You have to hand it to El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago for the way he’s managed to keep a lid on the report that Russia was financing hits on American soldiers in Afghanistan. He’s been so confident in his ability to bury the story in other outrages that he even feels confident enough in the story’s having cooled that he can mention that he had a nice chat with Vladimir Putin the other day, and it was so pleasant that the subject never came up. From Axios:
Trump spoke with Putin on Thursday, and subsequently deflected a question about whether he’d raised the alleged bounty scheme, saying on Monday: “We don’t talk about what we discussed, but we had plenty of discussion.” In Tuesday’s interview, he was definitive: “I have never discussed it with him.” Pressed on why he didn’t raise the matter in Thursday’s call, he said: “That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news.”
It should not be necessary to point out how loudly the entire conservative ecosystem would be howling if Barack Obama, or Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter had blown off this story so blithely, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. One of the elements of his 2016 campaign that made some marks on the American left at least Trump-curious was his apparent promise to extricate the country from its adventurism in West Asia. (In one debate, he memorably slugged Jeb Bush for Jeb’s brother’s calamitous war in Iraq.) As we have learned since then, however, the problem is not that the president* was selling swampland in those debates, although he plainly was. The real problem is that, even if he were sincere, he wouldn’t know fck-all how to do it, anymore than he knows fck-all how to handle any other obligation or duty of the office he holds.
Prying the U.S. out of the Afghanistan sinkhole requires a deft hand with both carrots and sticks and, as demonstrated by the fact that the deal he trumpeted in February to remove American troops has broken down utterly because the warring elements within Afghanistan can’t keep their hands off each other for 20 minutes at a time. And now, of course, Russia is meddling, and sowing uncertainty and discontent, and paying bounties on dead Americans, and the president* doesn’t know fck-all what to do about any of that, either. One other lesson we should have learned by now is that the president*’s venality and his incompetence are in rough balance with each other.
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