Chaos. That’s where America is right now. Who put us there? You don’t really need me to answer that, do you? A more complex question is how the hell did he end up in the White House, but that’s a whole other subject, one we’ve been chewing on for the past two years. But let’s talk about where we are now. Let’s focus on two policy arenas where, this week, the Man Who Lost The Popular Vote announced head-spinningly abrupt shifts (and that is an understatement).
The first shift was on shutting down the government if Individual 1 didn’t get the money—that Mexico was going to provide, remember?—to pay for his ridiculous, racist, not to mention completely useless political stunt of a border wall. The current round of idiocy began when Trump got played hard, by Nancy Pelosi in particular, along with Chuck Schumer, in their televised White House meeting, during which Mr. 46 Percent of the Popular Vote took complete ownership for shutting down the government over his wall, proclaiming: “If we don’t get what we want I will shut down the government.”
Then, a few days after that, Trump walked it back—or had Sarah Sanders do it for him. He trotted out Sanders to signal that he was backing down, and she explained that, well, they didn’t actually need that $5 billion for the wall in the continuing resolution to fund the government because “we have other ways that we can get to the $5 billion that we will work with Congress.” Okay, so it looked for a moment like maybe sanity would prevail. After all, Republicans had taken a historic shellacking in the midterms, and perhaps Trump realized he’d have to live with that.
Then along came Ann Coulter.
If Trump didn’t get the wall built, Coulter declared in an interview with the Daily Caller: “They’re about to have a country where no Republican will ever be elected president again … It’ll just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populist for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.” She also stated flatly that, without a wall, she would not vote to re-elect him in 2020, and added: “Nor will, I think, most of his supporters. Why would you? To make sure, I don’t know, Ivanka and Jared can make money? That seems to be the main point of the presidency at this point.” Damn. Other right-wingers piled on as well, with Ben Shapiro calling the move “pretty gutless,” and Rush Limbaugh saying that Trump was getting “less than nothing.” But Coulter was the loudest.
Coulter also wrote a column titled “Gutless President in Wall-Less Country,” and went to town on Twitter:
The chant wasn't "SIGN A BILL WITH B.S. PROMISES ABOUT 'BORDER SECURITY' AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE, GUARANTEED TO FAIL!"
It was "BUILD A WALL!"
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) December 20, 2018
Trump clearly noticed the criticism from Coulter, who had, mind you, once called him an “emperor god” (no, I’m not joking). In response, he issued Trumpworld’s highest insult:
realDonaldTrump appears to no longer follow @AnnCoulter. (This bot cannot tell if this was an unfollow, suspension or block.)
— Trump Alert (@TrumpsAlert) December 20, 2018
However, after taking that step, Trump turned around and then paid her the ultimate compliment—without, of course, actually giving her the credit. Although Trump didn’t say Coulter’s name, he did what she demanded. He reversed course and went back to his original position: either give me the $5 billion for the wall or I’ll shut down the government.
BREAKING: Doctors announce world’s first successful spine transplanthttps://t.co/cHwtxQp7LS
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) December 20, 2018
Trump got House Republicans to take one more vote to pay for the wall, and pass the buck on to the Senate. The Senate, meanwhile, had already unanimously passed a bipartisan deal to fund the government without Trump’s wall funding. He then started trying to shift the blame to Democrats, but thanks to his pals Chuck and Nancy, he was already on record as having owned the shutdown. Schumer hit right back, calling out the #TrumpTemperTantrum:
President Trump is plunging us into chaos.
The stock market is down 500 points. Secretary Mattis is leaving. We know he had serious disagreements with President Trump over Syria and the wall.
And now, another temper tantrum and a Trump shutdown over Christmas is nearly upon us. pic.twitter.com/6rCQmEjSKd
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 21, 2018
The point here is this: when Ann Coulter—the person who personifies Trump’s immigration-addled base—told him to change course or face the consequences, he did exactly that. That makes her Trump’s most important adviser, the only one (apparently) who can get him to change a policy after he has publicly announced it. This week’s events made clear that one of his other supposed top advisers, one who actually sits in the Cabinet and runs a little, relatively unimportant agency known as the Department of Defense, holds no such sway over this president.
The reaction to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s resignation is worse than anything we’ve yet seen after someone has announced they are leaving the Trump White House. Here are just a couple of examples from Republicans:
“Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted. “It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances & empower our adversaries.”“This chaos,” Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich said on Twitter, “both foreign and domestic, is putting America in danger and must stop immediately.”[snip] “The wheels may be coming off,” said a conservative House Republican who supports Trump
A quick and unplanned withdrawal of American forces opens the door for major turmoil as various groups rush to fill the political and security vacuum, giving leverage to America’s enemies including Russia, Iran and President Bashar Assad’s government. Experts warn the Islamic State group, currently fighting to hang on to its last pockets in Syria, would soon find its way back.
“A full withdrawal sends the wrong signal, one that also will be heard by other counterterrorism partners far from Syria,” said William F. Wechsler, senior adviser for Middle East programs at the Atlantic Council.
Not surprisingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Trump’s decision, saying Thursday the U.S. forces should not have been in Syria to start with. A key ally of Assad, Russia’s military intervention beginning in 2015 turned the tide of the war in the Syrian leader’s favor.
“I agree with the U.S. president, we have made significant progress in fighting terrorism on that territory and dealt serious blows to ISIS in Syria,” the Russian leader said.
This take, from those on the ground, sheds even more light:
A sr military official told me US special forces troops distraught, upset, morally disturbed by having to tell their kurdish allies in Syria that, because of orders, their promises of defense won’t be kept.
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) December 21, 2018
Why pull out from Syria now? This week? Could it have been to distract from the wall/shutdown insanity? Could it have been to distract from a tanking stock market? Could it have been to distract from the developments in the various (17 and counting) Trump-related investigations going on?
You know, I almost forgot that earlier this week the Trump Foundation—note: not the Clinton Foundation—agreed to dissolve itself under a cloud of legal troubles. This agreement resulted from an investigation started by New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who accused the foundation of “functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” as well as carrying out “a shocking pattern of illegality” regarding its interactions with the 2016 Trump campaign, along with other activities. Doesn’t it seem like we heard about that a really long time ago?
And this, in a nutshell, is Trump. One dumpster fire to the next. “Holy shit, my racist base is up in arms? Give ‘em what they want.” But let’s get serious here, because this is no joke.
What this week makes clear is that on issues of life and death, military and foreign policy issues that can affect our country and the world for years to come, this president will ignore the people who possess real expertise and experience, people like Jim Mattis. Hell, Trump may not even read or understand the information those people are giving him.
On the other hand, the people Trump will not ignore are the charlatans and carnival barkers, people like Ann Coulter, who speak for and to his most die-hard supporters, the people without whom he cannot be re-elected. I’m not even sure he’s thinking that far ahead, as I wouldn’t put it past him to announce a pullout from Syria simply to change the subject for a news cycle or two. That’s the kind of man who now holds the reins of power in the country we love.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.