• At Last – A Republican Who Tells It Like It Is

    As President Trump stumbles from one bungle to the next, particularly in the field of diplomacy, the mystery is that the Republicans have stayed silent, and have offered no dissent or criticism in response to Trump’s many failings – not just in respect of foreign affairs but in domestic affairs (of which there have been many) as well.

    But, at last a Republican Senator has had the courage to break ranks and tell it like it is.  The Arizona Senator, Jeff Flake, has just published a book, titled “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and A Return to Principle”, which spares Trump nothing in its condemnation of his moral and policy mis-steps.  And Senator Flake has gone further, lambasting the President in a recent speech in these terms:

    “Our presidency has been debased by a figure who has a seemingly bottomless appetite for destruction and division and only a passing familiarity with how the Constitution works…the Congress, is utterly supine in the face of the moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily…I do not think that the founders could have anticipated that the beauty of their invention might someday founder on the rocks of reality television, and that the Congress would be such willing accomplices to this calamity. Well, simply put: We may have hit bottom.”

    It is hard to over-state the sense of despair, disbelief and disgust that these words express.  They cannot be dismissed as the complaints of a political opponent.  We can only assume that there are other senior Republicans who feel similarly but who do not have the courage to risk their seats in Congress or their political futures if they tell the truth.

    As it happens (and not surprisingly, since they come thick and fast), this development comes hard on the heels of yet another Trump debacle – the cancellation of his meeting with Kim Jong Un.  The episode tells us a great deal about Trump’s order of priorities and how his mind works.

    We know that President Trump saw his meeting with the North Korean leader as a defining achievement of his Presidency, and it did, in truth, offer a brief hope of an enduring peace on the Korean peninsula and a permanent relief from the threat of nuclear war.

    But, important though these worthy goals may have been, they were clearly not the outcomes that were uppermost in Donald Trump’s mind.  How do we know this?  Not just because of the pleasure that Trump obviously derived from the (faintly ridiculous) suggestions that he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but because we have seen photographs of the impressive celebratory coins that Trump had struck  – coins that bore the profiles of both Trump and Kim – to mark the historic meeting even before it had happened.

    The boost to Trump’s ego was apparently so valuable and tempting that he could not forbear from claiming it even before the meeting had taken place – and now that the meeting may not after all take place – he is left, not with egg, but fragments of precious metals, on his face.

    We should all be alarmed that international relations, involving major questions of war and peace, and nuclear war or not, should be in the hands of someone whose priorities are so narrow and self-serving.  Even more seriously, major decisions are being taken by someone who displays a lack of understanding of how other countries react when they are insultingly treated – taken for granted, threatened and pushed around.

    The Singapore meeting, if it was to happen, had to be preceded by the most careful preparation, to make sure that both parties knew exactly what was in the other’s mind.  We now know that what was in Trump’s mind was the potential boost to his popularity, not the unresolved questions as to what Kim meant by de-nuclearisation.  And any chance that Kim would be prepared to offer what the Americans wanted was certainly dashed by the crude threat that Kim, if he failed to come up to scratch, would suffer the same fate as Colonel Gadaffi of Libya.

    Instead of those careful preparations, however, we had a repetition of nuclear threats and boasting by Trump about American military might.  That Nobel Prize now looks a long way away – and Senator Flake may soon find that he has some company in the Republican Party.

    Bryan Gould

    25 May 2018