Trump’s loneliness of leadership in an uncertain 2019
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.