Listening to Ann Coulter not Jim Mattis: a recipe for disaster by Marjorie Arons-Barron

photo Fortune

The menacing lion-like creature shook his orange mane, growled and chased me down the hill leading to the road where our house is. I sat bolt upright in bed, realizing it was just a bad dream that had disturbed my sleep. Later, in light of day, I realized our living nightmare is much more dangerous than anything that goes clunk in the night.

Our President has summarily, and against the virtually uniform advice of the defense sector’s best minds and experience, announced victory over ISIS, mission accomplished, and declared his intent to withdraw American troops from Syria.  While senior officials in Washington were dismayed, Vladimir Putin was lavishing praise on our dangerous, capricious, ignorant and narcissistic President.  How can he declare ISIS no longer a threat when a small but lethal core remains and nothing has been done to alleviate the conditions allowing the rise of that most vicious of terrorist groups?  How can he do this without a serious plan to protect the Kurds, our loyal allies against ISIS whom the Turks have promised to slaughter after we leave?  Trump is also pulling GI’s out of Afghanistan, a slightly more defensible move, but his decision was made precipitously and against strategic  advice of the defense community. There’s a difference between campaign rhetoric and responsibility once in office, and Trump has yet to learn this basic lesson.

Sadly today, the last of the “grown-ups” in the administration, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, tendered his resignation.  Believing in good conscience he could no longer serve, he restated the importance of international alliances (which Trump is systematically vitiating) and the need to stand up to authoritarian regimes like Russia and China, whose leaders Trump is cozying up to.  Also today, Putin warned of the rising threat of nuclear war and blamed the United States for turning its back on existing treaties. As if that weren’t enough, North Korea today announced it wouldn’t give up its nuclear arsenal until the United States does likewise.  It’s unclear how much of Trump’s impulsive foreign policy gambits are wag-the-dog diversions from his week of adverse Bob Mueller investigation headlines and the tanking of the stock market. Whatever Trump’s reason, he’s playing with fire.

At home, Trump seems headed for a partial government shut-down (including parts of the defense and homeland security departments) because he got criticized by Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh for failing to build his wall.  Congress seems as unlikely to shell out $5 billion for it as Mexico is to ante up.  Trump doesn’t care that illegal immigration is at its lowest in years.  His racist rhetoric and policies on family separation for those seeking asylum continue, all part of pleasing his base. And the stories get worse. Twice as many children are being held without their families.  One little girl died last week, possibly due to dehydration. A Yemeni mother tried for a year to enter the United States to join her husband and son, who are U.S. citizens. Her tiny son is dying in a hospital in Oakland, but the Trump  administration wouldn’t permit entry to anyone from Yemen. It was only under public outcry that they relented and granted her a waiver to come and hold her child, dying from a rare brain disease. Republicans controlling Congress have been enablers for nearly two years.  Shame on them.

Meanwhile, Trump continues his attacks on my former colleagues in the news media, which, given the craven silence of the President’s own party, are now the only voices of reality with any clout.  He continues to undermine their standing, and, worse, many foreign leaders now emulate his despicable behavior with impunity. Fifty-three journalists have been killed this year, including four at the Capital Gazette in Maryland. Perhaps the most odious  was the Saudi-directed murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington, DC resident writing for The Washington Post. And Trump sides with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who denies culpability though our own intelligence and defense communities assert otherwise.

Under Trump, we are living in a world gone mad, and it’s a very scary thing. It’s staggering that Trump’s approval nationally is still around 42 percent, and support of so-called Republicans remains at 85 percent. What is wrong with these people?  Do they not realize where he is leading this country?  I’d like to go back to sleep and remain dormant at least until the Democrats take over the House the first week in January.  As last night’s dream suggests, however, sleep is no longer a haven.