Trump’s Desperate Courting of Neocons

Well, well, how are the anti-Deep-State, drain-the-swamp Trump cultists going to deal with this? (The same way they deal with everything, of course: “Chess!”) Within the past few hours, Donald Trump has pardoned neoconservative martyr Lewis Libby and ordered strikes on Syria in defense of no known U.S. interests. Talk about a cry for help! I’m awaiting Bill Kristol’s endorsement, undoubtedly coming soon.

A presidential pardon is a pretty serious thing, and always sure to arouse factional outrage. Hence, such decisions must be made only on the basis of very careful consideration, and with clear logical justification. Needless to say, Trump is capable of neither of those things, so instead he gives America this:

“I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.” What does that mean? What it means is that Trump has no idea who Scooter Libby is, what he was convicted of, or whether his sentence was just or unjust. He only knows that he “has heard” that Libby has been treated unfairly — heard from whom? unfairly in what way? — and therefore decided that he might win some politically useful friends if he pardons Libby at this time.

The neocons, or at least some of them, have been — or have pretended to be — very vocal anti-Trump voices throughout his presidency. They were, collectively, the main intellectual force behind the George W. Bush presidency, and particularly the Bush foreign policy that Trump so vociferously mocked and attacked throughout his presidential campaign, in one of the poses that most appealed to his populist-nationalist base. And yet here he is behaving in ways that could not possibly be more perfectly calibrated to melt the stony NeverTrump hearts of neocons everywhere — freeing their friend Scooter Libby while simultaneously dropping bombs on Syria to punish the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons, in defense of…in defense of what, exactly?

In defense of innocent civilians? How often has the U.S. rushed to the defense of “innocent civilians” in that region who turned out not to be quite so innocent or civil in the long run?

I know Trump is unaware of this, because Trump is unaware of everything, but does anyone else know or care that the “innocent civilians” targeted by Assad’s chemical attack last week were a rebel group called Jaish al-Islam, an Islamist faction that itself used chemical weapons against the Kurds in 2016?

Syria is a mess, with most if not all sides dirty and untrustworthy. Please tell me what U.S. interest is actually being served by this escalation of American involvement in a country where, a week ago, Trump was talking about pulling out. And don’t sell me the squish about “upholding international law” — since when are grassroots conservatives all gung-ho about playing enforcer for the UN?

I know what Trump is getting out of this: sudden approval from the influential Washington neocons he used to pretend to hate, a diversion from his various scandals and economic idiocies, and the useful optics of standing up to Putin — “no collusion!”

But what is America getting out of it, other than another rah-rah moment of explosions on CNN and a convenient bout of collective forgetfulness?

John Bolton — the neoconservatives’ favorite foreign policy wonk, and now Trump’s national security adviser, is having a blast, I’m sure. As I’ve noted often, he never met a war he didn’t like, as long as no one was asking him to fight it. David French — Bill Kristol’s preferred presidential candidate — will be thrilled. It’s only a matter of time, then, before Kristol himself, the popular standard-bearer of the neoconservative movement, finally succumbs to the charms of the new global adventurer Trump. 

The fun part will come then, as Trump’s sycophants in the conservative media try to rationalize away their two years of condemning Kristol and his cohorts as swamp creatures and establishment deep statists. Or maybe that will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and they’ll finally wake up and realize they have been…oh, what am I saying? They’ll just shout “Chess!” and move on, pretending everything is happening exactly as they and their moronic god intended all along.

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