by Bob Cesca
During the 2016 campaign cycle, many of us -- especially yours truly -- wondered what destabilization and incompetence at the presidential level might look like with Donald Trump sitting behind the Resolute Desk. While the prospect of a Trump presidency routinely scared the piss out of me, there was a teeny tiny subsection of my brain that still wondered whether it would be as bad as the rest of my brain was forecasting. Was the "Trump might be crazy like a fox" crowd right?
Of course not. Trump's presidency has been worse than predicted. Much worse.
Not only is Trump easily the most feckless, intellectually bankrupt, deeply corrupt and treasonous chief executive in the history of the republic, he's also been acting almost solely to benefit his wealthy cronies, be they domestic cronies, or Russian oligarchs, or Vladimir Putin himself. As predicted, there was never any lasting pivot toward becoming legitimately presidential. He's a profoundly embarrassing figure, prone to endless rants about polls and election results; routinely posting misspelled and punctuation-challenged tweets that vindicate our worst fears about his temperament and childish hissy fits; and, when he speaks in public, he involuntarily blurts flop-sweat worthy gibberish. This doesn't even take into consideration his moves to gut climate and healthcare regulations, as well as LGBTQ protections.
On Tuesday, for example, Trump met with police chiefs in the White House for another listening session. Kicking things off, the president observed how the event was being carried live and that it was specifically because Trump is so excellent and so important that he's always broadcast live unlike other presidents -- not realizing that it was C-SPAN and, yes, the network also carried Obama's public events live as well. But because Trump is burdened (or so the voices inside his bulbous pumpkin head tell him) with the responsibility of being the only president to face live cameras (bullshit), he noted that he has to be perfect -- and thankfully, he said, his White House is perfect when it comes to these things.
“You know, unfortunately the other guys, they make a speech nobody cares," Trump continued, "With me, everything’s live. One mistake and it’s not good. But we just can’t make mistakes, right? So we don’t make mistakes. Go ahead, Ken." Then Trump tossed the conversation to "Ken," the man seated immediately to Trump's left.
“I’m Chuck Canterbury,” Ken said.
(Cue fail horn.)
It's nice to start out articles like this with a joke, especially when the joke actually happened in real life. Sadly, however, it's indicative of a broader degree of rank incompetence and instability that we're witnessing unfold almost every day.
Take for example the chaos in the House Intelligence Committee. Clearly, the Republican chairman of the panel, Devin Nunes, is a puppet of the White House and, clearly, Nunes received information about Trump's ludicrous conspiracy theory in which Obama personally authorized wiretaps against Trump Tower from one or more White House officials who were attempting to reverse engineer Trump's batshit tweets from a month or so ago.
Meanwhile, Nunes canceled hearings scheduled for this week regarding the separate but somewhat related investigation into ties between Trump officials and Putin's cyber war against the United States. Former acting attorney general Sally Yates, as well as Paul Manafort and Carter Page were scheduled to testify this week, potentially revealing explosive new revelations about the war and Putin's accomplices inside Team Trump. He's also refusing to inform his committee's other members about who gave him the wiretap information -- or even what specific information he was given.
Quite obviously, Nunes should probably be compelled to testify before his own committee. Better yet, he should be called to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee once those hearings get underway next week.
Big picture, this is absolutely not normal. In any way. We'd expect obstruction of justice from the White House, but not the House committee tasked with investigating Trump's obvious crimes. Indeed, this is what destabilization of the system looks like. Since it began in 1977, the panel was always bipartisan due to the critical nature of the materials, budgets and personnel it was tasked with overseeing. Not any more. The committee as we know it has ceased to exist, and its chairman has either been coerced or has chosen to destroy the integrity of his own post.
And while our attention has been drawn in by the Trump Singularity -- the slow motion train wreck and the carnage in its wake -- we almost missed the news of yet another botched military operation on Trump's watch. This one was serious. And awful. And heartbreaking.
More than 200 Iraqi civilians were killed when a building collapsed in the Mosul neighborhood of Aghawat Jadidah back on March 17, following a U.S.-led airstrike. Not two or three civilians. Two hundred.
The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is investigating whether it was responsible for an airstrike in the west Mosul neighborhood of Aghawat Jadidah March 17 that local civil defense officials said killed at least 200. It would be the highest civilian death toll from an airstrike since the battle against the militant group Islamic State began more than two years ago and among the deadliest incidents in modern warfare.
There's a chance that ISIL was responsible for the collapse -- perhaps piggy-backing an attack on the building with the airstrike to undermine America's reputation.
The massive explosion that tore through Baghdad Street last week killed nine of Jasim’s relatives, including son Firas, 7, and daughter Taiba, 4. “We recovered half his body,” she said of the 7-year-old. “The rest is still there.”
Trump and the GOP claim to be anti-abortion, but how anti-abortion is this?
One man approached a bag that contained the body of a pregnant woman, touched it, talked to it, then began to cry and wail. Civil defense workers had to lead him away.
Remember what Trump said? "We don't make mistakes."
If it turns out to be an American missile that destroyed the building, this will be the second time a Trump era attack has gone horribly awry inside his first 60 days -- this occasion far outpacing, by the way, the disastrous SEAL Team 6 operation in central Yemen that killed William "Ryan" Owens.
This is what incompetence looks like. This is what destabilization looks like. This is what "crazy like a fox" looks like, but only if we remove the "like a fox" part. And we're only 70 days or so into this presidential crisis. To repeat a refrain I've been mentioning for months now: every day Trump remains in the White House is damage. He has to be forced to resign for the good of the nation and the good of the world. Yes, America has endured many existential calamities in its history, including a horrifyingly violent civil war. But never has a president's incompetence and accompanying instability been backed if not entirely precipitated by a hostile foreign power that can manipulate countless citizens with the click of a mouse.
Yet 40 percent of American voters are cool with it.
MSNBC's Chris Hayes said last week that we live in an era when Americans who witnessed fascism first hand in the form of the Axis Powers are dying off, leaving a population of voters who don't have a strong perspective on- or appreciation for the value of our slow-moving constitutional democracy. Thus, they're willing to experiment with it. I'm afraid we're getting to a point when they're about to witness the rise of autocracy right here and right now, partly because they're enabling every step toward it -- despite the incompetence and instability and obvious despotism illustrated on the front page every day.
"Crazy like a fox" my ass.