Many of you may be familiar with Jim Geraghty‘s Rule from 2008: “All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date. All of them.”
But what about statements from Donald Trump, in light of his seeming about-face on attacking Syria?
One reliable constant stands out over these tumultuous weeks: for every Trump policy, there is an old Trump tweet calling it dumb pic.twitter.com/pwen0VeGo4
— Sulome Anderson (@SulomeAnderson) April 8, 2017
It's like Trump insulted an old gypsy woman who cursed him to live out his tweets. https://t.co/vWgy6gzkld
— (((tedfrank))) (@tedfrank) April 9, 2017
I ask because Philip Klein (a smart guy, particularly on healthcare policy) has an… interesting explanation of how to square Trump’s attack on Syria with his campaign rhetoric: “Though he didn’t try to convey any sort of coherent grand strategy, his own disjointed heterodox statements actually made people feel that on a gut level, he was basically where they were.”
Well, I’m old enough to have heard that theory before: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” That was Barack Obama, in the prologue to The Audacity of Hope.
And this is why the whole concept of “taking Trump seriously, but not literally” was such a transparent dodge by his supporters and apologists. It was apparent to anyone who pays attention to any area of policy that candidate Trump had almost no knowledge of or facility with policy and was unable to even adequately describe his own policies on his own website. It’s one of the reasons that most people thought he lacked the knowledge or temperament to be President during the campaign.
Now he’s President Trump and his team has asked his intelligence briefers to cut down on the number of words in the daily briefing book and use more graphics and pictures. And it was pictures of child victims of the Assad regime that ostensibly prompted Trump to shift his position.
For now, it’s working. Having fired Michael Flynn and removed Stephen Bannon from the NSC, Trump does seem to have mostly followed through on his promise to hire the best people when it comes to natsec, e.g., James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and Nikki Haley.
Trump’s also getting good press for striking Syria, even from quarters who were afraid to publicly criticize Obama’s feckless foreign policy while he was in power.
Moreover, Trump voters are so deafened by the tribal drums that many don’t even notice his inconsistency.
— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) April 9, 2017
But while Klein notes that the potential for problems if things escalate in Syria is still hypothetical, it’s not exactly unlikely either. And even if Syria does not grow as a challenge for the U.S., there will inevitably be others.
When the going gets rougher, it’s entirely possible that Trump’s voters, not to mention the media, will focus more on the incoherent leadership at the top.
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