When President Donald Trump rolled into Orlando in mid-June to make his first official pitch as a candidate for reelection in 2020, storm clouds brewed on the horizon. There, Trump sung his same old dreary song about emails from Hillary Clinton, screaming for people to “Lock Her Up!" and denouncing “fake news” as the “enemy of the people,” as per usual. But Donald had real troubles ahead.
We live in a country where the majority party denies climate change, cuts restrictions on major polluters, refuses to punish those who hacked into a national election and won’t prevent such reoccurrence in 2020. We live in a nation where public servants often enter the public arena with little money and leave with far too much. We live in a country that eagerly worships greed and ignores fact for fiction. We live in a country that proclaims all of us are created equal, but where racism and sexism flourish.
Trump, in announcing his reelection bid, vowed to deal with none of those problems—because he profits from them. All Trump is campaigning on is a froth of anger, the countenance of a neighborhood bully and the smugness of an Ivy League brat with no practical world experience. Trump continues singing the tired song that Clinton is a crook, everyone after him is on a witch hunt, that only he can prevent forest fires and, of course, only he can make the world safe for continued Trump profits. He sells all of this under “Make America Great Again,” which he is still considering rebranding into the nifty three-word slogan “Keep America Great!”—probably so he can sell a new round of hats to his followers.
If anyone is expecting a new message from Trump for 2020, do not waste your breath or any stray gray matter. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems eager to induce the rapture and National Security Advisor John Bolton seems just as eager to launch a war to cause it. Bolton and his twitching caterpillar mustache are in favor of going to war with Iran and apparently are hellbent on using any excuse to do it. This may, of course, factor into Trump’s reelection bid, but otherwise the 2020 Donald campaign is a greatest hits album from 2016. Trump mined gold, Russian and American, in his 2016 campaign and he isn’t going to change what works unless he’s absolutely forced to do so.
His campaign for reelection and his entire first term has been nothing more than one long rally punctuated by shrill screams of indifference to reality.
What about those pesky issues? Trump doesn’t want to deal with those. Heading into the reelection, Trump has no communications director, no press secretary, no chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. He does have an acting defense secretary, an acting DHS secretary, an acting UN ambassador, an acting SBA administrator, an acting Chief of Staff (who he constantly berates to turn on or off the air conditioning and to quit coughing), an acting FEMA director, an acting ICE director, an acting USCIS director and an acting FAA administrator. The result? Chaos.
Pompeo and Bolton are in full froth over Iran, no one else in the administration can tackle an issue without violating the Hatch Act and Donald Trump now looks like the sane one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. When Iran shot down a U.S. drone, Trump excused it as unintentional. He dubbed another Iranian misstep as “minor.” Everyone who worried about Trump being in charge of the nuclear codes should be happy that Pompeo and Bolton are not. Maybe that’s Trump’s strategy? “Hey, you think I’m nuts? I’m better than those guys I hired. Am I right or am I right?”
A few weeks ago, I asked Trump if we were going to war with Iran. He responded, “I hope not.” So that begged a follow-up on the South Lawn recently. What are the administration’s plans for Iran?
“We're looking at Iran... We're very prepared for Iran. Let me just say this, we are very prepared, regardless of what goes, we are very, very prepared. If you look at what's taking place, if you look at what's done... after a long period of years they've been a nation of terror. Now we'll see what happens. They are a much different country today than they were two and a half years ago when I came into office. When President Obama signed that horrible deal they were screaming ‘Death to America.’ I haven't been hearing that lately.”
Just two days later, Iran, instead of shouting “Death to America,” killed a drone.
As he waited in the White House portico for Justin Trudeau to arrive last week, I asked, “Are you going to retaliate against Iran?” This time Trump said, “You’ll find out.” Apparently he had plans that night to strike at Iran and began to carry it out, only to order the military to stand down. It would be nice if we had a strategy or perhaps a treaty—like the one he walked away from—to hold Iran accountable and to dictate or actions. Instead, after the drone got shot down, Trump took less than a day to craft a strategy, apparently with Democrats and members of his own administration and the rest of the GOP weighing in. The best he could offer was, “You’ll find out.” And then we found out.
Meanwhile, what Trump is really working on as president of the United States is a new angle on deriving more profits from campaign paraphernalia. In the process, he’s also calculating his worldwide profits on his personal empire—which has no dealings with Iran, otherwise we wouldn’t be threatening war with them. Trump has embraced tyrants and denied the Saudi prince or the Saudi government were involved in killing a reporter who worked for the Washington Post, even though 13 minutes before journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, Saudi officials inside the building discussed dismembering a body.
Trump doesn’t care. He makes money off of Saudi Arabia. So it looks more and more like we might be forced to defend the honor of an unmanned drone in Iran rather than worry about the murder and dismemberment of a human being.
It looks more and more like we might be forced to defend the honor of an unmanned drone rather than worry about the murder of a human being.
We are poised at the precipice and Trump wants you to blame a foe he vanquished in the 2016 election while you continue to buy more red hats and he threatens to bomb Iran. His boring and excruciating rally in Orlando laid bare all the reasons why Trump is ineffective and dangerous as a president. He and his supporters do not see it that way, of course. To them, anyone who questions their master is a Clinton supporter. Trump? He just wants to put on one continuous rally. Bring on the show! That’s what he does best.
Bread and circuses was a term applied in Rome to keep the masses from examining their plight. With Trump, it is “Slogans and hats.” There is no problem that can’t be misunderstood, no issue too important that it can’t be ignored and no policy that can’t be twisted to Trump’s personal money-making ends. Donald Trump is running a reelection campaign that will guarantee four more years of golf at his favorite, personally owned resorts. It will be an administration that will maximize profits for Trump’s brand and family, and it will be an administration that will continue to be one monumental drain on the U.S. budget derived from our taxes. What remains painfully obvious for anyone who cares to open their eyes is that a second Trump administration won’t address any substantial issue, or care about American lives when viewed against the bottom line. He’s confronting Iran with a Secretary of Defense, any allied support or a cogent strategy.
Nero fiddled, they say, while Rome burned. Donald Trump wants to sell you hats.