Trump’s Shutdown Fight

Alan Zendell, January 15, 2019

Anyone who has ever sat through negotiation training knows that a successful resolution is one from which both sides come away thinking they’ve achieved something positive. When that happens, everyone can leave their differences behind and turn to more productive pursuits. When a negotiation ends with one party feeling coerced or beaten up, the well for future cooperation is poisoned, anger and resentment persist, and there’s little chance that whatever was finally agreed to will produce a fruitful outcome.

While no one expects the other side to completely lay their cards on the table, each side expects the other to bargain in good faith. Deliberate lies, contradictions, exaggerations, and misrepresentations are anathema to a successful result. Likewise hurling insults and disrespecting the opposition are almost guaranteed to lead to failure.

Above all, successful negotiators understand that flexibility is paramount. Each side lays out a set of initial demands knowing some points are softer than others, the ultimate goal being compromise: giving up some things in exchange for others.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the worst possible negotiation strategy is staking out a position that is non-negotiable. My way or the highway only works when one side holds all the cards and doesn’t care if everyone else walks away angry. Unfortunately, that’s the environment Donald Trump was schooled in, wealthy tough guys with large legal staffs and even larger egos throwing their weight around. It’s the only strategy he understands, the only one he uses.

The truth is that he’s a lousy negotiator. His narcissism makes it virtually impossible for him to compromise because in his world, compromise is equivalent to concession, and concession is viewed as weakness and defeat. If you’re the toughest kid on the block, that approach wins much of the time, until the rest of the block faces you down. Once your bravado is revealed as the empty shell it is, your days are numbered.

Trump understands that. He knows that every once in a while the irresistible force he believes he is runs into a truly immovable object. Thus, his long record of bankruptcies and court settlements. When it all hits the fan he walks away leaving others to clean up his mess.

The truest thing I ever heard Donald Trump say was, referring to Vladimir Putin, “He’s a much nicer guy than I am.” Think about that. Trump believes Vladimir Putin, the acknowledged spymaster and manipulator with no scruples who destroys and murders anyone who gets in his way, is a much nicer guy than he is. In that, he flatters himself. It makes him feel tough, but one on one with Putin, Trump doesn’t stand a chance.

In Nancy Pelosi and a Democrat-controlled House Trump has met his match, and his tactics of insulting and bullying his way through all resistance have been shown to be transparent and empty. Americans blame him for the government shutdown and the impasse over his specious border wall by nearly two to one. The talking heads love it. They’re convinced he has backed himself into a corner from which there’s no way out, but they’ve been wrong at every turn since Trump announced he was running for president. I’m afraid they’re wrong now too.

The media are hyping this as the end game of a classic fight or flight scenario, comparing him to a cornered animal. But a cornered animal will fight to the death and wreak havoc all around it until it’s brought down. As a president whose need to win dominates everything, Trump can do enormous harm to the country. What we’ve seen up to now is the tip of the iceberg.

If you still wonder why he’s pursuing a fight he can’t win, maybe that’s because you’re looking at the wrong fight. Trump wants the government closed for as long as possible. The longer it isn’t functioning, the longer it will take House Committees to staff up and hire the legal teams they need to investigate him. Every day that passes is a day on which no subpoenas have been issued, no one has been interviewed, and no one has been forced to answer questions. The longer that goes on, the more chaos and backfilling there will be when the shutdown inevitably ends.

Don’t think for a minute that Trump can’t win this fight. As dysfunctional as the Democrats are, as gridlocked as the various factions seem to be, we may be well into election season 2020 before they get their act together. Trump can win the way he always does, sowing distrust and discord everywhere so nothing can be accomplished. Chaos is his strongest ally.

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Intransigence

Alan Zendell, January 10, 2019
In most people, intransigence is a symptom of ignorance and/or insecurity. When we’re stuck trying to defend a point of view we know little or nothing about, or we feel unable to support a position we’ve staked out, the last thing we want is to engage in a rational debate. That limits our options: we can capitulate, defer to people who are more knowledgeable, or dig our heels in.

The more self-assured we are, the more likely we are to value finding a workable solution more than worrying about who is right or wrong and who gets credit for the outcome. Such people are more likely to select one of the first two options.

People who are insecure, who are motivated by ego gratification, concern for their public image, or a need for approval tend toward intransigence. And they engage in projection – characterizing anyone who disagrees with them as stubborn and unwilling to compromise. That kind of behavior is an occupational hazard for politicians. It’s never pretty, but when our president acts that way, it’s a serious problem.

The speeches on the government shutdown delivered by our leaders last Tuesday, aka the Donald, Chuck, and Nancy Show, were indicative of the circus our governing process has become. All three were appallingly unimpressive, and the whole thing was a dreadful waste of time.

From the point of view of a sound bite listener who knew nothing about the issues beforehand, it might be easy to conclude that the participants were hopelessly deadlocked over an unsolvable problem. But to anyone who’s been paying attention to anything but football lately, despite the awful responses by Chuck and Nancy, it’s clear that the deadlock is entirely a creation of the president.

Trump based his entire election campaign on a promise that never made practical sense, but had the undeniable ability to tap into the latent fears and bigotries of two out of every five Americans. Experts in border security, and all seven House members who represent districts along the Mexican border are unanimous. Extending the seven-hundred mile long wall that is already in place is the most expensive and least effective way of securing our southern border. The Senate and House both passed bipartisan bills that fund enhanced border controls while acknowledging specifically that there are better ways to spend tax dollars than building a wall.

Today, when Trump tweeted that he was canceling his trip to the World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland “because of the Democrats [sic] intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation,” he made my head spun more than usual. His bravado leading up to Davos made it clear that he was looking for a reason not to attend the meeting. The disdain other world leaders have for him would have been obvious on all the world media.

The only players who still cling to Trump’s border wall are the president, who has talked himself into a corner that in his own words would make him look foolish if he backed down, and sycophants in Congress, like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, who believe their best strategy for retaining their seats in 2020 is appeasing Trump’s base. Typically, Trump’s response is to create confusion and distraction, but in doing so, he disparages his base.

He assumes they’re too intellectually lazy to pay attention beyond the sound bites with which he tries to dominate the media, and in that, he is unfortunately correct. The social media culture of tweets, text messages, and Instagram chats trains Americans to lose interest in any conversation that lasts more than two sentences.

To those Americans, I say, “Wake up!” Laziness is the surest way to destroy our republic. Democracy is not an entitlement, it’s a hard-earned privilege. We won our independence by defeating the strongest imperial power in the world, and we survived a civil war that would have destroyed most countries. But the intellectual laziness that enables our president to behave the way he does could result in throwing all that away.

Recent polling shows the majority of Americans believe Trump’s position on the border is untenable. His intransigence on the issue which appears to be driving him toward a flagrant abuse of executive power, based only on his narcissistic need to have his way, demonstrates that he’s unfit for his job. I’ve repeatedly argued against impeachment because it would be traumatic for the country. But Trump’s actions are more dangerous every month. As his desperation impels him to manufacture what will inevitably be a constitutional crisis over executive power, it becomes clear that he must be removed from office before he does serious harm to our country.

I know this is unforgivably biased, but I couldn’t help smiling at the tweet by radio and TV (Bravo and truTV) personality Scott Nevins in response to Trump’s tweet on Davos, “Trump supporters scramble[d] to google the definition of intransigence.” (If you don’t get it, it’s okay.)

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Season 116, Episode 1

Alan Zendell, January 4, 2019

You might think from what I’ve said or written, that I’m one of those Democrats who Senator Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) ramblingly described as hating Trump so much I would do anything to defeat him, regardless of what was good for the country. You’d be partly right. My disdain for our president is clear, but it’s precisely because I love this country more than Donald Trump does. The America he claims to love is viewed through a prism of wealth, celebrity, and entitlement. Like most of you, I see America for what it is. It’s isn’t always pretty, but I love it anyway, all of it.

My view of Donald Trump is biased. I despise him as an immoral, self-serving human being. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be objective about the things he says and does. It’s not very hard to see the truth most of the time.

Take an objective look at the first week of the 116th Congress, and the Government shutdown/Border Wall controversy. Nancy Pelosi (D, California) is the new Speaker of the House. Mitch McConnell, (R, Kentucky) and Chuck Schumer (D, New York)  remain Senate Majority and Minority Leaders. There’s political spin in everything they all say.

My objective read on the week is that after enduring two years of unrelenting, largely unprovoked personal attacks by the president, Pelosi and Schumer are finally in positions of leverage in dealing with him. The voices of 113 million people who voted in the midterm elections made it so.

The House of Representatives immediately passed a bill to re-open the government while (in Pelosi’s words) the leaders of our country behaved like adults trying to find on a consensus on border security. Based on recent polling, that sounds like what a sizable majority of Americans want. It would be naïve to think that Pelosi isn’t playing to the sentiments of the Democratic base, but that assertion is complicated.

We all know who Trump’s base are, but who are Pelosi’s base?  She’s wrangling with a new class of representatives that includes more nonwhites and women than ever before, ideologically charged to pull their party in a dozen different directions. They’re all passionate and they’re all angry, mostly because they feel betrayed by the president.

Trump’s disrespect of women and his frankly racist attitude toward immigration are despicable, completely separate from his identity as a Democrat or Republican. Many newcomers to the House are furious about his refusal to acknowledge the need to react to and counter climate change. They resent his implication that they don’t care about border security; it’s their constituents who suffer the most harm from illegal immigration. And they hate the new tax law that they believe enriches the elite and increases our national debt – not incidentally, making less money available for health insurance and the general welfare of most Americans.

Yet, given all that anger and revolutionary fervor, Pelosi has kept the vitriol from her side largely in check. There have been individual statements that are regrettable, like Rashida Tlaib’s (D, Michigan) comment that they were going to impeach the mother******, but when Republicans trolled Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for dancing on a rooftop, she responding by posting a new video of her smiling and dancing into her office. Drafting a reasonable bill supported by a majority of Americans to keep the Government functioning isn’t a game. If it looks like playing to some hypothetical base, maybe that’s because it’s what most people want.

Mitch McConnell has made clear that he won’t help the Democrats fight Trump. He will try to keep anything the House passes from reaching the floor of the Senate for a vote. With his party in the majority the Senate could easily nullify the actions of the House and avoid forcing Trump to veto them, unless…he’s not sure of his majority. Two of the fifty-three Republican senators, Gardner (CO) and Collins (ME) have already spoken publicly in support of Congressional action along the lines of the House Bill.

McConnell doesn’t want a public debate among his own caucus. It would upset Trump’s base, and even worse, he might lose. The last thing McConnell wants is to play any part in forcing the president over a barrel. He’s up for re-election in 2020, too.

Finally, here’s the objective reality. Too many people have spoken out recently – security experts, law enforcement, border control officers – for there to be any doubt. The wall is a totally specious issue. Of the 1000 miles of border where a wall would even be possible, 700 of them have had physical barriers in place for years. And given modern technology, hardly anyone believes a wall is the best way to secure our border.

Donald Trump knows this. He told Senator Schumer the other day that he can’t compromise with the Democrats because he’d look foolish. That’s what it’s all about, folks. Our president’s ego and thin skin make it impossible for him to back off from any position he’s staked out. So what if compromise is what the entire country is screaming for? It’s not what Donald Trump wants.

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2019 Predictions

Alan Zendell, January 1, 2019

Two years ago, I swore off predictions, but to be honest, although I was sure Trump had little chance of winning in 2016, I always had a nagging doubt. The Clinton campaign seemed unable to see a discarded banana peel and not slip on it. A lot of us noticed that, but we thought even a campaign as badly run as hers couldn’t result in a Trump victory.

We learn from our mistakes. The problem wasn’t making predictions, it was making them while disregarding important information that was right in front of us. This year I’m confident in the wave that’s been sweeping the country. It’s definitely not a Trump wave, but that doesn’t mean the Democrats aren’t capable of turning it into one. So here are my fearless predictions for 2019, followed by honest confidence levels.

Donald Trump – The president will not be impeached in 2019. (95%) He will be investigated with all the depth and vigor of a prostate exam, starting as soon as Democrats in the House can draft subpoenas. (99%) There will be a fight-to-the death over the release of Trump’s personal and business financial records (98%) which may have to be decided by the Supreme Court. (90%) Trump anticipated just such an eventuality when he fought to put Bret Kavanaugh on the bench. It’ll be a nasty fight, but the public’s right to know will win by a narrow margin. (70%)

Trump may find a way to claim victory over the border wall and the government shutdown, but it will be a pyrrhic one at best, and for all practical purposes, that fight will mark the beginning of the end of Trump’s ability to govern autocratically. (80%) He will find 2019 extremely trying. His ego will suffer badly and he won’t handle it well. He won’t back down gracefully on anything, even though he could win much public support if he did. Consequently, we will see an ever more erratic and unhinged president as his frustration grows. (90%) By the end of 2019, he will have lost the confidence of Independents, and his base will have shrunk to less than a third of the country. (70%)

Democrats – The confidence levels above would be higher if they didn’t depend on the Democrats handling their House majority properly. They’re extremely splintered, an occupational hazard of maintaining a broad tent.

Nancy Pelosi will be the new Speaker. (99%) She will begin (she probably already has) by trying to bring the disparate elements together. All those elements know their common enemy is Trump. The question is whether they can bridle their own passions and personal ambitions to agree that defeating Trump is priority number one no matter what else happens. There’s a decent chance that Pelosi can achieve that in the House (60%) especially with the example that when the Republicans failed to in 2106, Trump won.

But there are a lot of prominent Democrats outside the House. Bernie Sanders will play nice this time if the DNC treats him fairly and respectfully. (70%) Elizabeth Warren will not, however. She will continue to beat her own drum as long as people listen. In the end she was a strong Clinton supporter last time, and she’ll get on board with whomever is most likely to beat Trump this time too. (90%) She will run in the primaries, and her slogan will be “Pocahontas for President.” (100%)

Joe Biden will run if he’s convinced he can make a difference. As soon as he believes there’s someone better to carry the Democrats’ mantle, he’ll withdraw. (100%) Wild cards like Beto O’Rourke are impossible to predict. I hope he doesn’t lose sight of reality and accepts whatever role is necessary to defeat Trump. (??%)

The Economy – The bull market is over. There are too many headwinds to fight. Markets will remain unpredictable and ultrasensitive to developments in the trade war and actions of the Federal Reserve. (95%) Trump will not fire the Fed chairman. (100%) Unemployment will be shown to have bottomed out, and job creation will slow as corporate profits end their growth spurt. (100%) Whatever the economy does this year, Trump will own it no matter how he tries to shift blame. (100%)

The Mueller Investigation and Russia – Trump’s financial records will show a disturbing dependency on Russian banks and oligarchs. For years, western banks with the exception of Deutschebank, have been unwilling to lend the Trump Organization money after his record of failures and bankruptcies. It’s been suspected that he was being supported financially by Russian money, and that will turn out to be true. (90%) It will also be shown that Trump used every trick in the book to avoid taxes. He’s not alone in that, but the revelation that it’s true after all his denials will hurt his approval rating. (90%)

The only real fly in this ointment is doubt over whether the Democrats can hold it together. If they do, it’s going to be a very happy new year.

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A Trump Christmas

Alan Zendell,  December 24, 2018

Our Christmas present from the world of investing is that on the average, for every eight dollars we had invested at the beginning of 2018, we now have only seven. If you’ve been building a retirement account using investments keyed to the major stock indexes and your balance was $800,000 last New Years Day,  (not enough to support you for the rest of your life) it’s now $700,000.

Market indexes are never accurate measures of the state of the economy, but they’re what our president has been touting for two years. Savvy investors understand that the markets rose in 2017 on speculative hope that a nearly guaranteed tax cut law would inject a few more years of life into bull markets that were already long overdue to end.

That’s like looking at your pile of chips at the craps table knowing you’re already way ahead of the risk curve and saying, “Maybe I can roll one more seven.” No matter how long your winning streak is, you still only have a 22% chance of winning with another seven or eleven. Trump the casino magnate knows that better than anyone. He also knows that betting his administration on the stock market is dangerous.

But that’s what he did, and when the Federal Reserve Board (an independent arm of the government) decided that it was necessary to raise interest rates to avoid inflation, the markets reacted negatively. What’s Trump’s response? Find a way to fire the Fed Chairman he appointed last year. Anything that displeases our president has to be someone else’s fault. The Federal Reserve Board Chairman, acting responsibly to protect the overall economy failed to be guided by what would benefit Donald Trump’s image, so he must be disloyal.

Modest adjustments to interest rates wouldn’t normally cause the kind of precipitous drop in markets that occurred in December. They were merely a catalyst that caused nervousness over Trump’s trade war and his erratic military and diplomatic decisions to overflow, and whenever that happens, markets crash.

Trump knows touting market gains is cheating, taking credit for unfulfilled promises and expectations. He also knows that every cheat eventually comes home to roost. He failed to improve the health care system; in fact, his attempts to tear down what existed without a viable plan to replace it made things worse. He’s failed in his attempts to slow the flow of non-white immigrants into the country, and he’s left with defending his absurd border wall, which most experts including Mick Mulvaney, his Budget Director and Chief of Staff consider a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Walls couldn’t have prevented nine-eleven, and they haven’t stopped the flow of criminals and hard drugs through tunnels dug under walls that were already in place along the California-Mexico border. They won’t stop terrorists from smuggling everything from drugs to bombs through our ports, and they won’t shield us from cyber-terrorism. They can’t defend against caravans either, as the Supreme Court refused to support the administration’s ban on asylum seekers.

What we have now is a petulant spoiled child throwing a tantrum because he doesn’t have enough Legos to build his wall, and the majority of taxpayers would rather pay for health insurance and make sure everyone is fed than buy him more. Trump’s base loved that he never admitted he was wrong and never backed down. They misinterpreted that as strength, but many of them are beginning to realize that it’s simply desperation born of not having a backup plan when shooting from the hip yields a bad outcome.

Many are also beginning to realize that the temporary reductions in their income taxes were equivalent to drawing cash advances on their credit cards and leaving the bill for their children to pay. A trillion dollar deficit represents $45,000 of debt for every adult American that will have to be repaid by future generations. How does that compare with your tax refund?

Our Christmas present from the president is complete chaos and a non-functioning government. This morning he tweeted: “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security.” He’s backed himself into a corner because most Americans do not equate border security with his wall, and I’m betting the Democrats won’t blink on that.

Trump is more alone than he realizes. Outgoing Senator Claire McCaskell (D, MO) summed it up for CNN talking about what Republican Senators acknowledge in private: “The guy is nuts, he doesn’t have a grasp of the issues, he’s making rash decisions, he’s not listening to people who know the subject matter.”

Merry Christmas to you too, Donald.

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A Slow-Motion Trainwreck

Alan Zendell, December 21, 2018

Events have been so dynamic, so confusing, with everything seeming to change by the hour, I must have missed it. Apparently, the president’s cabinet and national security advisers have all been replaced by three television personalities. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter, three of the most rabid and brazen commentators on the extreme right are now directing policy for the White House.

That’s how bad things have become in the desperate struggle to keep Trump’s base happy. Yesterday, the trio’s influence on the President forced a shameful, embarrassing impasse over a border wall and funding the government. You can be sure Trump ran his Syria policy by them too, after being rebuffed by virtually his entire administration. So what if it cost him the only remaining respected member of his Cabinet? Who needs Defense Secretary Mattis when he has the unholy trinity on his side?

I don’t always agree with Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, but he got it right today. Donald Trump is having a temper tantrum because he can’t have his border wall. Worse, he’s doing it on every cable news channel in the world. Can anyone imagine Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping behaving this way? God only knows what’s going on in foreign capitals as they watch our clown car White House implode.

Trump received a public rebuke from Secretary Mattis over betraying the Kurds, one of our most reliable allies in the Middle East. That Mattis’ remarks made no impression on him tells us how seriously dysfunctional this administration has become. As of yesterday, the only person the White House could trot out to defend Trump on TV was Stephen Miller, the rude, shrill little boy whose hatefulness has caused even his own family to renounce him.

The president’s inability to back down or compromise, aside from making a mockery of his reputation as a deal maker, is creating one avoidable crisis after another.  His tendency to make every situation entirely about himself has by turns been amusing, irritating, and downright creepy. It has now reached the point where it’s a roadblock to anything constructive happening as long as he’s in office.

Remember the Terrible Twos and the Frightful Fours, when your toddlers went into frenzied paroxysms whenever you said, “No?” Remember how frustrated and helpless you felt trying to reason with them? You threw your hands in the air and tore at your remaining hair, praying that you’d all  survive until they grew up. That’s what dealing with Trump is like. He has the emotional maturity of a four-year-old and it’s never going to get better.

Consider that his latest pigheadedness over the border wall has even made Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell look statesmanlike. I’ve wondered for two years what it would take to make McConnell refute Trump publicly, but he showed admirable respect for the integrity of the Senate when Trump demanded (not for the first time) that he change the rules to strengthen the Republicans’ slim majority.

Are the wheels really coming off, as one Republican anonymously told reporters? Consider that the Trump administration has left health insurance in its worst shape in decades. The majority of Americans do not want a wall on our southern border, and today, the Supreme Court again refused to support Trump’s ban on asylum.

Trump’s trade war with China has done nothing but increase chaos in world markets, and the massive tax bill forced through by Republicans has caused the federal deficit to pass a trillion dollars for the first time ever. Lack of confidence in our prospects in the near future has equity markets is freefall – if your retirement plan’s fortunes are tied to the S&P 500 index, they’re more than ten percent poorer than they were at the beginning of 2018.

Our allies can no longer count on us, and our enemies are emboldened. Trump has abandoned international efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and completely lost the respect of foreign leaders. Predictably, the North Koreans stiffed him, and he is in the process of dangerously destabilizing the Middle East, having handed Russia and Iran bloodless victories that stunned even them. And none of this is even related to his immoral character and despicable treatment of women and non-white minorities.

What began as a running joke about alternate facts is now an extremely serious consequence of having a president who has no respect for the truth. No one in Congress can believe anything that comes out his mouth, and foreign leaders have no idea what to expect from him.  

This isn’t the least bit amusing. It’s damned dangerous. If you’re not as frightened as I am, you probably should be.

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Danger Signs

Alan Zendell, December 20, 2018

Occasionally, someone you know starts behaving erratically and unpredictably. Maybe he or she always behaved that way, but now the pendulum swings are becoming extreme. Actions appear more dramatic and frantic, and facial expressions take on a look of weary desperation. Attempts at reason or mitigation fall on deaf ears.

You recognize the signs: irrational lashing out, fits of anger and temper, blind stubbornness, actions that seem unproductive at best, destructive at worst. Friends and adversaries alike realize the situation could become dangerously out of control. Some people make comparisons to a wounded animal caught in a trap – remember those horrifying videos of creatures gnawing off their own limbs to escape? Regardless of other allegiances, they understand that they must unite to keep things contained.

When people start describing our president in those terms, we should all be concerned and ask whether Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to himself and everything around him. If so, the issue isn’t whether he should be impeached or indicted as much as it’s how to protect the country from the fallout.

A landed shark thrashing to get back to the water is far more dangerous than one that’s swimming, and the same can be said about a corrupt politician in the death throes of his career. When he has the power to obliterate everything on Earth, something needs to be done. The last few days make this crystal clear. Consider Syria.

Surprising everyone including his own military leaders, all of his advisors and allies, and his party’s leadership by announcing a quick and immediate withdrawal of forces from Syria may not trigger nuclear war, but it’s a dangerous reminder of how much damage and chaos an out-of-control, uninformed president can cause. While Putin and the Ayatollahs smile sipping their tea, Trump is endangering the entire Middle East.

Russia and Iran may not have any love for ISIS and the Taliban, but their main priorities are expanding their spheres of influence to the region’s rich oil fields and the warm waters of the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas. And beyond ceding Syria to the combined ambitions of Iran, Russia, and Bashar al-Assad, withdrawing our forces will leave the Syrian Kurds, our strongest allies in the region, exposed to threatened annihilation by Turkey, a member of NATO. I can’t even imagine how that might play out, but it can’t be good. It sends a message to other prospective allies: fight alongside us and we’ll stab you in the back as soon as it’s convenient.

Trump’s decision on Syria won public approval from Vladimir Putin, but it was the last straw for Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned today. It also has him at odds with Secretary of State Pompeo, his own security apparatus, and dozens of staunch supporters in the Congress like Senator Lindsey Graham. The president has the authority and power to deploy forces where and whenever he desires, but our Constitution never intended for an arrogant narcissist in that office to ignore the rest of the government and do whatever he pleases just to prove he can.

In the context of the wave of change that’s descending on Trump’s presidency, the implications of the Syria decision are unsettling. With former subordinates and associates turning on him and implicating him in their own criminal wrongdoing and the Democrats about to take over the House, Trump’s imperial presidency is about to be challenged on all fronts.

Trump dug his heels in over funding for his border wall and at this moment (who knows what he might say an hour from now) is engaged in an eleventh hour standoff over shutting down critical government functions. For a few more days, he has political majorities in both chambers; if doesn’t get his wall funding now he probably never will. If he feels desperate about that, imagine how he feels knowing all of his personal and financial records may soon be made public by House Committees that will soon have subpoena power.

This week we learned that the Trump Foundation, in the words of the US Attorney in New York, was little more than a criminal front providing financial support for Trump’s personal and political benefit. We know that Trump studied at the feet of some of the most notorious organized crime figures in our history, and we now see how well he learned. Building a money-laundering racket disguised as a nonprofit charity must have sounded like a great idea. In the past he would have paid his two-million dollar fine and walked away. This time he may be remembering that most of his former teachers are either dead or in prison.

Is it any wonder he’s behaving like a caged animal?

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