Trump Flounders As The Stakes Get Bigger

Donald Trump has to be feeling the heat now. With polls a week ago showing essentially a dead heat for president between him and Hillary Clinton (new network polls show her moving back into a slender lead after receiving her Bernie Sanders endorsement), the billionaire bully boy waffled badly at the end over his pick of far right Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate before finally announcing in an awkward Friday tweet what his advisors had already leaked.

What else happened in the last few days? A horrific terrorist attack on the French Riviera followed by a mysterious and ultimately failed military coup in Turkey, the only Islamic nation in NATO and an important yet very problematic US ally.

After boasting again via twitter that he had foreseen another jihadist terrorist attack -- Does the man's genius know no bounds? Heh -- Trump has had remarkably little to say. Which is just as well, as these are complex matters and Trump has no knowledge about or facility for them.

Too bad for him that a real-life rather than "reality" show president has to make real-time calls that involve things far more important than the use or non-use of social media.

With a decidedly odd-looking Republican national convention getting underway now in Cleveland, all this reminds of the very high stakes involved. And why Duce Donald is very much not the person for the job.

Trump reportedly tried to change his mind at the last minute on his selection of far right Indiana Governor Mike Pence as would-be vice president. While it's understandable that Trump might not want to be so easily pinned down as being supportive of laws harassing gay folks and attempts to control women's bodies, he has already taken it upon himself to lead the nation's reactionary forces. So he needs to own it.

Just imagine that unsteadiness on his biggest hard-and-fast decision as a candidate at work on the far murkier matters of the horrific Thursday night truck attack on tourists and Bastille Day celebrants in Nice, France.

What is Trump's 140-character solution to the emerging reality of that attack; namely, that the attacker had few if any discernible ties to jihadists and was not much of Muslim, much less a fundamentalist Islamic radical? What he was was a seemingly irrational, frequently violent guy.

There's no typically glib and shallow Trumpist answer for that. Well, except for that which really underlies so much of Trump's message. Sheer racism.

The Turkish crisis too defies the instantly reflexive social media/"reality" TV/appeal to the constantly honed resentments of Fox News media chops that have elevated the opportunistic neo-fascist well within hailing distance of the Presidency of the United States.

I followed the attempted coup as it unfolded on the two compact Androids I carry at all times. (See, Hillary, it's easy to carry two devices. Try it some time.)

Lately I've been using the smartphones in tandem. On the one hand, to watch and listen to the stunningly good Dead & Co. tour as it moves around the US. On the other, for the usual news/research/communication purposes. And for just this sort of thing.

As the Turkish coup unfolded, I kept one device on the BBC World Service and other on the Russia Today television feed. (American cable news? You're kidding, right?)

Two things were clear pretty early on. First, that the rebels, drawn entirely from the traditionally more modernist and secular military, were putting out America-friendly messages in contrast to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's much more ambivalent moves of recent years. Second, that the rebels' success in seizing state media, airports, and certain other key elements of infrastructure was not matched in securing Erdogan.

In uncertain situations, it's often what has not happened that is most important.

Fanciful rumors about Erdogan's whereabouts -- he'd been vacationing at a Mediterranean resort -- were flying but Erdogan's prime minister was still at large and issuing defiant statements.

Finally the man himself dramatically emerged, phoning a private and, oops, unsecured TV station to address some of the nation in the middle of the night using Apple FaceTime. Erdogan even more dramatically rallied his supporters to take to the streets and oppose the rebels.

Now, Trump is certainly not only not an expert on Turkish politics (nor am I), he has no real knowledge of the dynamics of Turkish history. He does know, because his fave rave Vladimir Putin complains about it, that Erdogan has been something of a double dealer on the matter of going after Isis. Since Erdogan backs various flavors of Islamists trying to bring down the Assad regime in Syria.

Might Trump, who has never studied the dynamics of conflict and was a persistent draft dodger when he was eligible for military service, have leaped at the lure of the pro-Western statements from the rebels and not noticed that Erdogan was still at large? And still alive. (I don't advocate assassination, but clearly, within the logic of their situation, the rebels should have killed Erdogan with a military strike immediately after they failed to take him at his resort.)

Given Trump's belief that going off half-cocked is the virtue that has gotten him this far, he certainly could have put the US on the wrong side of the outcome. And that's even without suspecting that Erdogan manipulated the coup into being in order to greatly accelerate a crackdown on internal opposition.

Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama wisely supported the democratic process, i.e., the maintenance of Erdogan. Even though he is not so slowly rolling back many democratic safeguards and not the partner Obama hoped for at the beginning of his administration. Why is that smart? Because we have a big airbase in Turkey with substantial nuclear weapons. And because Erdogan is backing our use of the base in the struggle against Isis.

The only saving grace for "President" Trump might have been his penchant for following along after Russian President Putin, who would undoubtedly have told him that with Erdogan on the loose and able to instigate a popular mobilization, as well as call on much of the state security apparatus, it made no sense to jump precipitously.

But, even though he is a very capable guy and not the Hitler some make him out to be, we really don't want Vladimir Putin as our de facto national security advisor, do we?

Don't laugh. That could easily happen.

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