Updated at the bottom in the wake of the firing of James Comey
If you were to draw a graph of the coverage of the Trump / Russia story in the mainstream media over the past few months, you would notice two very striking features. One would be a significant dip in the number of stories around the issue after the first week in April. The second would be a significant increase in stories around the end of April, beginning of May. Now why would that be?
Mr Trump came to power promising a number of radical changes in the direction of America. High on that list was a new foreign policy. Although, like everything the man does, the details were lacking, the gist of what he stood for during his campaign and indeed his inauguration address was clear: America under his leadership would no longer intervene in conflicts which did not directly threaten the nation’s security, and it would no longer employ a policy of regime changing other nations. In short, America under the Trump administration, would no longer seek to establish itself as the “world’s policeman” and would settle for being just a country — a great country, but a country and not an empire nonetheless.
Then on April 6th, Mr Trump reneged on these campaign promises. In response to an alleged and still unproven chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, Mr Trump ordered the firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles upon the Syrian al-Sharyat airbase, apparently as an accompaniment to the chocolate cake he was eating with the Chinese President.
Many of his supporters were stunned (full disclosure: I was not remotely among that number, and so I write as a keen observer and not a jilted fan). Hadn’t he won their vote because he promised not to do that sort of thing? Yes indeed, but this was only the beginning. Next up the US military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever to be used on Afghanistan, the so-called MOAB. His administration started ramping up the rhetoric and rattling the sabre in a dangerous escalation on the Korean peninsula. Oh and the obsolete Nato was suddenly declared to have a reason for existing after all.
What was all that about? For all his many faults, I don’t buy the idea that he had deliberately deceived his supporters into voting for him with talk of non-intervention. The fact that he was putting out Tweets about the folly of US interventionism in Syria, probably long before the thought of standing for President even occurred to him, tend to indicate that at some level he believed it.
So what changed? Here’s my best guess. It seems to me that Mr Trump is very easily manipulated, and that certain folks in the Deep State were able to persuade him that if he started doing the right things according to the orthodox neocon ideology (i.e. bombing countries and showing the world who’s boss) the whole Trump / Russia thing would be quietly buried. I imagine he also came under enormous pressure from some to buckle, and being a man without any real principles, he buckled.
However, after the Tomahawks, the MOAB, and the Korean armada, it all started to look like a bit of a damp squib. Which leads me to believe that after having made a bit of a show for the Deep State, he probably thought he’d done enough to satisfy them and that they would quietly bury the Trump /Russia thing, allowing him to get on with actually governing America. If that’s anywhere close to the correct explanation of recent events, he is now in the process of finding out how badly he has miscalculated.
For a few short weeks, it did indeed look like his enemies were cutting him some slack. He was praised by the worst sorts of necons imaginable, such as Robert Kagan and even Paul Wolfowitz, who somehow managed to creep out of his coffin and talk about his new found optimism for the Trump presidency. And the very mainstream media which had been constantly attacking Mr Trump without ceasing suddenly found that maybe they might like him after all. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, for example, speaking about the Tomahawk attack exclaimed “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States. I think this was actually a big moment.” Amazing what launching a bunch of bombs on a sovereign nation after unproven allegations does to some people!
But since that time, Mr Trump has once again forgotten where Syria is, except to apparently agree to Russia’s plan for four de-escalation zones across the country — something that will be viewed by the neocons as blasphemy against their god (US exceptionalism), and which must not go unanswered. And lo and behold, just in this last week the volume on the Trump / Russia cretinism has just been dialled up once more, this time to ear splitting volume.
If my analysis is correct — and feel free to challenge — Mr Trump now finds himself backed against a wall with his enemies closing in on him with the net once more. It’s a position of his own making, since he failed to stand up to the Deep State from the outset, as he promised he would, and instead chose to capitulate to them and do their bidding, in order (so I believe) that they would back off. In which case he has completely underestimated the nature of the sheer evil that he is up against. These people will never back off. Their obsessive messianic commitment to American hegemony is so total and so uncompromising, that they will either have Mr Trump as a puppet in their pocket, or they will destroy him. There is no third way.
Mr Trump’s crazy April appears to me to have been his attempt to appease them. But as his increasingly exasperated Tweets attest, he is finding out not only that it can’t be done, but that he is now more trapped than ever. As Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer said, “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” He’s not in the habit of being right, but he was right there.
So what will Mr Trump do? His choice really is simple: either he will continue to do what the Deep State tells him to do, pursuing more aggression in Syria, North Korea and Afghanistan, or they will take him down.
Literally minutes after completing this piece came the news that Mr Trump had fired Mr Comey. Some might see this as a complete repudiation of what I have said above, since on the surface it looks like Mr Trump beginning to drain the swamp, which is
a) what he promised to do and
b) not exactly in keeping with him being caught in a Deep State net
And indeed, somewhat predictably, many of his supporters who were so dejected at his 180 degree turn in April now seem to think he is back on track.
Sorry but I don’t buy it. Whatever your opinion of Mr Comey (and it ought not to be very high given his obvious incompetence), Mr Trump has just made an error of monumental proportions. The suspicion that he sacked Comey to cover up the investigation into the Trump / Russia cretinism will now reach unprecedented heights, and the claims that he has abused his power will be deafening. All he has done is to hasten the end of his presidency, which I believe will not last the year.