Two ways to judge anything Donald Trump does these days: A) Is it a good idea? And B) Is it further evidence he’s going nuts?
Think about Turkey. Over the weekend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was preparing to attack our old Kurdish allies in northern Syria. The White House announced late Sunday night that it was OK with the whole deal and was pulling out the small U.S. military contingent that’s been fighting alongside the Kurds.
Nobody seemed to have run this by Defense Secretary Mark (Finally Confirmed!) Esper, who sent out a tweet Monday morning opposing the Turkish operation. Which was later deleted.
“If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey,” Trump reassured the nation.
Well, we’ve always known he suffers from delusions of grandeur. (“There are those that think I’m a very stable genius.”) And although the way the administration handled the whole Turkey thing was wildly inept, we’ve known for a long time there’s no ept in this White House.
But here’s the other part: Donald Trump is in the middle of a super impeachment crisis, and he’s surviving in office only through Senate Republicans’ support. And he chose this time to create a foreign affairs uproar guaranteed to outrage and offend the Republican senators.
“Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration. This move ensures the emergence of ISIS,” tweeted Lindsey Graham.
This from a fervid supporter. If Graham were, say, a miniature poodle, he’d be the one trotting along, carrying the master’s socks in his mouth.
The president’s sudden decision to give a shoutout to the Turkish government came after a phone call with Erdogan. By now there have been so many phone-related disasters you’d think the family would have taken away his communication devices. But Trump believes he’s always very careful and conscious that tons of people are listening in. “My knowledge — I know all about it,” he told reporters at a news conference last week.
The gathering degenerated into a yelling meltdown, during which our president declared that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff “had some kind of a mental breakdown.”
Nobody muttered “takes one to know one.”
Most of the Republicans are just sort of curled up under their beds, quivering. Lately, the squad of across-the-board Trump defenders has dwindled down to people like Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Perhaps you remember Gaetz having argued that violence in America was not due to guns but to “illegal aliens.” This time he said that the impeachment process was “a kangaroo court and chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious Captain Kangaroo.”
Well, you take whoever you can get, and Trump does not currently have a lot of universally enthusiastic troops. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming called the U.S. pullout from Syria a “catastrophic mistake.” Any daughter of Dick Cheney is going to be a person who can overlook a whole lot. When you lose her, you’re really down to … Matt Gaetz.
All this is going on while the White House is refusing to let Congress have access to administration officials who have information on the whistleblower charges. Which, as of course you remember, stem from the time the man who believes he knows all about being careful on phone calls tried to get the Ukraine president to come up with some dirt on the foreign business dealings of Joe Biden’s son.
The man who later demanded that China investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings there. Even China found that loony, a high standard for a country that can’t even manage to have a reasonable relationship with basketball teams.
And, of course, the president whose daughter and son-in-law have both been working for the White House while raking in tens of millions of dollars from their business dealings. Some came from the clothing Ivanka manufactured in places like … China.
Why would he bring up children making money abroad? This isn’t just a guy who makes stupid decisions. It’s a guy who’s off his rocker. Whose great pal is Rudy Giuliani, the talking head whose TV appearances can terrify toddlers. I’m not saying Trump is the only unbalanced person in this story. Just that he’s the only one who controls our nuclear weapons.
In a happier time Americans went about their lives, complaining about Washington, then sort of shrugging and moving on to a discussion of the World Series. Or medieval history. Or goat yoga. Whatever. Now we aren’t even free to change the subject. We’re looking at the pileup and wondering whether the next thing will usher in the Big Crackup.
So there’s the president of the United States. Trying to get around the current controversy by rebranding the Turkish invasion “a bad idea.” Stonewalling Congress on the whistleblower crisis. Which includes a report that one White House official who listened to Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president described it as — yes! — “crazy.”
What a coincidence.
Gail Collins is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.