Donald Trump finally went to a combat zone.
Earlier this week, Trump and the First Lady made an unannounced trip to Iraq to visit with U.S. troops stationed at Al Asad Air Base which is about 100 miles west of Baghdad.
Since the trip became public, the Twitterverse been alive with scoffing and jokes about it including the suggestion that, after 50 years, Trump’s bone spurs have finally healed.
I have no idea what the planning was for this trip, but I wonder whether it would have happened had Trump not been bored being trapped in the White House where the outside temperatures have been hovering in the mid-40s, rather than his planned location, West Palm Beach, Florida where the temps have been in the high 70s and low 80s.
It was, however, a good way to get the national conversation away from the partial shutdown of the federal government.
The shutdown issue has not affected very many non-government people because of the holiday schedule. It may begin to bite a bit more painfully when we get through New Years Day and people begin coming back to work, or begin calling for government services that will not be available to them. In spite of his best efforts, the President has not been able to shift the blame to House and Senate Democrats. A big part of the reason is Trump’s ill-considered blast during the Oval Office meeting with Speaker-presumptive Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer when, having lost his temper, he said on camera; “I am proud to shut down the government for border security I will take the mantle. I will shut it down, I’m not going to blame you for it.”
That didn’t last long. Trump has been Tweeting furiously trying to do just that. It’s not having – at least yet – any great effect. According to a YouGov/HuffPost poll taken just before Christmas, only 35 percent of respondents approve of way Republicans OR Democrats in Congress are handling the issue and 36 percent approve of the way the President is handling the shutdown. The message mavens at the White House have apparently tried to get Trump to refer to the reason for the shutdown as “border security” rather than a “wall,” but he hasn’t been able to stick to that messaging.
Nancy Pelosi got off the best line of the week when she described the shifting language coming out of the Oval Office as Trump saying, “‘We’re going to build a wall with cement, and Mexico’s going to pay for it’ while he’s already backed off of the cement – now he’s down to, I think, a beaded curtain…”
The Congress will return (and total Republican rule will end) next Thursday when the Democrats take control of the U.S. House for the first time since 2011. I assume their messaging will speak to the dysfunction that has been the daily bread of cable news for the past two years.
But, back to Trump in Iraq.
With Trump out of the country and largely out of contact with Americans in America for the day, the Dow was up over 1,000 points – nearly 5 percent. You can draw your own conclusions.
Those news outlets which are not terribly friendly to Trump have made a big deal about how it took him nearly two years in office to make the trip, that he signed campaign paraphernalia (like MAGA hats) for troops whose commander-in-chief he is, he used the event to talk about the Wall (which is about 8,000 miles away), and that a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister was canceled, according to the Iraqis, because of “a variation of views to organize the meeting.”
I remember a time in 2004 when I was cranky about someone – a civilian who had volunteered to be in Iraq, not a military person who had no choice – was doing their job. I was complaining to an officer who was much wiser than I. After I said that if it were up to me I’d send the guy home on the next plane, the officer said, “Don’t be like that. When you get into a war zone no one knows how they’re going to act. You get 90 points out of 100 just for being here.”
It may have taken Trump too long, and he might have co-mingled official and campaign activities and he might have been undiplomatic on almost every front, but he was in the war zone.
He gets the full 90 points.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Fox News report on Trump’s trip, to an interesting page dealing with combat pay for military personnel, and to the Nancy Pelosi dig at the Wall