The Kremlin in DC
(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
‘The brilliant movie ‘The Death of Stalin’ shows the members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR fawning over their leader, first when he’s still alive and kicking, then when he becomes unconscious after a brain hemorrhage, and even after his death. They whisper the obligatory compliments and commendations, scared that Stalin may catch them uttering one wrong word, like the name of a former comrade who has been disposed of by the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) , and fearful of what their colleagues might report to ‘the boss’ about them. There must be a similar atmosphere in the White House, not only among staffers but also among cabinet members. The latter was on full display yesterday, when Trump held one of those meetings where nothing of substance is being discussed but Department Secretaries are supposed to heap praise on him, after which he does them one better. This time acting Attorney General Whitaker took the cake for effusively lauding the fact that Trump had stayed in DC over the holidays. It was too much for Mike Pence, who chimed in that he, too, had stayed in Washington, hoping for some extra credit.
What Trump has in common with Stalin is megalomania and the inability to take responsibility for any failures, always blaming and blasting others for government actions that go awry. Add to that the president’s pathological narcissism, and it leads to statements like: “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows,” in spite of a total lack of military experience, and “I could run for any office in Europe,” notwithstanding his extreme unpopularity in the Old World. Sitting next to the acting Secretary of Defense Trump said that he ‘effectively’ fired Jim Mattis, something all attendees knew to be a lie, and praised the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, all but inviting the Russians back there together with India, a move that would significantly boost Pakistan’s support of the Taliban and soon lead to their taking over the country. The president, who received a bone spur deferment from serving in Vietnam thanks to a doctor who did his landlord, Trump’s father, a favor, also saw fit to make fun of ‘his’ generals, who are ‘better looking than Tom Cruise,’ and of the ‘extremely big’ guns of Secret Service members protecting him in the White House.
Fortunately, unlike Stalin Trump has a Congress to reckon with, which will probably be his downfall. He says he won’t hesitate to force over 800,000 government workers to go without a paycheck for a prolonged period of time, half of them without a chance to ever recoup their salary, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t give him a penny for a wall that is only a useless monument to his vanity, and that Mexico was supposed to pay for to begin with. As this conflict drags on, the dire consequences of the shutdown will accumulate, and even the GOP will have to abandon Trump.
Yesterday former Homeland Security Secretary Jay Johnson pointed out that there is already 700 miles of fencing in places where it makes sense on the southern border that could be somewhat expanded and complemented with technologically more advanced security tools. So there is a deal to be made, but Trump is too ignorant of the facts to see it. His ignorance stretches from the southern border to Syria, which he characterized as ‘death and sand’ with no ‘real wealth’ that could be taken.
When asked by Chuck Schumer to give one argument for keeping large parts of the government closed instead of continuing to discuss border security under temporary funding, Trump said: “Because opening the government would make me look foolish.” To give us a preview yesterday he looked really foolish when he showed up in the White House press room to take some attention away from Nancy Pelosi and had nothing to say.
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