The Thankless Task of ‘Saving’ Trump

President Trump appears lost in the swamp of his own shallow mind, pulling down the “adults” around him more than they can lift him up, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains.

By Paul R. Pillar

Optimism has repeatedly been expressed, especially after any qualified and respected person has been appointed to a senior position in the current administration, that the “adults in the room” will check the excesses and compensate for the deficiencies of a blatantly unqualified president.

President Trump with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Hope placed on the four-star shoulders of John Kelly as he assumed duties of White House chief of staff is a recent example. Such optimism has proven to be largely unfounded.

Repeatedly the excesses of Donald Trump have escaped any attempt to check them. Trump’s fire-and-brimstone threats against North Korea, which surprised his foreign policy advisers, are the latest example. Trump’s emulation of Kim Jong-un’s scary rhetoric played into the hands of Kim’s regime, whose propaganda emphasizes threats from the United States, and escalated tensions to the point of shaking global stock markets. The rhetoric was the sort of thing Trump turns to when he evidently does not have any better ideas for addressing a problem.

Even when the adults do seem to have had some restraining influence on their boss, the effect is likely to be limited and temporary. Last month Trump’s advisers got him grudgingly to recognize reality and to certify that Iran is complying with the agreement that restricts its nuclear program. But since then, Trump has repeatedly asserted that Iran is not in compliance.

In other words, Trump is disseminating another of his lies. We know it is a lie because with the highly intrusive monitoring provisions of the agreement, international inspectors get to see first-hand whether Iran is complying.

Clean-up by his subordinates after Trump’s rhetorical excesses has become a common pattern. This past week we had the remarkable case of the U.S. Secretary of State seeing it necessary to urge his fellow citizens to get a good night’s sleep despite the inflammatory rhetoric of their own President about North Korea.

But clean-up duty can only accomplish so much. Where the damage extends beyond rhetoric to actions, such as withdrawal from the global climate change agreement, it cannot do much of anything.

The reasons the adults do not have any greater influence in preventing or limiting the damage Trump inflicts are centered primarily on the qualities of Donald Trump himself. An insecure narcissist who has used demagoguery to get where he is today is not a good subject for guidance and restraint by subordinates. Trump’s lack of self-control, and resistance to anything that looks like control by others, manifests itself especially in how much his presidency is defined by after-hours tweets.

Never Wrong

The absolute refusal to admit in public that he is ever wrong is probably mirrored in how Trump interacts with advisers in private. His narrow and self-referential notion of loyalty, which is hard to distinguish from sycophancy, implies an unwillingness to listen to contrary opinions from subordinates and an inclination to remove subordinates who persist in offering such opinions.

President Donald Trump announces the selection of Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new National Security Adviser on Feb. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

Some additional explanations for the adults’ failure to rein in Trump pertain not just to characteristics of the President but to the thinking of the adults themselves. Awareness of how insecure is the job of any senior official in this administration who dares to differ with the President can lead to punches being pulled. This is not necessarily a selfish and cowardly clinging to a job. With such officials being aware of how much additional damage might be done by this President, it can be unselfish and patriotic to put up with the stresses and compromises necessary to work for him, in the interest of trying to inject prudence into this administration from the inside.

This may be the thinking of the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who has had a previously stellar reputation soiled by episodes of sycophancy. This process began soon after McMaster took the job, when he was trotted out to the White House driveway to try to justify to reporters Trump’s disclosure of third-party classified information to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister.

Retired Army officer John Nagl, who knows McMaster well, sees what McMaster is doing in such terms. Nagl said, “The administration is clearly in free fall, and McMaster is exactly the man the nation needs to have … to hold all the pieces together.” Nagl added that “his friends and I believe” that it is worth McMaster giving up some of his “well-earned reputation for integrity.”

Such reasoning is valid, and even high-level resignations are not apt to have as much impact on policy as is often alleged by observers criticizing such officials for not resigning. But in the meantime other damage is done. Tenuously situated subordinates have to pick their battles, and on the subjects on which they do not choose to fight, much bad policy and nonsense can ensue.

A Bad Mix

Maintaining standing and influence with the President can lead to subordinates publicly voicing notions that make adoption of bad policy all the more likely. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, although he reportedly was one of those who urged Trump in July to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, has been saying publicly some of the very falsehoods that Trump would use in trashing the agreement.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at his swearing-in ceremony on Feb. 1, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

Sometimes some of the adults, although useful restraints on the President on most matters, share his predilections and prejudices on others. This is true of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, particularly on anything having to do with Iran, against which he is waging almost a personal vendetta.

On some issues, adults may not see things the same way as Trump but there is a sort of malevolent convergence in which the President and his advisers go along with the same unproductive policy for different reasons.

This may be true of policy toward Afghanistan. Trump, who once averred that the United States “should have kept the oil” from Iraq, is now interested in getting U.S. hands on Afghanistan’s mineral resources. It is unlikely that most of the adults share that kind of crude mercantilist view, and they probably see the major downside of the United States presenting its overseas military operations as intended to grab other people’s mineral wealth. But the same adults, including Mattis and McMaster, favor continuation of the U.S. military expedition in Afghanistan to achieve something that can be called “victory” and to pursue the obsolete notion that Afghanistan is a unique key in determining terrorist threats in the West. Thus America’s longest war continues, with Trump craving minerals and his generals wanting to continue the effort for other reasons.

Trump, in imitating Kim Jong-un’s incendiary rhetoric, is still a long way from duplicating the ruthless North Korean dictatorship, in which even family members get executed when they fall out of favor. But there is some further resemblance in the difficulty in speaking truth to power, and in the likelihood that such speaking will make a difference. Even if surrounded by able hands, much policy will still reflect the whims and weaknesses of the man at the top.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

68 comments for “The Thankless Task of ‘Saving’ Trump

  1. Lawrence Fitton
    August 19, 2017 at 15:18

    so sad that the president of the united states must be handled like a wilful child. immature and thin-skinned, donald trump acts out in tweets about how great he is, and reacts with name-calling to those meanies who disagree with him.
    the man-boy needs a couch, a shrink, and some prozac.
    in volatile times, it is said, the people will turn to a demagogue for protection.
    but, who will protect us from trump?

  2. mike k
    August 16, 2017 at 09:15

    One has to wonder if American’s calm acceptance of a manifestly insane leader, is not a reflection of their own underlying lack of sanity. In the kingdom of the insane the normal person is thought to be crazy. Hence the Cassandra complex for the seers. The kid who saw the Emperor’s nakedness was thought to be daft by the deluded adults around him. The curse on Cassandra ensured that no one would believe her true prophesies.

    • Chucky LeRoi
      August 16, 2017 at 13:02

      So in a way, you’ve answered yourself. The problem is a very, very old one. Caesar declared himself a god. Louis XIV and his “I am the State”. Numerous historical examples of the African Big Man. The guy (usually a guy) on top got there at least partially because he’s crazy enough to want it. This is not likely to change.

      And you can point it out all day long, but that doesn’t change anything. Half the electorate doesn’t vote, whether through disgust or apathy might matter, but they are not listening to you or me or anybody. The Emperor never has any clothes, just ambition, usually of the worst kind. The problem is increasingly worsened by increasing technological advances – the nut jobs now have nukes, not spears – but the problem is essentially the same.

      We have lost control of the inmates. Citizens United was the capstone on that long term monumental effort. Until control is regained, i.e., have politics control the money rather than the reverse, we will have the insane running rampant as they are now. This government was originally set up to control corporations, and has slowly been flipped on its head.

      My father proudly drank his coffee from an American Enterprise Institute mug, and was always going on about government being represented by a closed fist. It was there to defend the people and little else. The open hand was just asking for money. When I would ask if that included defending the citizen from rapacious corporations or crushingly large banks. Never got an answer. The banks and the BIG money control the government. Removing Trump will change little, though it might be a nice symbolic effort, but would mostly be an opportunity for the other infighting factions up there to get their guy in the chair.

      Yes, Trump is crazy. Nixon was paranoid (and alcoholic?). Reagan was gaga. Truman had no regrets about incinerating (twice!) a few hundred thousand Japanese civilians after the war was militarily over. The list goes on. The problem is how and when do we regain control of the system that puts these wack jobs in this position of extreme power.

  3. Zachary Smith
    August 15, 2017 at 22:28

    Saving Trump is not going to be an easy proposition, for he continues to hurt himself in ways that defy imagination. Consider how he reverted to the “all sides” BS after disavowing it Monday. Then he pulled a numbskull stunt beyond understanding – comparing Confederate General and American traitor Robert Edward Lee with George Washington.

    He continued, “George Washington was a slave owner. So will George Washington lose his status? Are we gonna take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? Do you like him, because he was a major slave owner. Are we gonna take down his statue? So it’s fine.

    h**p://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2017/08/15/trump-george-washington-statues/

    Lee was fighting for a despicable cause. His continuation of the war when it was impossible for the Southern rebels to win must have cost the lives of 100,000 Americans, both North and South. Trump is such a childish and ignorant jackass that his “argument” seems reasonable to him.

    When the fact that Trump is a loser on every level finally percolates into the brains of his “base”, they’re going to cheer when the man is taken down and replaced with Pence. Saving him from himself when he shows no evidence of wanting to be saved is going to be a herculean task. Perhaps an impossible one.

    Goodbye frying pan, hello fire.

  4. Kelli
    August 15, 2017 at 22:03

    I want to know why a mentally ill man is ALLOWED to continue as President?
    Why is Congress not advocating for his removal?
    Isn’t there something within the Constitution that pertains to this?
    Trump isn’t just a flaming Narcissist. That much is obvious, but he’s also shown signs in the EXTREME re: pathological, that more than suggest that he as well as many other NEOliberals (Hillary Clinton a great example too), and NEOconservatives within his administration are sociopaths.
    They have ZERO empathy, ZERO conscience.
    No one has answered this question for me.

    I can tell you what I think though and if I’m reading the article correctly, they don’t remove him because neocon (NEOnazi?) can get their war policies and killing of social programs free speech, etc passed.
    Is Congress also full of sociopaths too?..

    • Gregory Herr
      August 15, 2017 at 22:27

      It would seem so.

    • Chucky LeRoi
      August 15, 2017 at 23:06

      It’s been obvious for many, many years: with very few exceptions, if somebody is applying for the job they should automatically be disqualified on the grounds of insanity.

      The problem, of course, is how do you fill the vacancy if all the applicants are manifestly wacko? I don’t have an answer. Should only people who have to be forced kicking and screaming into office be the ones? Seek out qualified folks with little interest in wielding power? Who is on the search committee?

    • Gregory Herr
      August 16, 2017 at 18:56

      I guess if I’m allowed to be extremely fanciful, my first suggestion is to change the term for Representatives from two to four years and perhaps limit consecutive terms to 2 or 3. Two-year terms makes it so Representatives are almost continuously seeking re-election. Of course media makes so much money from ads that the big step of having the airwaves perform the public service of granting us an “election season” in which “qualifiers” (by registered voter petition?) are granted plenty of free time to voice their concerns and ideas on both an individual basis and through questioning and debate.
      So for someone to run for office, they would first need to convince enough voters to petition for their qualification. Perhaps they should have to pass a fairly rigorous civil service type exam first before being allowed to use this particular petition form. Something that would show they possess an acquaintance with the Constitution, with Supreme Court decisions, and with international law.
      I also think we need to outlaw political parties for a period of time and force Representatives to form coalitions based on something more substantive than the D & R blind loyalties that must be destroyed so that people can look at things from a fresh perspective. After a while, maybe some new coalitions can be allowed to give themselves a name and be a political “party”. Of course House and Senate rules will need a thorough redo, just on the basis of a moratorium on political parties alone…but we also need reform on “attachments” to legislation that are not germane to the legislation at hand.
      And we need to make better sense of our districts and stop allowing political gerrymandering. And of course we need paper trails and elections we can verify and trust.
      I know….what am I smoking?

  5. Zachary Smith
    August 15, 2017 at 20:22

    The Thankless Task of ‘Saving’ Trump

    Thankless, yes – but a job which ought not be abandoned. That’s because bad as Trump is, the alternative is President Michael Richard Pence.

    Trump just can’t stop running his mouth and shooting himself in the foot. And everywhere else. Unless someone convinces him to put a sock in it, he’s going to lose his base both on the Street and in Congress. They won’t object because they’re getting a reliable rightwingnut hack to replace him — Pence.

    Street Democrats will react the same way I did in 2008; so blinded by dislike of Trump (me – Bush) that they’ll understand what they’ve got in exchange when it’s a done deal. (me – Obama)

    As things stand now, Trump is on his way out. I’m not certain but that is what he wants.

    Pence may be a monster, but he is able to play the game. He’ll nominally support Trump while looking to replace him. And subtly using the shiv at every opportunity.

    So keep trying to reform the 70-year-old rich spoiled and ignorant brat if it’s at all possible.

  6. mike k
    August 15, 2017 at 19:58

    Donald could write his autobiography and title it How A Crooked New York Real Estate Man Conned Enough Americans to Become Their President.

    • Zachary Smith
      August 15, 2017 at 22:39

      Conned? I doubt if many people had any illusions about Trump. And I can’t think of any Democrat he could have defeated who wasn’t named Hillary Rodham Clinton.

      It’s true we’re well and truly screwed, but that fate was a certain one after the DNC made certain Sanders didn’t have a chance in the Primaries.

      The election came down to Evil In Pants vs Evil In Pant Suit.

  7. mike k
    August 15, 2017 at 19:51

    Let me be clear: Donald Trump is a lying racist fascist stupid fool. I left a few more appropriate qualities of the American President out, but my initial summary will do to introduce the Donald to anyone who doesn’t know who he is.

  8. mark
    August 15, 2017 at 18:26

    Paul Pillar is not the first person to grossly underestimate Trump and he won’t be the last. As for the “adults in the room”, you won’t find many of them in Washington. I think it was Paul Craig Roberts who described the US political establishment as a kindergarten on LSD.

  9. backwardsevolution
    August 15, 2017 at 16:53

    mike k – it’s a noble idea to love everybody, but when it comes down to it we are all discriminating in where we live, what we eat, who we hang out with, who we marry, what car we buy, what clothes we wear, what blogs we frequent. All of these things represent who we are, our belief systems.

    You sound like a globalist, mike, an internationalist, someone who doesn’t believe in borders or countries. Because those types of people are right, aren’t they? Everybody else is wrong. The internationalist wants everybody thinking one way. They want to tell you you’re all wrong, put you in a box of “wrongness”, label you, change you. End up with things the way they want them, and to hell with you.

    A world or a country with no direction is like a boat without a rudder, drifting aimlessly while singing Kumbaya.

  10. backwardsevolution
    August 15, 2017 at 15:11

    I started reading Pillar’s article, but then decided to put it down. His hatred for President Trump is evident in every article he writes. It lays heavy on the page like a skid mark on a road. His last article (yesterday) was “Trump’s Shallow Thinking on Terrorism”.

    I find his articles highly one-sided and simplistic, and he never describes what is really going on. Sounds like another neocon to me.

    • mike k
      August 15, 2017 at 16:11

      Poor Trump. Why do people hate him? Could it have anything to do with his hateful and destructive policies?

    • mike k
      August 15, 2017 at 16:19

      BTW – I do not hate any person on this planet. My remarks on this blog do not come from hate. I love truth and compassion, and I will criticize those who threaten those values, but not because I hate them. This is important because hate distorts our thinking and poisons us worse than those we might direct it towards.

    • backwardsevolution
      August 15, 2017 at 16:34

      mike k – a lot of people DON’T hate him too. A lot of people actually like his policies. A lot of people don’t agree with sanctuary cities (countries within a country). They actually believe there is a “swamp” that needs draining. They like what Trump did to the TPP and what he promises to do re “fair trade”. They like that he wouldn’t sign the Paris Climate Accord unless ALL countries had to comply. They like that he’s stopped the revolving door between government employees and lobbyist firms. They like that Trump is getting out of Syria.

      These people have had enough of the lies being told by the media, economists, Hollywood, academia, politicians, the intelligence community and they’re starting to voice their concerns.

      These people are angry that the First Amendment is being trampled on, that their Constitution is being shredded.

      Only some people hate Trump.

    • LJ
      August 15, 2017 at 22:17

      Bw-e, Pillar might be bleeding the Red White and Blue of the CIA as in Intelligence Asset . Maybe he’s just a hater but that is pretty simplistic, isn’t it? . He sticks pretty close to the line but Trump makes it way so easy. Pillar’s opinion is mainstream, more or less the accepted narrative. Trump is icky. His Administration can’t fill the positions it has to fill to govern effectively. Good people turn Trump down every day. The FBI Director was a good appointment but other than that he’s not getting much love anywhere.

  11. Charles K
    August 15, 2017 at 14:35

    I totally agree. It’s outright shocking to see the full extent to which mainstream media is in the grip of the globalist faction represented by W$ and the CFR: https://cfrmedia.com

    And it’s clear that if Trump switched sides tomorrow, those same media figures would immediately praise him, no matter what they called him before.

    • Charles K
      August 15, 2017 at 14:37

      this was in reply to David Hungerford above.

    • Stiv
      August 17, 2017 at 02:25

      Yea, well if pigs could fly…

      American enforced ignorance and corporate money in the electoral process has brought the country to it’s knees. Trump got the right wing money in the end…and some …ehem…fortuitious “breaks” to be the perfect candidate and symbol of American Enforced Ignorance.

  12. Steve Naidamast
    August 15, 2017 at 14:03

    Since the advent of the Trump administration in January of this year numerous reports of his erratic, impulsive nature may actually be an indication of something beyond classic, paranoid, narcissism. Mentally such behavior is also exhibiting a level of psychosis, which simply defined, is basically an inability to grasp reality. However, even more unsettling is that his impulsive behavior can also be seen as a complete lack of impulse control, which is often indicative of brain damage…

    So together we have a sitting president who is a narcissistic, psychopath with indications of psychosis while also possibly exhibiting systems of physical brain damage with that area of the brain that manages a person’s responses to situations. Into this mix we are ever hopeful that someone will be able to manage such a crazy person, which borders on public lunacy…

  13. LJ
    August 15, 2017 at 13:57

    Well, now we’ve got to figure out where to dump all those fish parts that just got shot up in that barrel. If we let them set a few weeks it could make some good fish emulsion and then we can use it in the garden, maybe grow a winter crop of garlic or onions, maybe even broccoli, cabbage or lettuce if you live near the coast in California like me. It seems to me that Trump just runs his mouth and outside of impeachment these guys who went to work for him have got to go down with the ship. They are Military , they are button down conservatives ( Outside Bannon) they aren’t boat rockers. Na.na.na,,na na.na.,hey, hey ,,Good-bye. Notice Pense equivocating in Columbia regarding Trump’s bellicose stupidity regarding a military option in Venezuela. These guys are done and they know it. Tillerson doesn’t want to do what he’s doing, he had high hopes, but he’s not a quitter. Pense either. Americans, even Democrats, aren’t quitters. Look how the Dems still won’t give up Hillary . What is kind of weird to me is that the Reps have chosen to cut their own throats and just go quietly into that good night. For instance, there is more than enough evidence, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and Judicial Watch ( Regardless of motive) to investigate and charge Hillary Clinton . That would change the entire narrative. Maybe then they could get Trump to shut up and try to limit the losses in 2018 and 2020 but humans have a go down with the ship mentality. Lemmings over a cliff. I won’t miss them but to hand the Democrats and Pelosi and Schumer Victory for the complete failure of the Republican Party to rule effectively is so weak it’s disgusting. Then we will have to wait for the Dems to fail completely again … ad nauseum. THis system is broken. The two parties are to blame. No one with integrity or ideas or honor or a soul should degrade themselves by associating with either party. There isn’t enough soap. No colonic will do the trick.

    • Chucky LeRoi
      August 15, 2017 at 15:08

      LJ – looks like we got to the same point, slightly different paths. “The two parties are to blame. No one with integrity or ideas or honor or a soul should degrade themselves by associating with either party.”

      A limited survey, I admit, but I knew one person who actually went to Washington to “change things for the better”. They came back after two years. Told us” if you want to get anything at all done in that place, you must sell your soul.” And he was not using a figure of speech.

    • mark
      August 15, 2017 at 18:40

      Dear LJ – One encouraging sign that is often overlooked. About 130 million people voted for Trumpenstein/ Killary and a couple of fringe candidates. 120 million more (48%) didn’t bother at all. They either couldn’t care less or were disgusted by the whole tawdry, degrading spectacle. What we need is for the first 130 million to join them. Then all these Kosher Nostra puppets are deprived of all legitimacy and become the laughing stock they are. In the recent UK election, one candidate who stood got THREE votes. Just imagine – Trump gets 3 votes and beats Killary with 2 votes. Cut all this vermin down to size. Don’t vote. Cut this vermin down to size.

    • backwardsevolution
      August 15, 2017 at 18:48

      LJ – “What is kind of weird to me is that the Reps have chosen to cut their own throats and just go quietly into that good night.”

      Yeah, they don’t care whether they win or lose because the people who own them (their biggest campaign contributors) are going to make sure they get a nice cushy job if they lose. They win either way. They are beholden to certain people, maybe even under threat by them, and they will not deviate, even if it means Trump will be sacrificed.

  14. Lee Francis
    August 15, 2017 at 11:31

    The notion that Trump is the problem and that upon his departure the great and good, those responsible, mature and capable deep state bureaucracy, apparatchiks like erm, John McCain, and the likes of bimbo neo-con ignoramus, Nikki Haley, together with the rest of the hive-mind media, will calm things down and bring order, stability to the situation strikes me as ludicrous. Trump is simply espousing the views and orientation of the real war party who want more provocation with both Russia and China. Trump is pathetic; he simply does what he is told. When real holders of power and policy making say jump, he answers, how high? If and when Trump goes don’t count on any improvement. All you will get is another deep-state front-person.

    • mike k
      August 15, 2017 at 11:56

      I for one am not going for the argument that we should put up with Trump because anyone else would be just as bad or worse. Donald Trump has some unique characteristics that qualify him for worst possible President. Even Pence would be better – and he is horrible. Never underestimate how bad Trump is as our President. If we should succeed in removing Trump from the Presidency, my next move would be to focus on removing Pence from that position also.

    • LJ
      August 15, 2017 at 14:03

      The next President will be worse than Trump although I agree he is becoming the worst yet and there is no hope he will right his course. Mike K I believe he overestimated the hand he would have to play. Like Obama before him he thought he could do something by the strength of his own greatness/ego. Wrong, It’s the hand these guys are dealt after the Inaugural Address and they go down many levels of nuke proof floors under the White House, Literally into the Deep State, where they get worded up, and there are pictures to look at too but not of naked women, then they have to come back to Earth and deal with Congress and the Senate. Only a Fool would want to be President. Asking for the job means you’ve got delusions of grandeur,,, period.

    • Gregory Herr
      August 15, 2017 at 18:49

      Or in Obama’s case (although I don’t doubt delusions lurk the corners of his mind), I think he was willingly groomed and is being amply rewarded. It’s a possibility anyway…one that “explains” some things for me. Of course he could have been his own man in the beginning, had “ideas”, and was abruptly persuaded of the “error” of his ways, and just didn’t have the fortitude or wherewithal to buck up…I don’t know.

    • Chucky LeRoi
      August 15, 2017 at 14:24

      No argument here that about the lack of qualification or ability in our current Prez. During the campaign, when we wound up with the Trump and Hillary show, I was suggesting tha the whole process needed a ‘reset’ button, some way the electorate could say “No. This is not acceptable.” We had one of the worst example of a two evils choice, the result being we have the open chaos of Trump rather than the more hidden, slick chaos of the(more practiced) Clintonistas.

      There seems to be a struggle going on at the very top. That club that we don’t and can’t belong to (nod to George Carlin) is engaged in some serious in-fighting. The factions are scrambling for control and the scraps of crumbling corrupt systems. The African saying ” When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled” applies here.

      The process of removing Trump (other than calling up one of the CIA’s endless supply of ‘lone gunmen’, which I am NOT SUGGESTING) would be long, possibly term length. Just to get Pence, who is rightly regarded as horrible? Just to go through the process again? While Congress cannot be regarded as effective, It seems their time could be better spent, especially as so little change would actually take place as a result.

      Trump is an easy target worthy of multiple condemnations. But I think the constant effort to demonize and calls to replace him are more distraction from the bigger problem. The system(s) that allowed or intentionally put him there need dismantling at best, reforming at least. All of it easier said than done.

      Throwing out the figurehead just keeps us on the treadwheel.
      “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” – Pete Townsend (sp?)
      “We have one political party with two right wings.” – Ralph Nader
      It like treating the symptoms and not the cause.

      To be clear, I did not vote for him. He is a disaster, but more a sign of the deep pile we are in.

    • Leslie F
      August 15, 2017 at 18:10

      I agree. We can’t let Trump’s misdeeds slide because of who the VP is. And I really don’t agree that Pence would be worse. Trump has given him about everything he wants anyway. Once Trump is gone, start working on getting rid of Pence and repeat all down the line of succession if necessary ’til this term is over.

    • backwardsevolution
      August 16, 2017 at 01:50

      Wow!

  15. D5-5
    August 15, 2017 at 10:34

    No American administration in my memory has shown the division, confusion, and incompetency of the current one. However, I would hold to the theory that Trump As Blockhead is of some use in restraining the Globalist Class, although it seems to me by now he’s part of that class despite his campaign rhetoric, and becoming more so.

    That is, that if Hillary had won we would have seen a very different outcome in Syria. Support of the “moderates” (i.e. the jihadists of whatever stripe) would have continued; a more muscular military response as with Al-Tanf would have led to a more vigorous military program in the east of Syria; challenge to air corridors would have escalated tension; the Assad Must Go doctrine would still be in place, despite whatever the Syrian people might think of this.

    Hence, I believe, we would not see Syria now on the verge of reclaiming its own country against the invaders, as clearly that’s what the conflict became. Trump here has somehow been instrumental in changing that conflict for the better, despite whatever his intentions were. Trump’s influence, despite whatever his intentions were/are, may also play a role in the newly shifting alliances in that region toward resistance of Globalist/Zionist intentions.

    • mike k
      August 15, 2017 at 11:45

      I would not jump to the conclusion that improvements in the Syrian situation are due to Donald Trump. If I was to single out an individual for credit in this affair, it would be Vladimir Putin. And of primary importance to what is happening there are the machinations of the Deep State. The silence of the MSM on Syria is deafening. A few weeks ago it was all you heard about on CNN. It was decided somewhere in the belly of that Deep State Beast to turn the sheeple’s attention to North Korea for a time. The sanctions bill demonstrated clearly that the Donald is not the real power behind world events.
      The US Congress showed that it is a powerful and obedient instrument of our real Rulers, as is the military and other major powers in our present culture.

    • D5-5
      August 15, 2017 at 12:20

      Unquestionably, what happened in Syria following Trump’s election changed from what was happening previously with support of the so-called “moderates.” This we can connect to his de-financing them, plus his intentions, however misguided, to deal with ISIS. The tide turned following Trump’s election. I don’t point this out as any sort of admiration of Trump. It is an ironic consequence in my view. The silence of the MSM is very likely due this reversal, and again, I suggest, this change would not have been likely to happen under Hillary. Putin as factor was well in place prior to the events I’m trying to focus on.

      There is a piece in Clearing House today which ends by suggesting the balance of power in the middle east is shifting—it refers to Hezbollah and Syrian Army units finishing off terrorists of Al-nusra. What we’re seeing is the emergence of new alliances, as with Erdogan moving toward negotiating with Assad, with Moqtada’s engaging Saudi Arabia, with Syria and Iraq cooperating recently at Syria’s eastern border.

      All this is very interesting in terms of how it suggests resistance to a war on Iran, and the possible prevalence of the Russia-Iran pipeline project as against the US-Israeli pipeline project, and such resource disputes. So again to my Blockhead Theory. Hillary Clinton is not likely to have been so pliant and inactive, it seems to me.

      So, to more effectively critique my “jumping to conclusions” here, perhaps you could supply some substance on your idea that what’s happening in Syria right now is “machinations of the Deep State”? That seems to say that the turn of events for the better in Syria is due to those machinations?

    • mike k
      August 15, 2017 at 12:45

      Well, I used the term machinations because the more I learn about the schemes of the Rich and Powerful (essentially the Deep State) the less I understand their moves. And sometimes I wonder if they understand themselves either. So I do find events in Syria now to be baffling, since they seem to be contrary to the basic neocon strategy of doing in Syria on the road to Iran on the road to Russia on the road to China – BINGO WORLD DOMINATION!

      Maybe you can explain this to me. How is Donald fulfilling the neocon dream by pacifying Syria?

    • D5-5
      August 15, 2017 at 13:08

      Another way of stating what I’ve been trying to say is that Trump, and it would seem inadvertently, is acting AGAINST deep state interests in his blundering way which has led on well for Syria but not for the globalists–and another reason they seek to get rid of him. I don’t know how you got the idea, if that’s what is implied in your last comment, that I was suggesting he was “fulfilling the neocon dream by pacifying Syria.” I’ve been saying exactly the opposite, whereas that is NOT what we could expect from Hillary, as James Carden’s piece in CN today also suggests.

    • mike k
      August 15, 2017 at 13:19

      Putin’s intervention was and is crucial to the survival of Syria as a state. If Assad remains in power, Putin gets the basic credit, whatever the US and jihadists do.

      In the past when Trump has dared to move counter to the neocon’s plans, he has been severely punished by the MSM and other neocon tools. Why were they silent when he defunded the Syrian terrorists. Excuse me, but I find this silence to be ominous. WHAT ARE THEY UP TO?

    • Gregory Herr
      August 15, 2017 at 18:34

      The Russian Air Force assistance at the request of Assad since September 2015 has been without a doubt an essential component of the turning of the tide in Syria. But I think we should all reflect upon the courageous fortitude of the people of Syria and the Syrian Arab Army, without which Syria could have never survived. Credit should also be given Assad, who could have fled to safety, but chose instead to set a presidential example of steadfastness, consistency, leadership, and courage. Let us hope the dirty war on Syria will end and her people can continue their rebuilding and heal together as a society.
      But I’m afraid the “evil doers” (thanks Dubya, one of your favorite terms is perfectly applicable here) won’t give up the ghost and the assault will reconstitute and drag on. And although it’s good that Trump has told the CIA to cut it out, I’m not all that confident the CIA is “listening” or that Trump can verify anything for himself. I’m not up-to-date on the general situation though have read that Aleppo is rebuilding with relative security, and hope to be proved wrong….

    • mark
      August 15, 2017 at 19:01

      Dear GH – Syria is the present day Stalingrad. It is the rock on which US Aggression and Western Imperialism have foundered, like Stalingrad in 1942. It is now a busted flush. The neocons and their satellites and satraps in the EU/ Turkey/ Israel/ Saudi Arabia/ Gulf dictatorships/ Israel all said Assad would fold in a few months, like Gaddafi in Libya. Just like they said the Soviet Union would collapse in 6 months in 1941. They threw the kitchen sink at Syria – flooded the country with tens of thousands of the most vile, barbaric terrorist filth in history, gave them untold billions in weapons and money, with the western fake news media lying through their teeth and slobbering all over this vermin. But it didn’t work. It’s a busted flush. And now Turkey/ S. Arabia/ the EU through the refugee invasion, are all destabilised. The fall out will continue for years like ripples in a pond. Like Stalingrad in 1943, with Hitler scratching his head and looking for somebody to blame. And this is all due to Assad and the Syrian army in people, and their allies. Anyone who studied Syria could have told them this. Syria has always bounced back no matter what is thrown at it. And it will settle old scores with Turkey, Saudi Arabia etc. when the time is right. S. Arabia may be close to collapse itself.

    • D5-5
      August 15, 2017 at 19:42

      Mark has picked up on what I was driving after. I’m not talking historical background back to 2015, but about recent months, the present context. To boil it down: the middle east is changing, partly due to Trump and de-financing the jihadists. This is basic recent information. The payrolls have seriously interrupted the IS mercenaries. I suggest watching out for headlines on shifting alliances in the middle east.

      Reminder: if there’s no REPLY button go back up the thread to the most recent reply button and use it. The comment will fall into place properly.

    • D5-5
      August 15, 2017 at 19:59

      @Mark, your view to me suggests why Erdogan is slithering sideways toward Syria, now in its new strength, with some animosity toward the US and warming to Russia; then we have the quite possibly decayed and collapsing state of Saudi Arabia, with the new MBS out of his depth, humiliated, and drawn to of all persons Moqtada al Sadr, he of the million man militia a few years back, now positioning himself for an upcoming election in Iraq. He is going to play a unify the region card, so what we’re potentially looking at is alliance between Russia-Syria-Turkey-Kurdistan-Lebanon-Iraq-Iran, with sympathies from other parts of the globe as with China reflected. All this on top of pipelines . . . You see if this is the case why what Mark says is right on, and have to ask how vigorously Hillary would be stoking the Syrian war versus the US’s near invisibility there at this time. You ask why is this not on mainsream news? For the same reason the Russia Hoax is not on the mainstream news. It doesn’t fit the official narrative. Okay, I’ll shut up. Please do feel free to set me straight, but if you’re going to do so I would appreciate a few details as part of it.

    • Gregory Herr
      August 15, 2017 at 20:17

      Thanks D5-5 and mark. My hope is with the Syrians and I am encouraged by what you say mark. D5-5, I have been trying to follow the politics and agree that shifting alliances may bode very well for Syria. I know the mercenaries have taken a beating and hope they do lose all supply lines and support…I guess I’ll allow myself some cautious optimism.

    • backwardsevolution
      August 15, 2017 at 14:59

      D5-5 – I think there is method in Trump’s madness.

    • D5-5
      August 15, 2017 at 19:47

      Well, BE you’re the perennial optimist on Trump. I see him as a total know-nothing blowhard and such types are not inclined to study or consider much deeply. Lovely guy, I’m sure, in his own way otherwise. As to the middle east his errors are prodigious blunders showing his ignorance. Further, it’s absurd to settle Syria on the one hand and talk war with Iran on the other. These are not blunders Hillary would make.

    • backwardsevolution
      August 16, 2017 at 02:29

      D5-5 – “Well, BE you’re the perennial optimist on Trump.” Not at all. I just happen to like some of his policies, and I especially liked his stance on “no more war”. Sadly, though, the neocons are not going to allow this to happen.

      So if I have to choose between Trump and the neocons, I’m going to pick Trump.

  16. Joe Tedesky
    August 15, 2017 at 09:48

    The other day after hearing Trump make his threats to Kin Jung un, and afterwards Trump’s Cabinet Secretaries were all over the place with their remarks in kind, I though of who would a world leader in dealing with the United States listen to? Would it become among heads of nations, to merely ignore the U.S. President, and negotiate with his Cabinet officers? In other words, would Trump serve as the looney front man who makes the front pages of the news, but where the real action would occur out of sight, and far from the front page news? So many strange questions to be asked of a truly odd assortment of characters who operate out of our nations White House, and yet one may question to what bureaucracy which hides behind the curtain to who is really running the proverbial show.

    • backwardsevolution
      August 15, 2017 at 14:58

      Joe – you’re probably in the ball game with what you’re saying. Trump’s advisors would say, “Gee, we don’t really know how our President will respond,” in effect scaring the opposition. Trump can appear to be the loose cannon.

      I don’t mind Trump responding harshly to the North Korean leader, telling him in no uncertain terms that if he commits any action, the U.S. will automatically respond in kind. Let the North Korean leader spout off. If that’s all he does, who cares? So long as he takes no action. Of course, it’s not good to provoke or scare him. I just hope that the neocons don’t manufacture some sort of false flag. That’s what we’ve really got to worry about. Trump is probably acting tough just to get the neocons off his back for a few split seconds.

      What I don’t get is Trump’s continual harassment of Iran. What and who is behind this? Is it all bluster again in order to appease certain people, the Jewish lobby? I’ll keep digging in order to try and understand it. But Trump is way off base with Iran.

    • Joe Tedesky
      August 15, 2017 at 15:56

      You know backwardsevolution in my opinion I think that a war with Iran is more in the cards, so much more than Kim Jung un is even in the game. N Korea would more than likely be safe in any contest of words, but if the U.S. were ever to be crazy enough to start with China, then N Korea would most definitely be targeted for a lot of collateral damage like the kind we have never seen before. Iran, is possibly just a matter of time. That is unless the U.S. should disown it’s relationship with the Israeli’s and the Saudi’s, but that doesn’t look like that may happen anytime too soon.

      I saw a Trump like boss back in my Navy days. This Captain was completely out of his mind. He said things that were bombastic just like Trump. To his credit this Captain had a great Executive Officer, and Officer staff, and these people held up their end quite nicely. The Captain on the other hand was always causing a scene over the simplest of things, like one time he ordered a bulletin to be written forbidding our sailors from swearing (the Navy swearing), and when the Personnel-man approached the Captain on the windy Bridge, as soon as the Captain turned around to accept this anti-swearing memo for his approval after proof reading it, that’s when the Captains scrambled egg MacArthur style hat went flying off his head, and then his worn torn battle worthy head cover went into the ocean. Man you should have heard the Captains foul mouth, as he bitched and moaned, and when asked what about the swearing directive he said, fuck that damn thing, I lost my hat. Oh this same Captain once ordered our Gunnery to train our guns on a small Russian PT boat, kind of like our Captain’s show of honor you understand. Although this Captain sounds completely unhinged, after he served aboard our Gator Navy ship he received orders to become Captain of the USS Enterprise….it’s kind of like being a wrecking ball all the way up the ladder of success.

    • backwardsevolution
      August 15, 2017 at 17:07

      Joe – war with Iran might be in the cards, but it might not be also. Look at Syria. While the media and neocons were mouthing off about more fighting in Syria, behind the scenes other things were happening: Trump is actually taking the U.S. out of Syria.

      Trump is all bluster with North Korea, which is probably good. North Korea now knows that the U.S. isn’t going to attack them unless North Korea attacks first. I just worry about false flags and hope that Trump is up-to-speed on what the neocons are capable of.

      For all we know, Joe, people might be working behind the scenes with Iran too. You know, up front the insults are flying (to appease Israel and the neocons), but behind the scenes (as with Syria) things are being worked out. It could be Congress knew or suspected this was going on and slapped on sanctions before a deal could be struck or it could be proven that Iran has done nothing wrong. Yes, the same Congress that’s in the back pockets of Israel and the multinational corporations.

      I just think we don’t know what’s really going on. I read how Obama, in order to get a deal with Iran, had to have two layers of diplomacy: one to sound tough and act like they were against Iran, the other to make a deal with Iran.

      Trying to deal with Israel and the neocons is probably like trying to dance on the head of a pin. Good talking to you, Joe.

    • Stiv
      August 17, 2017 at 02:08

      Love the story. ETN3 here from the mid-late 70’s. Got busted down twice. :>)

      I was reserve at Alameda Air Station when the Enterprise ( I think) ran aground on a sand bar…with all the mothers and lovers waiting on the dock. I laughed. The captain was removed from duty. Wondering if it’s the same guy.

      It was my time in the USN that clued me into the farce that the USSR was a overly significant military threat to the “free world”. Shit, they couldn’t even refuel with running into each other.

      Trump..what can be said. He deserves everything he gets and more. It’s his own doing most of the time. Gotten a couple things right but loses it over his napoleon complex. I won’t cry when he dies for sure,but we’ll be left with a mess to clean up. Like the sad sight of the Enterprise stuck in the mud..nothing we can do except wait for the tugs..

  17. David Hungerford
    August 15, 2017 at 09:48

    The personal focus on Trump accomplishes nothing. It is a very serious error. The main things about his presidency are always overlooked:
    1. The ruling class is deeply split; longstanding conflicts between “globalist” world commerce versus national market capital interests reached crisis stage in the election of 2016.
    2. Trump is a minority president by the only standard that counts, that of the ruling class. The globalists are politically more powerful than the national market interests. They include Wall Street, for one thing.

    Trump was not supposed to win. But the Street is used to getting what it wants. It has wanted Trump out from the day of the election. The mainstream medium echoes the globalist line. Any misstep on Trump’s part is amplified to the maximum.

    • mike k
      August 15, 2017 at 10:23

      I can understand why a Trump apologist would prefer that we “not focus on Trump”. Sorry, we need to keep our eyes on this ugly excuse for a human being until we can get rid of him as our President – then I will be happy to never look at him again.

    • SteveK9
      August 15, 2017 at 13:46

      Thanks for cutting through to the core.

    • Leslie F
      August 15, 2017 at 17:57

      While what you say about the ruling class may be true, but Trump opposes “globalism” only rhetorically while pursuing many of the policies of the “globalists”. His actions are not based on any philosophy of international relations, but only on how they affect his bottom line so, they are not consistent. Sometimes they appear to favor the less interventionist approach, but in other cases are much more belligerent than any run of the mill neocon.

  18. mike k
    August 15, 2017 at 09:36

    You have got it exactly right Mr. Pillar. Donald Trump is an ongoing, uncorrectable disaster. Has been that his whole life, and is not going to change in any significant way. People who do not realize that are only letting themselves in for a lot of disappointment and very serious trouble. We must find legitimate ways to get rid of this dangerous man who finds himself now in a position to do the entire world very serious harm.

    • David Hungerford
      August 15, 2017 at 09:51

      Trump sat down and had a serious conversation with Russian President Putin about normalization of relations between the United States and Russia. He committed the even more serious violation of U.S. norms by cutting off aid to terrorists in Syria.

      I don’t see that this sort of panicky condemnation is justified.

    • mike k
      August 15, 2017 at 10:19

      There is no panic here, just the simple truth that you and many others refuse to see. It has been reported that Hitler was really good with children, I guess that makes the other stuff he did not so bad? I do not care how many small good actions Trump’s apologists can come up with. This man is destroying our world with 99% of his actions, I choose to focus on that reality.

    • SteveK9
      August 15, 2017 at 13:45

      Hitler again?

    • Kelli
      August 15, 2017 at 22:28

      Hitler was likely a psychopath too.
      These disorders are true mental illness, and the most dangerous.of them all. Psychopathy, sociopathy narcissism, are not readily discussed as the dangerous disorders they are. It’s not ‘polite’ to label people, or so it goes in the world of psychology or psychopathology, so these people slip through the cracks of society.
      They are your insurance agent, a family member, your church pastor, your politicians. They are teachers, and they are also murderers and other variety of criminals but Trump is the perfect example of what it looks like and is, but there are others like Bill Clinton who are smooth talkers and master manipulators, and no one would know better. I believe Obama is too. It takes someone who lacks empathy to carry out harm done to others and each of the last four or more Presidents and their wars have murdered millions.

      Most of these people are never diagnosed because they don’t believe they have a problem. Only when trying to manipulate a partner, employer or when having committed a crime and forced to submit to a psychological evaluation, etc are they diagnosed.
      They ruin and destroy the lives of those around them with no remorse guilt or regret.

      Psychopaths, sociopaths and malignant narcissists are drawn to positions of power as they are addicted to it. Whether power over a spouse or an entire country, psychopaths hurt people because it gives them an emotional high. And it’s never, ever enough. They are insatiable.
      Trump needs to be removed
      Any anyone wanting to get into power should have to first submit to a full psychiatric evaluation. Period.

    • mike k
      August 16, 2017 at 08:43

      Good points to remember. Donald Trump is not a normal person, and he is very dangerous to everyone on this planet, due to his position as head of the most destructive empire in history.

    • backwardsevolution
      August 15, 2017 at 14:50

      David Hungerford – you’re making too much sense! Thanks.

    • Leslie F
      August 15, 2017 at 17:49

      It is justified because Russia is the only place where he is showing any kind of rationality. Russia is very important but it is not the entire world. Since his policies elsewhere are so belligerent, I can’t help thinking he has an ulterior motive for his attitude toward Russia. I think he expects to gain financially from it somehow. And his approach to Russia is not steadfast. He has followed the neocon path after conferring with Israel and Saudi Arabia, so we can’t even be sure that this one bright spot will remain.

    • Realist
      August 15, 2017 at 18:24

      The best advice Trump could ever get would come from Putin and Russia–because they want peace and stability in the world so they can continue their, now interrupted, economic recovery in the aftermath of the looting under Yeltsin that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union. China too basically strives for economic development, showcased by its Belt and Road Initiative that will connect all of Eurasia, unless sabotaged by Washington. But, unfortunately, no one in the entirety of the American federal government will allow him to receive or act on such advice, the main gist of which is “stop the wars: You are destroying the planet and bankrupting yourselves.” Unfortunately, Washington is not run by people with an interest in promoting the welfare of its own citizenry. Now it only serves the interests of a cadre of oligarchs who own everything here and want to take title to all the resources in the rest of the world. With the American military machine at their disposal, they think they can take it all at the point of a gun. To quote Trump: “Sad.”

    • mike k
      August 16, 2017 at 08:46

      Trump a friend of Russia? Look at his policies in office, not his campaign rhetoric. With friends like this…..

    • mark
      August 15, 2017 at 19:08

      Trump has one quality which makes up for any failings he may have – he is not Hilary Cklinton.

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