President Trump was on full self-aggrandizing Trumpian form last night as he addressed a packed stadium of loyal supporters in Dallas.
Like a veteran rock star, he swaggered through his greatest hits from ‘Crooked Hillary’ and ‘Sleepy Joe’ to ‘Crazy Nancy’ and ‘Shifty Schiff’.
And the fans, thousands of whom couldn’t even get into the rally so watched it on screens outside, lapped it up.
It was a two-hour tour de force brimming with high-energy performance and bombastic rhetoric.
Love him or hate him, and there’s no middle ground, Trump can whip up a crowd like nobody else in current U.S. politics.
And his unshakable self-belief shows no sign of shaking.
President Trump was on full self-aggrandizing Trumpian form last night as he addressed a pack stadium of loyal supporters in Dallas (pictured at the rally Thursday)
According to him, he’s the greatest president that’s ever lived (with the possible exception of Lincoln), America’s never had it so good, every decision he’s taken is not only right but pure genius, and he’s steaming to another election win in 2020.
To be fair, that last bit might actually be true.
Trump, as can be seen by the staggering fervor of the Texans who turned up to roar him on last night, continues to hold granite solid support among his base.
To them, Trump is still the modern-day Robin Hood standing up for the little guys against the ‘swamp’ establishment system, and delivering on his campaign promises.
(To his enemies, Trump more closely resembles a less endearing fabled legend – the Pied Piper.)
And with the Democrats seemingly dragging themselves ever more inexorably towards a socialist nominee, then unles
s he gets impeached, I still think Trump will get re-elected.
BUT, and it’s a big ‘but’, there is still every chance that Donald Trump could be defeated – by himself.
Let’s be frank; for all his self-congratulatory wallowing last night, this has been a terrible week for President Trump.
In fact, I’d say it’s been his worst since winning the White House.
His decision on Sunday to suddenly withdraw U.S. troops from north-eastern Syria, giving a green light to Turkey’s ruthless President Erdogan to invade and attack the Kurds, America’s allies in the fight against ISIS, was catastrophic.
His decision on Sunday to suddenly withdraw U.S. troops from north-eastern Syria, giving a green light to Turkey’s ruthless President Erdogan to invade and attack the Kurds, America’s allies in the fight against ISIS, was catastrophic. Within hours, Turkish forces were killing Kurdish men, women and children, and hundreds of ISIS terrorists were pouring out of prisons amid the chaos (smoke rises over a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday)
Within hours, Turkish forces were killing Kurdish men, women and children, and hundreds of ISIS terrorists were pouring out of prisons amid the chaos.
It signaled a terrible betrayal of people who had so recently fought alongside America to defeat a common enemy.
For all his absurd triumphalism over a desperately sought four-day pause in the shocking violence – a truce that’s reportedly already been broken – Trump got played by Erdogan.
And the president’s childish ‘I’ll destroy your economy, you devilish fool’ threats in that now infamous letter to his counterpart – one that Erdogan contemptuously dismissed by throwing it away – were an embarrassment to him and his country.
The horrendous mistake has exposed Trump’s main weaknesses – a susceptibility to being manipulated by ‘strongman’ dictators, a refusal to listen to expert advice (everyone warned him it would be a disaster), a lack of clear strategic planning and a trash-talking diplomatic style better suited to the Apprentice boardroom than when deciding the fate of people’s lives.
‘Like two kids in a lot, you have got to let them fight,’ Trump quipped on stage last night, ‘and then you pull them apart.’
It’s hard to imagine a more insensitive analogy given that many kids have literally been killed in the fighting.
Back home, things have been no better; Trump’s faced increasing impeachment pressure over his dealings with Ukraine, and that pressure massively intensified yesterday when his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney all but confirmed there WAS a ‘quid pro quo’ surrounding the Trump administration’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless they helped, with a Justice Department investigation into alleged Ukrainian corruption in America’s 2016 election involving a DNC server.
‘I was involved with the process by which money was held up temporarily, OK? Mulvaney told reporters at a White House briefing. ‘Three issues for that: corruption in the country, whether or not other countries were participating in support of the Ukraine and whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice. That’s completely legitimate.’
It’s also pretty much exactly the smoking gun impeachment campaigners have been hunting.
After the briefing, all hell broke loose as first the Justice Department denied any knowledge of any connection between aid to Ukraine and the department’s investigation, and then Jay Sekulow, the president’s legal counsel, issued a terse statement saying he’d had no involvement in Mulvaney’s bombshell revelation.
General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, Trump’s former defense secretary, launched a similarly withering assault on his old boss. He spoke out after Trump told a meeting of members of Congress at the White House on Wednesday that Mattis was ‘the world’s most overrated general’, ‘wasn’t tough enough,’ and went onto say: ‘I captured ISIS’ (pictured at the 74th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, Thursday)
Later, Mulvaney walked back his comments, saying ‘there was never any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server.’
Sorry, what? We heard that condition from Mulvaney’s own mouth, and he said he was personally involved in the process of implementing that condition.
What a fiasco, and what a dangerous development for President Trump.
Many Republicans have turned on him this week, voting in Congress against his decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
Now the main allegation of the proposed impeachment seems to have been confirmed by the man running the White House staff.
Yet the person really to blame is Trump himself, for making that ridiculously dumb phone call to Ukraine’s President Zelensky in the first place, then brazenly admitting it and saying he wanted China to get digging dirt on his US election opponents too.
To make this week even more difficult, the president has also been savagely attacked in the past 24 hours by two of America’s most respected military heroes.
First, retired Admiral William McRaven, the man who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, accused Trump of destroying America.
‘He’s undermined the intelligence community,’ he said, ‘the law enforcement community, the Department of Justice, the State Department. He has called the press the enemy of the American people and I will tell you, I’ve fought a lot of America’s enemies – the press is not the enemy of the American people. He’s undermined our NATO allies, taken out of the JCPOA (Iran nuclear agreement) and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal) and really the international community has lost faith in America. And then through the course of all this, he’s convinced he’s doing it all for the right reasons and that is really what is troubling.’
McRaven, who was particularly enraged that Trump has ‘left our allies the Kurds on the battlefield… betrayed them’, concluded in an op-ed for the New York Times: ‘If this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office, Republican, Democrat or Independent – the sooner the better. The fate of our Republic depends on it.’
Retired Admiral William McRaven, the man who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, accused Trump of destroying America
A few hours later, at a dinner in New York, General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, Trump’s former defense secretary, launched a similarly withering assault on his old boss.
He spoke out after Trump told a meeting of members of Congress at the White House on Wednesday that Mattis was ‘the world’s most overrated general’, ‘wasn’t tough enough,’ and went onto say: ‘I captured ISIS.’
Mattis, who left the administration because Trump didn’t agree with his vehement pleas for U.S. forces to remain in Syria to stop ISIS resurging, taunted back: ‘I’m honored to be considered the most overrated general by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress. So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals, and frankly that sounds pretty good to me. You have to admit that between me and Meryl, at least we’ve had some victories.’
After a series of other lacerating zingers, Mattis got serious and paraphrased a speech made by Abraham Lincoln in 1838 in which Lincoln said great nations crumble for one of two reasons, either foreign invasion or, ‘the corrosion from within, the rot, the viciousness, the lassitude, the ignorance. Anarchy is one potential consequence of all this. The other is the rise of an ambitious leader, unfettered by conscience, or precedent or decency, who would make himself supreme.’
President Trump will doubtless react to the criticism from McRaven and Mattis as he does to all such criticism – very badly, very personally, and very abusively.
But denigrating America’s greatest military leaders in the same week you’ve committed one of the worst acts of military betrayal on your allies is not a good look.
In fact, it’s a shameful look.
And talking of looks, it’s time to take a good long hard look at yourself in the mirror, Mr President.
What kind of leader do you really want to be?
Because if it’s one that insults U.S. war heroes, betrays courageous allies, jokes about kids fighting as real kids are dying, and only helps countries in need if they dig up dirt on your election opponents, then Admiral McRaven’s right: America needs someone else in the White House.