Bob Franken: Trump between Iraq and a hard place

As we hopefully shout “Happy New Year!” let’s hand it to President Donald Trump. There he was, the commander in chief, closing out the old year by bravely showing up in a war zone in spite of the bone spurs in his feet. Yes, the haters are dubious about those spurs, but whether real or the figment of a paid-off podiatrist’s imagination, they did keep him away from anywhere near combat until now, when he and his retinue stealthily traveled to Iraq over the holidays. Since Mar-a-Lago had been declared off limits because of the bad government shutdown optics, he, Melania and his court jesters had to go somewhere. So they tried to sneak into Iraq, enduring unfamiliar conditions like a darkened plane cabin because of normal battlefield light discipline. Any sort of discipline is a hardship for this POTUS, so he couldn’t help but brag to his troops about what he had just endured: “[I]f you would have seen what we had to go through with the darkened plane with all windows closed with no lights on whatsoever, anywhere. Pitch-black. I’ve never seen it — I’ve been on many airplanes. All types and shapes and sizes. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“War is hell.” It really is.

So now, Donald Trump has visited his forces in harm’s way, far away, where they deal with real snipers, as opposed to the political sniping he constantly faces on the homefront. Still, the political kind followed him 6,200 miles from Washington. His critics had slammed him because he hadn’t made such a schlep until now. Then, when he finally did, he was showered with ridicule. First of all, this super-secret flight didn’t really pass the “OPSEC” test (that’s “operations security,” for those of you who are not incredibly hip like I am). Although the media who accompanied him complied with strict rules and kept the journey hush-hush beforehand, as we always do, amateur high-tech aircraft hobbyists, combined with reporters left behind at the White House, pretty much figured it out. Those who hadn’t agreed to the tight embargo publicly tracked Air Force One as it made its way through the skies. They weren’t at all fooled by the plane’s alias code identifier. Oh well …

Meanwhile, after he made it safely, Donald Trump treated his military events like any of his political rallies. He slammed opponents like he always does, he lied, he promoted his border wall, signed MAGA hats, everything but lead the uniformed crowd in Hillary Clinton chants of “Lock her up!”

(Also, may I interject a personal bit of advice? Lose the bomber jacket, Mr. President. It’s not your best look. That’s all I have to say.)

As Americans, we are all relieved that the chief executive made it back to the White House trenches, where he has dug in his heels on his wall funding. Even after he’s thrown one of his Twitter tantrums (“tweetrums”?), making empty threats to close down the entire border with Mexico, the Democrats are still in their “no way” mode. Someone, somehow will have to come up with a way for both sides to save face.

There are almost as many people here looking for face-savers as the clientele at a Hollywood plastic surgery clinic. They’ll eventually concoct a compromise, all government agencies will once again operate, and all the combatants (the political ones) will move on to other crises.

For the administration, as we careen into 2019, there is the manic- depressive stock market that requires medication, and battles over Trump’s gutting environmental protections and financial regulations against fraud. Investigations that are closing are ominously looming.

As for the armed forces, they are often the ones who must deal with the deadly consequences of the decisions made back home and a president who is not above treating them like props.


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