Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 | 2 a.m.
The White House has tried to walk back Donald Trump’s “locked and loaded” tweet after this past weekend’s attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, but the damage is already done.
Trump drew a red line. And with that line, he painted himself into a corner. Now, he’s left with no good options for moving forward.
Take military action? Trump repeatedly has stated disdain at getting the U.S. into another prolonged conflict, and there’s little appetite for it in Congress or even in Trump’s base. Yet if he
doesn’t take action after making his reckless tweet, it will signal to Iran that it can get away with the kind of aggression it apparently carried out in the Saudi attacks.
This lose-lose situation for the U.S. is the direct culmination of the chaos of the Trump administration and the instability of Trump himself.
This is a president who acts on impulse, has no understanding of geopolitics and no interest in learning, disdains opinions that differ from his own and is motivated by self-interests. He’s also appeared happy to be manipulated by the Saudis, which became clear after the slaying of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and with his approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia over a bipartisan uproar in Congress.
Then came Trump’s tweets after the attacks, in which he made his foolish “locked and loaded” comment and announced that the White House was waiting to hear from the Saudis “under what terms we would proceed.”
This is a dark hour. The U.S. can’t let the attacks on oil resources go unchecked, but Trump long ago demolished the crucial structure for determining how such a response is determined. In its place is a culture where staff appeases the erratic president like a petulant tyrant and even bends reality to meet his twisted version of it, as proven most recently in the Sharpie incident.
Dissension with Trump is not tolerated by the White House. Just ask the parade of Cabinet members Trump has kicked out — James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, John Bolton, Michael Flynn, Reince Priebus, etc.
Worse, all of his acting appointees in Cabinet and other key slots are now coming back to bite us — just when we need adults in the room, we have the withered losers Trump has gathered around him.
With this reality show approach, Trump eliminated the give-and-take that helps leaders see situations from all angles and make well-rounded decisions. His attacks on allies and praise for murderous dictators undermined America’s credibility as a global leader, and his war on facts crippled trust in the White House among Americans.
Now, with the Middle East on the verge of exploding in conflict, this is where the terrifying consequences of Trump’s election play out. The dreaded 3 a.m. call may indeed soon come.
If and when it does, it will be answered by a president who won’t or can’t even read a briefing paper. And unlike the situation with the hurricane maps, Iran won’t appease Trump’s bumbling of facts like his toady staff members did.
It is in times like these that the U.S. needs solid allies who trust our steadiness just as much as we trust theirs — and Trump has destroyed that too by savaging allies and cozying up to enemies.
If he’s not getting orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin or the Saudis — or swooning in love with North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un — he’s lost.
The Saudi attacks and Trump’s bumbling response were the outcome of tearing up the Iran agreement in the name of political theatrics and red-meat tweets to Trump’s base.
If and when the 0-dark-thirty call does come, someone — anyone — needs to make sure Trump doesn’t push the wrong button at the wrong time. Here’s hoping that situation doesn’t come to pass.
When voters go to the polls in 2020, it’s vital to remember moments like these.