Trump’s lone­li­ness of lead­er­ship in an un­cer­tain 2019

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Opinion - BY MARTIN SCHRAM

In the days be­fore Christ­mas 2018, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was alone in his home/of­fice at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue. Some­day, fu­ture his­to­ri­ans will pic­ture Trump sit­ting at his desk and per­haps com­mis­er­ate if he felt those oval walls clos­ing in.

Af­ter all, the pres­i­dent’s best intelligence sources – his TV and iPhone screens – were bom­bard­ing him with pre­dic­tions that 2019 could be a very bad Trump year. Talk­ing heads and pre­ten­tious print pun­dits were ob­serv­ing that spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s pres­i­den­tial probe was in its fi­nal stage – maybe even fi­nal weeks. Wannabe im­peach­ers in Congress could soon be read­ing Mueller’s con­clu­sions, which may or may not in­volve high crimes or mis­de­meanors aris­ing from orig­i­nal ac­tions or coverup of­fenses. Or maybe not – if Trump’s Jus­tice Depart­ment some­how cov­ers up Mueller’s con­clu­sions.

Ei­ther way, Mueller’s re­port will dom­i­nate Trump’s new year. No won­der Trump has been do­ing his damnedest to di­vert Amer­ica’s at­ten­tion by cre­at­ing con­tro­ver­sies about any­thing else, any­where else. It re­ally hasn’t worked.

Fi­nally, in the predawn morn­ing that would be­come Christ­mas Eve, Trump reached for his iPhone and be­gan lash­ing back. At 6:31 a.m., Trump launched a Twit­ter erup­tion that touched all his usual non-Mueller bases: Mex­i­can wall, gov­ern­ment shut­down, Fed fol­lies, Iran nu­clear pact, “Lit­tle Bob Corker” and “nec­es­sary Trade Wars.”

Read­ing his Twit­ter cloud­burst, you can sense Trump’s feel­ing of vic­tim­iza­tion, as, at 9:32 a.m., he be­gan his 10th and fi­nal tweet.

“I’m alone,” pecked Amer­ica’s real pres­i­dent. “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House…”

It wasn’t just that his wife and youngest son were in Florida. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, Trump had run out of gen­er­als. For two years, he’d proudly pa­raded them for all to see, “my gen­er­als” – the au­then­ti­ca­tors of his le­git­i­macy. But Gen. Mike Flynn lied and was fired; Gen. H. R. McMaster, so sure of him­self, was forced out. Four-star Gen. John Kelly as­sumed a chief of staff should com­mand the staff; Trump be­lit­tled him into de­part­ing at De­cem­ber’s end.

We still had re­tired Ma­rine four-star Gen. and Sec­re­tary of De­fense James Mat­tis to pre­vent Trump from act­ing on his worst im­pulses.

But on Dec. 14, Trump was sit­ting at his Oval Of­fice desk talk­ing on the phone with Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who told Trump to with­draw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Even Er­do­gan must have been shocked when Trump re­port­edly blurted: “You know what? It’s yours. I’m leav­ing (Syria).”

With no anal­y­sis or con­sul­ta­tion, Trump gifted Turkey, Rus­sia and Iran with Syria.

Stunned, Mat­tis went to the Oval Of­fice on Dec. 20 and im­plored Trump to re­con­sider. Turk­ish troops, with Rus­sian air sup­port, would soon slaugh­ter the Kurds, Amer­ica’s trust­ing al­lies in fight­ing ISIS. Trump re­jected Mat­tis’ wis­dom. Re­al­iz­ing he could never again re­as­sure U.S. al­lies they could trust Trump, Mat­tis re­signed – the first time a de­fense sec­re­tary re­signed in protest.

At 6:59 a.m. on Christ­mas Eve, Trump pre­pos­ter­ously tweeted that “VERY rich” coun­tries were tak­ing “to­tal ad­van­tage” of Amer­ica, adding: “Gen­eral Mat­tis did not see this as a prob­lem. I DO, and it is be­ing fixed!” Sad.

Now, Mueller is in the fi­nal stage of his probe into Rus­sia’s ef­forts to cy­ber-sab­o­tage Amer­ica’s 2016 elec­tion and help elect Trump. And we’re watch­ing Trump be­cause we know he knows best of all whether he should panic.

No one out­side Mueller’s team knows whether Trump will be charged with any im­peach­able of­fense or ef­fort to ob­struct jus­tice. Or whether any­one in his fam­ily will face sim­i­lar reper­cus­sions.

But this much we do know: Trump and his Twit­ter rev­e­la­tions have gifted us with the most re­veal­ing win­dow into the state of mind of Amer­ica’s 45th pres­i­dent. And it was as spooky as any­thing ever writ­ten by Charles Dick­ens.

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