On Trump’s Watch

All the populists and ersatz conservatives who continue to claim, in response to every disaster unfolding today, “This wouldn’t have happened on Trump’s watch,” should be held to account to explain why, if Trump’s watch was so brilliant, all of this is unfolding so precipitously and unstoppably in the immediate aftermath of that wonderful period of the Trump presidency. Far more accurate and rational an assessment would be to conclude that a great deal of what is happening today, and especially the worst and most far-reaching of it, was largely made possible at all by Trump’s very lack of “watchfulness.” 

It was Trump’s obsession with himself and his grassroots-baiting nonsense that allowed the tone of democratic politics, not only in America but internationally, to sink so quickly into the schoolyard immoderation of vulgar name-calling, tribal hatred, and the fundamental lack of good faith and public decency, both in political debate and in daily discourse. It was Trump’s deliberate turning of a blind eye to Vladimir Putin’s aggression, not to mention his open campaigning for the normalization of Putin’s ambitions and tactics, that facilitated and emboldened Putin’s complete disregard for all the circumspection with which schemers were forced to advance before Trump blew the lid off all prior notions of the U.S. as a stabilizing force for freedom and sovereignty. It was Trump who praised Xi Jinping as a great leader and played moral equivalency games over the brutal and sudden communist takeover of Hong Kong (which happened “on Trump’s watch,” if anyone can remember that far back), so that today Xi is openly preparing his move on Taiwan, with only Nancy Pelosi of all people left to make a public show of American defiance in defence of Taiwan’s independence. It was Trump who told everyone Kim Jong-un was a beloved young leader and a great friend who would certainly never be a threat again, thus ensuring, through his sheer stupidity and incompetence, that Kim had several years to proceed with his missile programs right on schedule, while gaining international credibility and negotiating leverage through his easy and brazen playing of Trump’s enormous ego and tiny intellect, so that he is back at his usual tricks, but with bigger and better weapons. It was Trump who started the process of simply rejecting and nullifying the Afghanistan mission, essentially throwing the lives of thousands of American servicemen, not to mention the lives of millions of Afghan women, children, and men, down history’s toilet. Trump got tricked by everyone, owned by everyone, outlasted by everyone, mocked by everyone, and finally exploited to the sound of millions of oppressed and desperate cries, all left abandoned to their miserable fates by the new United States of “Winning.”

All of the above may be laid at Trump’s feet — not his alone, to be sure, but his more so than any other American president’s. And that is to deal only with his effect on the realm of explicit politics, which is unraveling as we speak. This is to say nothing of the domestic collapse of his own country, due to the populist irrationality that has opened the gates to the hard left’s advance through the institutions, at a speed that makes the Obama years seem moderate and restrained by comparison. 

“None of this would have happened on Trump’s watch.” But Trump didn’t watch, and that was, and is, the problem. He was blind, and fostered blindness in others, by teaching them that blindness is a superior form of wisdom, ignorance with chutzpah the new strategy for victory, and cowardice masked with bluster in retreat a higher sort of courage.

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