – Register an impotent protest?

    Who knew Presidenting could be so complicated?

    (A successful Trump policy might be to talk to Putin, and see if he would accept a kinder, gentler dictator, and Assad’s head on a pike — cede Syria and its warm water ports to the Russians)

    (Syria also comes with a metric sh.tload of problems, like ISIS and rebels, so it wouldn’t be a cakewalk for the Russians. First prize: Syria, second prize: two Syrias…)

    (We could topple some other dictator somewhere else, and declare victory since fewer people live under dictatorships)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  33. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Carter = made mistakes, sometimes bad ones, sometimes resulting from personality traits

    Trump = a f*cking moron who doesn’t understand the basic context of any foreign or domestic situation

    Have we got that clear now?

    Good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  34. James Pearce says:

    @MBunge:

    The point is that the contention that we’ve never had an unpopular President deal with a foreign policy crisis before is stunningly ignorant and Carter is merely one example.

    I think you’re underestimating Trump’s unpopularity. After all, Trump isn’t merely “an unpopular president” (you don’t have to capitalize it unless you’re using it as an honorific). He’s in low 40s territory a mere six months after his election. Everything he’s attempted –staffing the gov’t, the Muslim ban, Obamacare repeal– has been bungled.

    But you’re going to be the guy citing Jimmy Carter as Trump’s most analogous presidency? Okay…

    @Pch101:

    Trump talks about affairs both foreign and domestic with less depth than a typical twelve year old.

    And yet, he’s savvy enough to recognize that his previously position –post-dead kid pictures– was untenable. Having seen the ground shifting beneath his feet, Trump shifts his feet. Rather than resembling a 12 year old, it brings to mind a more-wily-than-shrewd survivor who would do anything to live another day.

    He doesn’t want a bunch of reporters asking him why he supports Assad with dead baby pictures everywhere. He’d rather talk about Susan Rice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  35. Pch101 says:

    @James Pearce:

    You must be really impressed by kids who try to blame their invisible friends whenever they break things.

    No, the president only looks like an idiot when he responds to an international incident as if he is a deer in the headlights. Condemning Assad would be one thing; “ohmigawd, I didn’t know that he was such a meanie, like totally!” is another. It makes him look ignorant and weak.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ig’nint in Transit:

    You’re smarter than this.

    Whatever gave you that idea?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Scott says:

    @Gustopher: Syria is probably one of the most complex problems.

    Assad is a murderous thug.

    ISIS are murderous thugs

    Al-Queda are murderous thugs.

    They all hate each other

    Turks hate the Kurds and vice versa

    Iran hates ISIS; supports Assad

    Iran hates Kurds

    Assad and Russia are fighting ISIS

    US and Kurds are fighting ISIS

    Trying to make sense of this is near impossible.

    Personally, I have no clue what to do about it, so my instinct is to stay far away.

    As heinous as chemical attacks and dead babies are, I see nothing we can do to improve things

    This is the very definition of tragedy..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  38. Jake says:
  39. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    No, the president only looks like an idiot when he responds to an international incident as if he is a deer in the headlights.

    But he didn’t respond to an international incident like a deer in headlights. He sent Nikki Haley to the UN to hold up pictures of dead kids and challenge Russia’s handling of the situation.

    Oh sure, he got up in front a mic and farted out a few anti-Obama comments, but Trump himself is all mouth. Ignore what he says. It’s just sound waves vibrating air particles.

    Focus on what he does.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  40. grumpy realist says:

    OT (sorta) but it looks like the White House is now having screaming matches with Congress about not getting Trumpcare passed.

    They don’t care how awful a hairball gets passed; they just want something so they can keep from getting fired by Trump.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. JohnMcC says:

    @MBunge: Mike, the actual polling numbers for Pres Carter show that there was a distinct bump in presidential approval from the 30% range to the 55-60% area that coincides with the Nov ’79 Tehran Embassy crisis. If what you meant by your post is that unpopular presidents do NOT get a boost in popularity during a crisis, you’ve just weighted the argument against yourself.

    John

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  42. James Pearce says:

    @Jake: You know how I know this Susan Rice stuff is BS? Trump’s lips are moving.

    File charges. Put it before a court. That’s what you do with someone you suspect has committed a crime.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  43. JohnMcC says:

    @Scott: I’ll put a teardrop stained exclamation point to what he said: !

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. Pch101 says:

    @James Pearce:

    Sources report that the program “Insights from James Pearce” has been cancelled due to lack of content.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  45. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    Sources report that the program “Insights from James Pearce” has been cancelled due to lack of content.

    Isn’t there a Pepsi commercial you should be protesting or something?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  46. grumpy realist says:

    (continuing from above) Looks like a surprising number of people at the White House haven’t yet figured out that they don’t get to choose the Speaker of the House. Or fire him.

    More popcorn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  47. KM says:

    @James Pearce:

    But he didn’t respond to an international incident like a deer in headlights. He sent Nikki Haley to the UN to hold up pictures of dead kids and challenge Russia’s handling of the situation.

    I’m sorry but that’s the bare minimum he should have done. Part of his job is to be the public face of the nation and he dropped the ball. The stuttering, repeative nonsense he threw out on camera is what most people are going to take as gospel since he’s the one in charge. He could send Jesus to the UN to point out to Russia child murder is wrong and it won’t change the fact that his face was the one the world saw respond. It’s so sad we as a nation are reduced to being expected to praise Trump for guilt tripping frigging murderers. Does he want a cookie for being brave enough to say Assad did something wrong too? Since when is being a decent human being and noting dead children = bad thing something worthy of note?

    Unless TRUMP (not his minions) is calling for Russia to kick Assad’s ass and publicly disavow his regime in plain English, its nothing . Russia doesn’t have to support anyone else if they really don’t want to but the blood on Assad’s hands is blood on theirs…. and ours considering Trump’s not got the balls to ask Putin WTF?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  48. teve tory says:

    @Ig’nint in Transit:

    @MBunge: Jimmy Carter and Trump in the same breath? Really? Honest to God?

    JEC=/=DJT. Not even close, even for you. You’re smarter than this.

    Assumed facts not in evidence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  49. teve tory says:

    @James Pearce: Yep. Susan Rice was National Security Advisor for 4 years. She has never requested immunity for anything she did. Mike Flynn was National Security Advisor for 3 weeks, and he’s requesting immunity from prosecution. You have to be as dumb as a Trumper to think Rice is the scandal instead of Flynn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  50. James Pearce says:

    @KM:

    Does he want a cookie for being brave enough to say Assad did something wrong too?

    Probably, yes.

    And hey, I’m not saying he’s some great statesman. It’s pretty obvious that he’s not. I don’t expect that from him and only gullible Trump voters should.

    I expect him to say one thing and do another, because on one hand his supporters are so degenerate that he can’t be seen doing anything too sensible, but on the other hand, he’s actually charged with a pretty significant duty that he knows can’t be shirked.

    I would also have to assume that he’s been assured by people who don’t get their info from Zerohedge that his previous position was untenable. Not saying he’s rising to the occasion. But on Syria there seems to be an awareness that he won’t be able to get by on bullshit alone.

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  51. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce:

    And yet, he’s savvy enough to recognize that his previously position –post-dead kid pictures– was untenable.

    I wouldn’t call it savvy, myself. It’s more of an instinct, a reflex action.

    It just hit me… Trump is Zelig.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  52. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Aw, cut them a little slack. Trump still thinks he’s hosting Celebrity Apprentice.

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  53. grumpy realist says:

    Woman of Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party complains about leopards eating her face.

    sigh…. I haven’t figured out whether to stick this in the Faithful Believer column or the Totally Stupid column. Probably both.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  54. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I liked the part where she said that she just knew that Trump would let all the good people, such as her husband, stay.

    Sigh.

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  55. Pch101 says:

    If Trump was a genius 3D chess player, then he would have known that playing kissy face with Assad might encourage the Syrian dictator to ratchet up the stakes because the world’s great superpower now had his back.

    If Trump was a genius 3D chess player, then he would not have put himself in league with Assad in the first place because Assad could be expected to fight at all costs to remain in power and therefore can’t be trusted.

    Instead, Trump speaks in terms that make it obvious to US opponents and allies alike that he is a bona fide moron who has the policy and strategy smarts of a typical Breitbart fan.

    This shouldn’t be tough to understand, but we have some tiddlywinks players among us who believe that they understand how the game is played.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  56. grumpy realist says:

    Another good analysis of the Trump + hangers on vs. everyone else situation.

    Maybe we’ll just have to learn the hard way that you don’t elect incompetents into positions of power. And that “competency” isn’t something that you gain by schmoozing people.

    (Actually, what really surprises me is how Trump has shown himself so completely terrible at doing ANYTHING. Has he really been nothing more than a big blowhard riding on his “reputation” his entire life? Or is the Alzheimer’s kicking in?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  57. Pch101 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’m sure that there are more than a few Trump supporters who believed that scrapping Obamacare would mean that only the bad people (read: non-white folks) would lose their health coverage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  58. grumpy realist says:

    And AAAWWWAAAAYYY we go in the Bannon-Kushner war!

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer couple.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  59. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The answer to your question is…yes.
    Trump has never been accountable to anyone till now. He’s never faced a board of directors or irate stockholders screaming for his head. He’s never been challenged by anyone in his weight class, because he only cheats or picks fights with people who have neither the money nor the power to fight back.

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  60. Scott says:

    @grumpy realist: Surely Bannon knows that you never go against family. I think we know how this will end.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  61. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Oh, Lawd, are we taking bets on this? If anyone goes, it will be Bannon, I’m sure, since Kushner is family, more or less. But how long will it take? Bannon himsef predicted he’d be gone in six months if Kushner gained primacy.

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  62. grumpy realist says:

    From an article over at NYMag. Talk about le mot juste (emphasis added):

    Jonathan Swan reports, “the hatred between the two wings is intense and irreconcilable,” and that “the Bannonites believe the liberals” — another Bannonite term for the conventional Republicans advising Trump, who are not liberal — “staged a coup and will turn Trump into a conventional squish who betrays the very voters who brought him to power. The Jared wing thinks the Bannonites are clinically nuts.” Evidence suggests both sides are correct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  63. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    I would also have to assume that he’s been assured by people who don’t get their info from Zerohedge that his previous position was untenable.

    You assume he talks to anyone who doesn’t get their info from Zerohedge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  64. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    If Trump was a genius 3D chess player

    So if you’re arguing with the guy who thinks Trump is a genius 3D chess player….why are you lobbing insults my way?

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    You assume he talks to anyone who doesn’t get their info from Zerohedge.

    HR McMaster doesn’t get his info from Zerohedge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  65. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Bannon and Manilow are both out today. Glorious!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  66. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:
    HR McMaster is MIA

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  67. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce:

    on the other hand, he’s actually charged with a pretty significant duty that he knows can’t be shirked.

    You have evidence he knows this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  68. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    HR McMaster is MIA

    You say that even as lots of reporting is being done indicating McMaster was largely responsible for Bannon’s ejection from the NSC. MIA, or invisible?

    @gVOR08:

    You have evidence he knows this?

    No, but if he doesn’t know it yet, he’ll learn soon enough.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  69. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    You say that even as lots of reporting is being done indicating McMaster was largely responsible for Bannon’s ejection from the NSC.

    Silly…Trump went to Jared.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  70. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    March 30th: Tillerson and Haley both say Assad can stay in power.
    April 4th: Assad celebrates by gassing 75 to death.
    Tillerson on April 6th:

    “Assad’s role in the future is uncertain, clearly, and with the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people…The process by which Assad would leave is something that I think requires an international community effort—both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country, to avoid further civil war, and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving.

    Emphasis mine.
    That’s quite a laundry list for an administration that hasn’t gotten anything at all done yet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  71. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
    In Sept. 2013, after a far more deadly gas attack, Trump urged Obama (via twitter) not to attack Syria.

    President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your “powder” for another (and more important) day!

    AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA – IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!

    Yesterday he condemned Obama for not attacking Syria.

    “Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world…These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  72. KM says:

    Russia’s now trying to blame the rebels, saying it was a “weapons depo” that got hit and leaked. Trumpkins all over the net are buying it, parroting that “why would Syria attack their own people? what do they gain?”

    They gain dead rebels.

    They gain dead civilians, who can be used for PR.

    They gain a demoralizing strike against their foes.

    They gain impunity to murder when morons believe rebel forces can make massive qty of sarin that require stockpiling that manage to not be incinerated in the airstrike.

    But because the lamestream media lies (look at what they say about Trump!!), Russia’s a more credible source to them. You can’t believe the media, they make up fake news! Why would Assad do that – Russia’s right, it was the rebels!! I said it upthread – it doesn’t matter what Haley did at the UN. Trump needs to come out and declare Assad a “bad hombre” and that Russia is lying through their teeth. His people won’t accept it otherwise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  73. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Silly…Trump went to Jared.

    So?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  74. grumpy realist says:

    @James Pearce: It was probably Jared and McMaster getting together, going to Trump, and saying “look, you have to get rid of this guy.” McMaster could have simply laid down the law, saying “if you want me to stay around, get rid of that idiot.” And Trump, already miffed at SNL’s depiction of Bannon being the actual power behind the throne with Trump as a puppet, agreed.

    Bannon’s obviously trying to rally the alt-right flying monkeys to go after Jared but I don’t think that’s going to help him much. Trump’s going to support Jared, if for nothing else that if he doesn’t, Ivanka gets mad.

    Yeah, we’re living in a banana republic…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  75. Noah Cross says:

    @Scott:

    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guess my name
    But what’s puzzling you
    Is the nature of my game

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  76. al-Alameda says:

    @Pch101:

    You gotta love Trump. His comment about Assad:

    “I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact. My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much… You’re now talking about a whole different level.”

    He instinctively knew what to do: suck thumb and blame Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  77. Tyrell says:

    The situation in Syria has been one of destruction and sadness. This has been going on for the last several years. Lines have been drawn time and again, movements, discussions, proposals, and plans. Yet the horrific destruction of this once beautiful country continues. Ancient sites and artifacts have been destroyed. The historical and Biblical city of Damascus is rubble: a city of flowing fountains and shade trees; the city of General Allenby and Colonel Lawrence.
    Where is the UN ? The Secretary of State needs to address the American people and lay out the issues, history, and implications. Who are we with ? Who are we against ? Why ? What are our options? What are some of the other countries going to do? The nations of France, Germany, England and others need to be in on this too. Their countries are seeing huge numbers of immigrants from that area. Some have proved to be dangerous terrorists.
    We already see what happens if the nations do nothing: disaster.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  78. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:

    And what do you suggest? Shall we invade and occupy? Shall we bomb Damascus and risk running into the Russian air force? Shall we carve out a safe zone, and if so: where? And how will it be defended, at what risk and at what cost?

    What would the end game be? How would we know we’ve won? Between the Kurds and our NATO ally Turkey – who hate each other – who do we back? And what countries do you imagine will be in a hurry to get into a bloody adventure with Trump?

    100% of people agree ‘something should be done.’ 0% of people have a good idea as to what that ‘something’ should be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  79. Tyrell says:

    The points and questions you raise are exactly what needs to be clearly answered before any action. I would stay out. This is a huge mess and could prove to be sticky as pine rosin.
    Eisenhower warned to stay out of brushfire wars. Even if we did well, what then ? How do we get out ? Always the big problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  80. James Pearce says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Trump’s going to support Jared, if for nothing else that if he doesn’t, Ivanka gets mad.

    Yeah, we’re living in a banana republic…

    Big time.

    Although, with drama like this, it’s not unthinkable that Jared Kushner might soon better be known as Ivanka’s first husband.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  81. michael reynolds says:

    It looks like we’re doing Kabuki again.

    1) Call the Russian-American deconfliction hotline. Warn them there are some cruise missiles heading toward a Syrian airfield.

    2) Russians stand clear. Syrians also stand clear.

    3) We blow holes in a runway.

    4) Bulldozers fill holes.

    5) Trump claims this proves he’s not in Putin’s pocket.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  82. teve tory says:

    cruise missiles are for taking out jets and buildings, to put craters in a runway you need 500+ lb bombs like Durandals or cluster bombs, both dropped from planes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  83. Mikey says:

    This was an easy one for Trump. It doesn’t take much strategerizing to understand blowing up some planes and buildings is a pretty good response to the employment of chemical weapons on civilians. Not much risk for a pretty good return, and he knows that approval rating ain’t gonna raise itself.

    Still, I wonder if he got the Congressional approval he repeatedly demanded Obama get before attacking Syria? Somehow, I think not.

    I guess this stuff looks a little different when you actually catch the car than when you’re just the dog chasing it down the road.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  84. michael reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    I doubt he hit any Syrian planes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  85. Mikey says:

    Trump supporters are going to say “See, Trump was tough, Obama wasn’t. Obama didn’t do this.”

    Well, yeah, he didn’t. He had his reasons. We’ll soon find out if they were good ones.

    I fear we’ll find out they were.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  86. michael reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    Not so sure. Some Trumpkins are against all foreign intervention. And there are the facts – granted, ignored by Trumpkins: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-president-barack-obama-bomb-map-drone-wars-strikes-20000-pakistan-middle-east-afghanistan-a7534851.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  87. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds: Would surely be interesting if they weren’t…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  88. teve tory says:

    planes, munitions, and fueling equipment would have been the main targets.

    (I went into the Air Force at Lackland in 1994 and got out shortly before W showed up, thank god.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  89. bill says:

    @James Pearce: from reuters!

    Facing his biggest foreign policy crisis since taking office in January,

    Trump took the toughest direct U.S. action yet in Syria’s six-year-old civil war

    , raising the risk of confrontation with Russia and Iran, Assad’s two main military backers.

    less than 100 days in……no lame “lines in the sand” either.
    but i’m sure y’all will have an issue with whatever he does, just because of who he is and who he’s not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  90. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m seeing mixed reactions among Trumpkins with whom I’m acquainted. Some are “about time” and “Trump is a man of action!” and others are “don’t get us into another stupid bankers’ war” or whatever.

    Either way, we’ll soon see if Obama’s caution was proper or if Trump has become the blind squirrel that stumbled upon an acorn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  91. Mikey says:

    @bill: Like I said, this wasn’t a tough one for Trump. Most people aren’t going to be upset about a limited strike against the airfield from which an atrocity was launched.

    Fortunately, Trump has Mattis and McMaster close, and has banished the execrable Bannon to the outer reaches. Hopefully the Russians keep themselves quiet and this becomes another Operation Desert Fox or less.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  92. michael reynolds says:

    @bill:
    I have only the same criticism I had for Obama: proportional retaliation accomplishes virtually nothing. Just in 2016 Obama dropped 12,192 bombs on Syria. And it accomplished? Fwck all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  93. Pch101 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Trump’s bombs are more bigly. Plus, Trump’s bombs are huge Christian bombs, not wimpy Muslim Obamabombs. Just fantastic, believe me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  94. Pch101 says:

    @Mikey:

    Most people aren’t going to be upset about a limited strike against the airfield from which an atrocity was launched.

    I’m sure that ISIS is pleased to receive free American support. Just a bit ironic.

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  95. teve tory says:

    early word is 15 planes were hit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  96. michael reynolds says:

    @teve tory:

    I’m torn. On the one hand blowing of anything Assad? That’s always fun. But does this mean we didn’t deconflict this? Because that would be reckless.

    None of it matters, sadly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  97. teve tory says:

    I’m pretty much of the opinion that nothing we do in the middle east accomplishes anything, or if that’s too vague and cynical, nothing we do can be reliably expected to improve things once the second- and third-order effects appear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  98. teve tory says:

    Obama very quietly and unceremoniously turned his attention away from the ME and toward Asia, where we can deal with non-lunatics and actually accomplish things, build partnerships, etc. Smart man.

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  99. Mr. Bluster says:

    Why do I think President Pud believes that an airstrike will make all his other woes vanish?
    How long before Russian election meddling, health care reform, White House feuds, wire taps, Congressional investigations and all the other flotsam and jetsam that is this administration reenters the news cycle?
    What will he do then?

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  100. restlessness says:

    Looks like we may have ended up here regardless of the results of last November

    Hillary calls for airstrikes

    I wonder if Trump likes that he agrees with Hillary?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  101. James Pearce says:

    @bill:

    but i’m sure y’all will have an issue with whatever he does, just because of who he is and who he’s not.

    Well…yeah. So?

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  102. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: Nonsense! It’s WAAAAAAAYYYYY too cold to grow bananas here. Still in all, I see your point; we need a new appellation. In honor of the Trump pseudo-White House at Mar al Lago, I respectfully suggest “Tangerine Republic.”

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  103. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @bill:

    but i’m sure y’all will have an issue with whatever he does, just because of who he is and who he’s not.

    No, you’re confusing us with the GOP. A difficult mistake, I’m not sure why you made it. Projection? Transference?

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  104. bill says:

    @James Pearce: so suck it for the next 4-8 years!

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: seriously, you know the difference?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0