Alan Zendell, October 17, 2019
Mitt Romney’s remarks on the Senate Floor were perfect. He described President Trump’s impulsive withdrawal of American forces from Syria as a bloodstain on the annals of American history. He said what most Americans were thinking as they heard the president spin and distort the events of this week almost beyond recognition: “The announcement today is being portrayed as a victory. It is far from a victory. Serious questions remain about how the decision was reached precipitously to withdraw from Syria and why that decision was reached.”
Romney called for immediate hearings by the Senate to determine exactly how we got to this point. The remarkable thing about what he said wasn’t the words themselves, but that it was a Republican Senator from a very red state who uttered them.
I and many others have long believed Trump’s support in the majority Republican Senate was razor-thin and based on the fear of his base by those who are up up for re-election in 2020. The Senate’s partisan gridlock over Trump has always been about the tug of war between the desire to be re-elected and the constitutional responsibility of protecting the nation. Most Senators are as embarrassed and shocked by the president’s behavior as the rest of us, and it’s been reported that as many as thirty-five of the fifty-three Republicans in the Senate would happily remove him from office if it could be done quietly and bloodlessly – their own blood, that is.
Vice President Pence’s announcement of a cease fire in Turkey was a combination of Orwellian Doublespeak and Dorothy drawing the curtain to reveal the Wizard as a fraud. Trump’s comments claiming that it was a victory for everyone including the Kurds was the surest sign yet that he has retreated into his own schizophrenic alternate reality. Perhaps the most telling moment came when Trump turned and walked away from the camera. For a few more seconds, viewers could clearly see the President applauding himself as though he’d just completed an episode of The Apprentice. The absolute gall of these people!
Trump claimed that the pause in hostilities was the outcome everyone wanted and all parties were happy. Does that include the 160,000 Kurds who saw their towns destroyed and families of the people killed in the Turkish assault? Trump’s claim that his lone wolf decision to withdraw troops was the only way that outcome could have been achieved is absurd. He acted against the recommendations of advisers far more qualified than himself and without any idea how it would turn out. It was like remodeling your house by blowing it up and hoping the pieces happen to fall where you want them.
Romney asked what most of the world was asking. If the creation of a safe zone in Syria along the Turkish border was the outcome desired by all parties, why didn’t Trump initiate negotiations to accomplish it? The answer is simple and obvious. He was rolled by Turkish President Erdogan. The Turkish assault on the Kurds is simply the latest consequence of Trump’s incompetence. The blood of every Kurd who died this week is on his hands, and the Turkish Foreign Minister acknowledged that Turkey got everything it wanted and paid no price for it.
What may be even worse is the cavalier manner in which Trump described the displacement of 160,000 people. After all the atrocities we’ve seen in Syria under Assad, does he believe that herding the Kurds into refugee camps at the mercy of the Syrian dictator is in their interest?
Finally, there’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room, the President’s mental state as he desperately tries to deal with the growing wave of sentiment for his removal. This entire affair was just another attempt to distract attention from his abject failure as president, and his delusions about how he is perceived on both the world and the national stages.
Left unsaid in the administration’s attempt to spin this disaster as a victory are the changes on the ground in Syria that will be impossible to undo. The Assad regime has been immeasurably strengthened, and Russia’s foothold in Syria is now virtually unassailable. Trump, the only player in this game who couldn’t see them coming, ignore those unanticipated consequences.
As the political sharks who value their own futures over their responsibilities to the nation begin to sense Trump’s weakness, they will descend and rip his presidency to shreds. That is very much what Donald Trump deserves, but it will be a tragedy for America whose implications will plague us for years.