The Fall of the Phoenix
Gee, who didn't see that coming...?
After Trump finished reading his TelePrompter speech about Afghanistan on Monday, many in the media bizarrely commented that it was sort of "presidential." My two immediate reactions were related. First was "STILL folks??? Really??!! You STILL think Trump has it even in a cuticle on his pinky to be presidential????? Still? My god..." And that was followed by -- "Okay, the shelf life on that speech is one day until he gets before his adoring crowd in Phoenix tomorrow without a TelePrompter." Fortunately, enough analysts did seem to expect that latter, as well. Still, I'm not even sure if "expect" goes far enough, since "near-dead certainty" was the far-better bet. If there were odds in Las Vegas that his Phoenix speech would go off the rails, I'd have taken it, whatever the odds.
By the way, before we leave Monday's faux-"presidential speech," a few things must be noted. The reality is that for a "better than usual" speech, Trump said very little and hardly even changed policy under Obama. (Not to Trump: if you want people to think you look "presidential" and sound better, then hardly even change policy under Obama as much as possible.) But what made things worse though is that his speech hinted at what most experts believe will be a 4,000 call-up of troops -- which seems nuts, since what does Trump expect 4,000 troops to do that 130,000 couldn't? And "hinting" at troop increases but not naming them before the public in your speech on military missions is not only unprecedented for a president, but cowardly. Worse still, his explanation of it all as Afghanistan now as being "results-based" risks turning this already 16-year fight into an open-ended war. Further, even if Trump had just left things are they are, that is incredibly hypocritical of him, since he had been unrelentingly slamming Mr. Obama throughout the campaign for having troops there at all, insisting relentlessly he would withdraw them entirely. Which clearly now, after his speech on Monday, is -- say it all together -- a lie. But worst of all in his speech is that the one thing Trump significantly changed is he risked destabilizing the area by playing games with rivals Pakistan and India. Moreover, by publicly insulting Pakistan he risks our "pipeline" into Afghanistan.
The thing is, as dreadful as that speech was, it was Churchillian by all accounts when compared to his Phoenix melt-down. The words most commonly used to describe it were "unhinged," "pathetic" and "embarrassing."
And anyone who thought after Monday's TelePrompter effort that John Kelly was at last in charge -- o, ye who hath not been paying attention.
All I could think of was, "Is it over yet?" And that was, I must admit, without having the heart or stomach to watch it in its entirety, but saw enough to alter most human equilibrium. Fortunately, though, I had kept my glasses from the eclipse and wore them during the speech, blocking it all out and turning everything black. (Hey, how ironic is that...?) But I knew I could count on follow-up online news reporting, TV analysis, and clips of noteworthy segments I missed to fill in the gaps.. That's about the most I could take. Hey, I have my limits.
A few things stand out from what I did see.
Most prominent is how blatantly the lies repeatedly came pouring out. Not lies that are open to interpretation, but blatant on the record. Like when slamming the press for supposedly misrepresenting his supposedly tough words on hate groups, and he read from his comments, he left out the very words he had been so-harshly and specifically criticized for!!! He just simply edited out of existence as if never uttered that he'd said there were problems "on many sides, many sides." And that he'd said there some some "very nice people" among the Nazis and KKK. Gone, no mention of all that when quoting his own words. For a man who that same night bemoaned the tearing down of Confederate statues as supposedly erasing history, the irony is dripping that he himself attempted to erase his history.
His half-hour rant against the media for daring to report what he actually says was jaw-dropping even by Trump standards, disgusting and like an eight-year-old child having a tantrum without adult supervision. We'll leave it at that.
Mind you, I do suspect that most of his undying supporters loved that Trump once again brought up building his silly little wall, and love how tough he talked to the point of risking shutting down the government if Congress doesn't act to get it done. What they will be conveniently and dead-head blindingly overlooking is that what began life as "We'll make Mexico pay for the wall, believe me, people!!" is now not only being dumped entirely on the U.S. to pay for it, but falling so fully on us as to cause our own nation to shut down on its behalf!! And worse, all those Trumpets you heard cheering are ignoring the reality that if the government does shut down over this, that would mean closing down Border Patrol, putting at risk the very thing they fear.
The good news is that the government will not shut down over this, making Trump look all the more foolish and become all the more petulant. (Mind you, it may well shut down when we get to the budget and to raising the debt ceiling, but that's another matter...)
And finally, from his words it's pretty clear that Trump will be pardoning the racist, convicted felon former-Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He relished hinting at it, but as far as "hints" go, the only thing missing was him holding up a sign that said, "Watch This Space" and "I will be pardoning Joe Arp...Sorry, I can't say yet." The only saving grace there is that Arpaio has told the press he welcomes a pardon because he's not guilty, not realizing that accepting a pardon is the equivalent of pleading guilty. Also, since pardons don't cover state crimes, it will be interesting to see if Arizona justice officials go after Arpaio if he gets his federal pardon. And in the end, pardoning Joe Arpaio will only serve to solidify that Trump supports racists -- not that that needs any solidifying.
And those are only the highlights. Or rather, lowlights. And we didn't even get to him calling peaceful protesters "anarchists." Or that when talking about Charlottesville, he found time to mention his supposed-home there again (it's actually a winery, and its website says he's not even affiliated with it), but no mention of Heather Heyer who lost her life in domestic terrorism. Nor any mention of good wishes in Arizona to Arizona senator John McClain fighting cancer. Nor any mention that the bodies of some of the 10 Navy service members who died near Singapore were recovered that very day. Not even another "too bad."
If people really wanted to erase history, that speech would have been a good place to start.
That was going to be the end of this piece, but I've decided to give that to Don Lemon of CNN. What he said after the speech was too good to not repeat --
“I’m just going to speak from the heart here. What we witnessed is a total eclipse of the facts, someone who came out on stage and lied directly the American people and left things out that he said in an attempt to rewrite history—especially when it comes to Charlottesville.
“He’s unhinged, it’s embarrassing and I don’t mean for us—the media—because he went after us, but for the country. This is who we elected president of the United States. A man who is so petty that he has to go after people he deems to be his enemy, like an imaginary friend of a 6-year-old.
“His speech was without thought, without reason, devoid of facts, devoid of wisdom. There was no gray. He was like a child blaming a sibling on something else. He did it. I didn’t do it.”
Ahhh, good. It's a safety valve to read that. A bit of Lemon Aid.
And there's comfort, too, in knowing that meanwhile, Robert Mueller, the FBI, Senate and House investigations go on...
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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