The demise of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is something that ought to bring relief to all Americans, and others around the world, who abhor the hatred and terrorism that he represented. This news should have been an opportunity for Donald Trump to unite the nation in appreciation of the courageous work of our military and intelligence personnel. But Trump being Trump makes all acts of decency dirty.
On Saturday night Trump posted a cryptic tweet that said only that “Something very big has just happened!” It wasn’t long before the meaning of his tweet was all over the media. But the cheesy manner in which he tried to create some kind of cliffhanger plot device is reminiscent of his years as a Reality TV game show host.
In his press conference on Sunday morning Trump announced what everyone already knew. Baghdadi died during a raid by U.S. forces on his compound in Syria. He detonated a suicide vest as American soldiers were closing in on him. This could have been a story of success and courage for the nation, but Trump’s announcement was littered with revelations that were disturbing and self-serving. Especially his admission that he withheld the details of the mission from the congressional “Gang of Eight” who are traditionally informed of these affairs.
Reporter: Did you notify the congressional leaders about this, Pelosi, McConnell…
Trump: We notified some. Others are being notified now as I speak. We were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before. There’s no country in the world that leaks like we do. And Washington is a leaking machine.
I told my people that we will not notify them until our great people are out. Not just in, but out. I don’t want have them greeted with fire power like you wouldn’t believe. So we were able to get in. It was top secret. It was kept. There were no leaks. Nothing. The only people that knew were the few people that I dealt with.
Make no mistake, what Trump is saying with this statement is that he doesn’t trust House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who is second in line for the presidency), and the leaders of the congressional committees with jurisdiction, to respect the confidentiality of military operations that put our troops and others in harm’s way. Trump made a unilateral decision to shut out the people’s representatives and appoint himself the de facto King of America.
This is a stunning abuse of power that improperly conceals information from people who require it to fulfill their constitutional duties. It also displays flagrant contempt for Congress and democracy. And while Trump felt he could not trust his American co-equal partners in leadership, he did reveal these secrets to people in Russia, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. This tells you something about where Trump’s loyalties lie.
But Trump wasn’t through embarrassing himself and America in this press conference. He went on to lie about the oil in Syria, which does not exist in “massive amounts” as he said. And his stated intention to take that oil is not only unlawful, it reduces the United States military to mercenaries in pursuit of the wealth of other nations’ natural resources.
Trump also managed to slip in a promotion for his ghostwritten books. He singled out one in particular that he said predicted the emergence of Osama bin Laden. Trump said that no one ever heard of bin Laden at the time, which is as ignorant a lie as he has ever told. Not only was he well known to intelligence and terrorism professionals, he had already struck in the U.S., and was the target of operations aimed at terminating him and his organization.
Finally, Trump is apparently incapable of speaking for more than three minutes without maligning his perceived enemies and critics. So naturally he took a swipe a President Obama, saying that…
“When we use our intelligence correctly, what we can do is incredible. When we waste our time with intelligence that hurts our country, because we had poor leadership at the top, that’s not good.”
In that noxious commentary, Trump not only insulted another American president, but also the entire intelligence community. He was exploiting the Baghdadi news conference to attack the investigations of his own unsavory connections to Russia and malign the probe into foreign interference in the 2016 election. He was unambiguously punching back at the impeachment inquiry currently in progress. And for him to choose this moment to pursue that wholly personal obsession poisons whatever unity and pride the nation might otherwise have enjoyed.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.