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Send in the clowns
Don’t bother they’re here
Judy Collins

Trump Clown

In the three-ring circus, when anything needs to happen without the crowd noticing, you send in the clowns to entertain and distract.

President Trump’s most ardent supporters sincerely believe he is the greatest president ever (maybe excepting Ronald Reagan), while most of the rest of us think of him as a danger to the republic. It is increasingly clear that he is neither: he is a clown.

Trump’s most ardent supporters sincerely believe he is the greatest president ever, while most of the rest of us think of him as a danger to the republic. It is increasingly clear that he is neither: he is a clown.

The behavior that delights his base and drives the rest of us to distraction is now familiar. The early morning tweets designed to push the base’s buttons and alarm the rest of us. The erratic, inconsistent and incoherent interventions in policy-making that usually result in capsizing whatever concrete policy proposals his allies may have negotiated with great difficulty (on health care, for example, or immigration). The unending barnstorming rallies around the country, as if he were still campaigning rather than governing. The loose-cannon approach to foreign policy, where he disregards the advice of his advisers and goes about unprepared, winging it, sowing discord where there should be harmony, harmony where one would expect discord.

It drives us to distraction. That’s the idea.

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It has for some time been evident to careful observers of the Washington scene that while the daily news cycle inevitably focuses on the day’s dollop of distraction from Trump, his appointees in the various departments are marching ahead with a hard-right, reactionary agenda, while attracting very little attention. For example, the Interior Department is actively working to shrink national monuments and gut the Endangered Species Act, while opening more federal lands to mining, timbering, or ranching. The Commerce Department is pushing a radical agenda of new tariffs designed to bring our trading partners to heel. Housing and Urban Development is cutting back on housing subsidies for low-income people, and the Agriculture Department is pushing for new work requirements for SNAP (Food Stamps) recipients. The Justice Department is promoting measures to make voting more difficult, and criminalizing undocumented immigrants. Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency was an exception in replicating Trump’s clownish behavior, but now that he’s gone, EPA will also operate under the radar to cut back on environmental regulations and promote fossil fuels.

With the recent European trip, while Trump managed to undermine an already shaky British Prime Minister, blow up another NATO summit, and engage in a fawning, yet opaque summit with Vladimir Putin, it was evident from the start that his national security leadership were going systematically about the task of reassuring allies and reasserting long-standing US policy toward Russia, notwithstanding all that Trump said and did. His staff even made him walk back statements he had made questioning the reliability of US intelligence about Russian intervention in the 2016 election. There were still hiccups, as when Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was caught flatfooted on national TV by news that Trump had invited Putin to visit the White House this fall. But the overall pattern is that whatever off-the-wall thing that Trump may say or do, the National Security team sends out this caveat to other governments: don’t be distracted by the orange-faced man in the long red tie. Here is what US policy really is.

Now, the key difference between domestic and international affairs is that domestically, what’s happening in the shadows is the implementation of Trump’s intentions, whereas in foreign policy the name of the game is, insofar as possible, to frustrate his agenda and keep US relations with the rest of the world as stable as possible.

Trump’s clown act on the domestic side is as the melodramatic Dudley Do-Right. On the foreign side, it’s the sinister, disruptive troll. Either way, his role is to entertain, distract and disturb, to obfuscate what’s really happening in the shadows.

Because Trump the troll is at cross-purposes with the consensus of his national security advisers, it is not inconceivable that he could at some point get so far off the reservation that theVice President, Secretaries of Defense and State, along with other senior officials could conclude that he is unable to fulfill his duties as President. That would mean implementation of provisions of the 25th Amendment that govern the suspension of the President.

impeachment unavoidable

That’s speculation, of course, but…

John Peeler

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