Blowing an Opportunity in 40 Minutes

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

It could have been Trump’s finest hour.  He could have walked up to the podium, looked straight into the camera, solemnly announced the death of the world’s number one terrorist, praised the Delta Force that executed the attack on the compound, thanked the US allies, in particular the Kurds, whose contribution to the success of the raid was critical, then turned around and stepped away.  People would have called him presidential, but the president chose to start rambling and lying.  He said that Al Baghdadi ‘died like a dog, died like a coward, crying and whimpering,’ although a military spokesperson later told the press that Trump had no way of knowing exactly how the ISIS leader behaved just before he blew himself up.  He thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and finally the Kurds, who provided ‘some help,’ but only after they had been beaten up by the Turks for three days, although later it was revealed that for quite some time the Kurds had provided critical intelligence and monitored the compound, while Russia had only allowed the Americans to fly over territory it occupied and the role of Turkey and Syria was even more nebulous.

Of course Trump couldn’t pass up a chance to criticize Obama, so he declared that Baghdadi should have been killed by his predecessor and said that the ISIS leader was much bigger than Osama Bin Laden, because Bin Laden was not known before 9/11 and Baghdadi had a caliphate.  In spite of obligatory denials by the Pentagon it appears that the military was forced to speed up the assault because of the loss of local capabilities due to Trump’s sudden withdrawal of troops from north-eastern Syria, so that the action was a success in spite of rather than thanks to the Commander in Chief.  Trump notified the Russians of the upcoming attack on the compound but against protocol not de Democrats, allegedly because he didn’t trust them but more likely to spite them.  Also not informed was acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who learned about Al Baghdadi’s death when the president announced it on Twitter.  Trump had special praise for the ‘canine’ that chased the terrorist to his death, clarifying that he called it a ‘dog,’ a term he normally only uses in a derogatory way, especially to describe women who dare to criticize him.

If Trump dreamed that he could take a victory lap at game 5 of the World Series he was awoken by the chant ‘lock him up,’ and from then on things went south for him.  Nancy Pelosi decided to speed up the impeachment inquiry and not get bogged down in court fights, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated veteran working for the National Security Counsel, testified that there had been four quid pro quos with Ukraine: an Oval Office meeting and military aid were made contingent upon investigating Biden and Burisma, but also the 2016 election and CrowdStrike.

Vindman was the first witness who had actually been listening in on Trump’s call with Zelensky, and he told House members that passages referring to Biden and Burisma had been omitted from the White House memo that the president on more than one occasion had called an ‘exact transcript’ and a ‘word for word’ reconstruction of the call.  As thanks for his service the usual suspects at FOX News painted Vindman as a ‘never Trumper’ and a double agent working for Ukraine.

While the president was urging Republicans to focus on substance instead of process, something they simply cannot do, John Bolton was invited to come testify in the impeachment inquiry.  The former National Security Advisor’s lawyer made clear that a subpoena would be required, but it’s still uncertain if Bolton would be willing to answer questions, and nobody can even guess what he would say.

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