Alan Zendell, April 13, 2017
Words matter, they really do. Sometimes they matter more than actions.
Last year’s political campaign proved that with sixteen months of populist, nationalistic bombast from one side and a peculiar directionless rhetoric from the other (not counting Bernie Sanders who sat out the last few months). Clearly, ranting and appealing to fear and racism won, despite the fact there was never any real substance behind the words. This week the media are expressing complete surprise at Donald Trump’s changes of mind on most of what he said during the campaign.
When Bill Clinton did it, they called it waffling. When George W. Bush failed to bend to reality and alter his views people called him dumb. Today Trump is being given credit for being flexible in the face of new information by some, while others consider his about faces proof that the words that got him elected were empty.
How many times did he scream that China was robbing us blind and manipulating its currency to undersell American made goods here, and make it impossible for our exports to compete there? A ten minute conversation with Chinese president Xi, which has been characterized as a history lesson, changed Trump’s mind.
He called NATO obsolete at every campaign rally, scaring the hell out of our allies, and very likely emboldening Russia, which has been fighting NATO’s eastward expansion. That’s what the battles in Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea were all about. But today, Trump actually said NATO isn’t obsolete any more. He’d accused it of not doing its part in the war against terrorism and other member nations of not paying their fair share. He must have received another history lesson from the NATO Secretary General, because he now thinks they’re wonderful partners, despite there being no evidence that anything has changed.
He screamed about crooked Hillary and lying Ted Cruz and sleepy Ben Carson and incompetent Marco Rubio. He accused the Federal Reserve Board, and Janet Yellin in particular, of being incompetent, promising to replace her immediately, yet today he’s open to keeping her around. What changed?
He promised an end to Obamacare and wonderful health care for every American. Then he said he hadn’t realized how complicated health care was and threw his support behind a bill that catered to the Freedom Caucus, which would have left millions without coverage. He didn’t realize how complicated it was? I’ve always supported on the job training, but not to this extent.
Perhaps the most significant of his turnarounds was Syria. In 2013, when Assad gassed his own people, Trump urged President Obama to stay out of it. He said we had no business interfering in their civil war. It’s interesting how different things look when the responsibility is his. Now it’s clear that the civil war is inextricably tied to terrorist jihad and the national interests of Russia, which desperately needs its naval base on the Mediterranean. What part of that was news?
So except for the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, which was basically a slam dunk, every promise Trump made was empty rhetoric. All of the constituencies that voted for him, including our international allies, must be scratching their heads. The Congressional town halls suggest that a lot of people are angry, too.
In light of current events, it’s worth asking, was Trump deliberately lying during the campaign, pandering to the voting blocks that put him in office? Is it possible that he really had no idea that his promises were empty? You might respond that the election is over, and none of that matters any more, but you’d be wrong. It’s still very relevant.
Assad claims that the recent gas attack was a complete fabrication by the United States and the Syrian rebels who want to overthrow him. He and his Russian counterparts say everyone else is lying. Even the videos of children choking to death were faked. Our news media are astounded at his defiance in the face of hundreds of eye-witness accounts. How can he possibly expect anyone to believe him?
Umm…remember when we saw and heard Trump brag about groping women in a video recorded as part of a television show? Remember when eleven different women came forward to claim that he’d forced himself on them? Remember when he said everyone was lying and none of it ever happened?
I believe the sound journalists who observed the aftermath of the gas attack. But Trump’s own behavior leaves him no credibility when he claims we should dismiss either Assad’s or Putin’s denials, notwithstanding the fact that sexual predation is a far cry from the kind of war crimes Assad is guilty of. And that’s a serious matter, considering what’s at stake.
I said in an earlier post (https://wordpress.com/post/americathebeautiful.blog/294) that a president who has no moral center cannot be an effective leader. This is exactly what I was referring to. Assad and Putin are playing the same game he played. You know what happens when the pot calls the kettle black.