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Sunday, June 11, 2017

All of Washington Knows the Disaster Is Coming

Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)
Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

But no one looks equipped to stop it.

y credentialing request to the White House seemed to have blown off the cyber-porch, so, after a nice conversation with a polite young man carrying an automatic rifle on the sidewalk near the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, I had to watch the president* greet Klaus Iohannis, the president of Romania, to the White House, after which the president* answered a few questions.

It had been a busy day by his standards. He woke early to tweet some slander at James Comey, virtually accusing the former FBI director of committing perjury before the Senate on Thursday. Then, there was an event to conclude Infrastructure Week, at which he announced the birth of that most dreadful of all Washington critters: the blue-ribbon commission of experts.

Or, at least, a hypothetical one. From WKOW:
Trump announced that the administration was creating a new council to help project managers navigate the bureaucratic maze, and to help improve transparency by creating an online system where projects can be tracked through every step of the approval process. He said federal agencies that consistently delay projects by missing deadlines will face new penalties. Trump also said a new office within the Council of Environmental Quality will root out inefficiencies, clarify lines of authority and streamline federal, state and local procedures to help communities modernize aging infrastructure. At a roundtable discussion with state transportation officials before the speech, Trump said aging U.S. systems were being "scoffed at and laughed" and he pledged that they "will once again be the envy of the world."
But it was at his press availability at the White House where he really shined. Just as the event was starting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was across town deploring the blockade of Qatar that has been put in place by the various emirates and petro-states in the region, including the president*'s new best friends, the Saudis. From the Times:
Mr. Tillerson has spent days on the phone with officials from the region, some of whom he has known for many years. Mr. Tillerson was the chief executive of ExxonMobil, which has extensive operations in Qatar. Mr. Tillerson said he had known Mr. Al Thani for 15 years and also knows his son, the crown prince. "It's clear to me based on these comments that the elements of a solution are available," Mr. Tillerson said on Friday. He said the United States supported efforts by the emir of Kuwait, Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, to resolve the dispute. But he called on countries in the region to "immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation."
Whew. That was close. But then Tillerson's boss stepped up to the microphone.
"The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, historically, has been a funder of terrorism at a very high level and in the wake of that conference, came together and spoke to me about confronting Qatar over its behavior. So we had a decision to make—do we take the easy road or do we take the hard and necessary action?"
Do these guys ever talk to each other? I will grant you that Tillerson and Trump may be playing a game of Oil Cop/Dumb Cop in this situation, and we may find out that their eleventy-dimensional chess game was just what that volatile region needed, but my money is still on the notion that somebody in this equation isn't up to his job.

(He also finally committed himself to Article V of the NATO Treaty, which is an announcement that, for a normal president in a normal time, would be approximately as significant as a promise to abide by the the terms that ended the War of 1812. This is not a normal time, etc.)

Eventually, though, the questioning got around to about Comey's testimony on Thursday. He opened his remarks with a dead-on Tonto imitation.
"No collusion, no obstruction, he's a leaker."
He went on to wonder—glorioski!—wherever Comey could have come up with the notion that he'd asked for a kind of loyalty oath when they met in the White House. I mean, it's not like he's the king of the non-disclosure agreement or anything.
"I didn't say that, and there'd be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody I've read today…I hardly know the man. I wouldn't say I want you to pledge allegiance under oath. Think about it. I hardly know the man. It doesn't make sense."
When he was asked about the possibility that he had taped his private conversations with Comey, he replied with the standard Trump Organization line with which hundreds of sub-contractors have become painfully familiar.
"I'll tell you something about that maybe sometime in the very near future…I'll tell you about it over a short period of time. I'm not hinting at anything."
"Sometime in the very near future" can be fairly translated in TrumpSpeak to "The check is in the mail," or, "My lawyers will fight you for every dime I owe you."

But, while he was calling Comey a liar, he dropped in a line after which you almost could hear White House staffers and the president*'s lawyers reacquainting themselves with Friday morning's breakfast. He was asked if he would be willing to testify, under oath, to special counsel Robert Mueller.
"100 percent… I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you."
And that, children, is how lead stories get ripped up and replaced.

I am not standing on my head waiting for him actually to testify, but he sure as hell knows how to grab a headline. Look, he doesn't know how to be president and he doesn't care to learn. The pivot is never coming. If he even half-pivots, he'll pivot right back in the other direction momentarily. He's there to be entertaining while the congressional Republicans keep their heads down and work toward rolling the federal government back to the Coolidge administration.

Washington these days is stuck in a kind of Cassandra Syndrome. Everybody knows the disaster is coming but nobody knows how to stop it, and too many people don't want to because they figure they can get rich selling off the ruins. But everybody knows the disaster is coming. People talk about it matter-of-factly, the way they talk about rain when the dark clouds gather over the monuments by the river. They also talk about it in whispers while every institution of democratic government screams for help. The government of the United States is in the hands of feckless time-servers and coat-holders at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and in the hands of an unpredictable and perilous clown show at the other. It is an altogether remarkable, if terrifying, place to be as summer comes on.

Jesus, won't somebody get the net?

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