Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Citing Bob Woodward's new book, the Daily Beast tells us that Lindsey Graham is using his newfound friendship with Donald Trump to encourage the president to get more people killed:
In September 2017, just days after President Donald Trump dubbed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “little rocket man,” the president assembled his national security team at the White House to discuss U.S. policy toward the hermit kingdom.

Joining Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was a less formal foreign policy adviser, but one who has frequently exerted his influence in an attempt to sway the Trump administration’s policies. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) attended, and offered a brazen suggestion for dealing with Kim.

Graham recommended that Trump encourage the Chinese government to assassinate Kim and replace him with a North Korean general whom “they control.”
Pre-publication excerpts from Woodward's Fear (as well as that recent anonymous New York Times op-ed) have told us about Trump underlings who prevent him from acting on his worst instincts, but here's an example of a Trump confidant encouraging the president's worst instincts. Gee, thanks, senator.

We're told:
Graham, a recurring Trump golfing buddy, appears to have developed a vocabulary that hits all the right notes in his conversations with the president—warning of hits to his legacy, and trash-talking the Obama foreign policy brain trust at which Trump himself has taken aim. It’s a clever way to push Trump toward a U.S. foreign policy stance more in line with previous Republican presidents than the rhetoric of Trump’s campaign, with its skepticism of certain military adventurism.
But I don't think Graham is as good at Trump-whispering as the authors of this report claim:
“Do you want on your résumé that you allowed Afghanistan to go back into the darkness and the second 9/11 came from the very place the first 9/11 did?” Graham asked the president, rhetorically, in an effort to encourage Trump to step up U.S. troop commitments there.

“Well, how does this end?” Woodward recounts Trump asking. “It never ends,” Graham replied, in rhetoric reminiscent of the Trump-maligned neoconservatism of George W. Bush. “It’s good versus evil. Good versus evil never ends.”
"It never ends"? See, that's not how you win Trump over. That's the way Graham's now-departed pal John McCain used to think -- Yes, we must shoulder the burden of starting another endless war, because the price of freedom is high. By contrast, Trump thinks: What's in it for me? How do I get a big win out of this without breaking a sweat?

I'm grateful to Woodward because he may have answered the question "Why has Graham sucking up to Trump lately?" I've seen a lot of speculation that Graham is doing it because the Russians are blackmailing him, or because Trump has threatened to out him as a gay man. It might just be that Graham craves war so much that he'll butter up our repulsive president just to nudge him in the direction of greater and greater bellicosity -- for the good of the country, of course.

(I think it's also possible that Graham would like a position in Trump's ever-changing Cabinet.)

Fortunately for those of us who don't look forward to the Apocalypse, it appears that Trump has assembled itself a two-person team of rivals:
Joining Graham in cozying up to Trump and offering his own advice has been Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).... But if Graham has tried to wield his influence with Trump to pull the trigger on more foreign interventions, Paul has wished to influence Trump in the polar-opposite direction....

Unfortunately for the hawkish Graham, it appears at least some of Paul’s ideas have rubbed off on the president.

In defending his approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other repressive leaders, Trump has in recent months expressed to those close to him a sympathy for Paul’s non-intervention streak, stressing how American politicians of both parties want to recklessly start “World War III,” if only to stick it to Putin or Assad.

Trump has then, in the same breath, praised more dovish Republicans such as “Rand, [who] won’t let that happen,” and will help keep America from slipping into another quagmire or major war, according to a source familiar with Trump’s private comments.
Trump isn't really a dove or an isolationist -- Woodward says that at one point Trump wanted to assassinate Bashar al-Assad -- but Trump responds to Paul's isolationism because he doesn't want to engage in wars that are hard. Suggest an easy win to him and he's ready. Tell him he won't look like a champ after making a minimal effort -- or that starting the next world war won't inspire people to shower him with gratitude -- and he's easy to dissuade.

It pains me to regard Rand Paul as the hero of this story, but in this presidency I'll take what I can get.

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