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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