Opinion: Trump needs a lesson from Jimmy Carter

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(AP)

President Trump delivered a fine, effective speech before Congress Tuesday night, and given the post-speech poll numbers, he won’t be ranting anytime soon how the pollsters rig the process against him.

However, that success came despite the fact — and largely because of the fact — the speech had so little relationship to reality. On health care, on immigration, on the economy, the environment and other issues, the world as described by the president bore little resemblance to actual facts on the ground, and the chasm between what he says and what he does will be impossible to disguise as we move deeper into his term.

That sense of unreality began of course with Trump himself, who delivered a well-written,  well-rehearsed speech in a calm manner that he had never before demonstrated publicly. He clearly has the salesman’s knack of being whatever the customer wants him to be. In that one scripted hour, hewing close to the teleprompter, he came off sounding something close to normal, to the surprise of Republicans and Democrats alike.

But as we’ve know from the past and will be reminded in the future, the real Trump is nothing like that. The hour that he spent reading that speech is probably the single longest reading session of his adult life.

During the speech, Trump spoke reassuringly of the importance of alliances such as NATO, in contradiction to his own previous statements. In reality, however, you cannot sell yourself as a strong ally while also insisting to the whole world that America is now going to look after its own interests first, last and always, as Trump also did last night. The whole basis of an alliance or good friendship is the willingness to sacrifice your individual interests for those of the larger group, and nothing in Trump’s character or record suggests an appreciation of that fact.

That dichotomy added an additional level of unreality to the most moving part of the evening, when Trump paid tribute to the sacrifice of U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, killed during a raid in Yemen last month. The spectacle of Owens’ freshly grieving widow added poignancy and power to Trump’s speech, as he and his handlers knew it would. His speechwriter even borrowed a verse from the Book of John, allowing Trump to remind us that “as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends — Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country and for our freedom — we will never forget Ryan.”

Contrast that with Trump’s behavior earlier that very day, when he was questioned about responsibility for the controversial raid that cost Owens his life. The unscripted Trump, the real Trump, made clear once again that in times of trouble, his first and only priority is himself.

Planning for the raid “was started before I got here,” he said, attempting to shove responsibility onto President Obama. Then he further distanced himself, explaining that “This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected, the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

“They” lost him … “they” wanted to do this, five times in three sentences the word “they.”

Not one “we.”

It’s as if a grenade rolled into the foxhole, and Trump pushed somebody else on top of it. You know for a fact that if this raid had been deemed a major success, all those “theys” would have become “I,” as in “I ordered this raid …,” “when I made the difficult decision to …”, “just one week into my administration, I have already ….”

That got noticed, up and down the ranks. In military culture, a commanding officer is expected to protect his personnel, both in battle and afterward. A leader who doesn’t take responsibility, who shifts blame downward onto the subordinates who carried out his or her orders, forfeits the respect that is needed to back him effective and guarantees a short career.

People like to make fun of Jimmy Carter, and conservatives in particular like to cast him as weak and hapless. Yet when a hostage rescue effort went awry in the deserts of Iran in 1980, killing eight U.S. servicemen, Carter stepped in front of the TV cameras and acted like a leader:

“I made the decision to set our long-developed plans into operation,” Carter said in a national, prime-time broadcast. “I ordered this rescue mission prepared in order to safeguard American lives, to protect America’s national interests, and to reduce the tensions in the world that have been caused among many nations as this crisis has continued.

“It was my decision to attempt the rescue operation. It was my decision to cancel it when problems developed in the placement of our rescue team for a future rescue operation. The responsibility is fully my own.”

Look, I don’t blame Trump for Owens’ death. As a special ops veteran, Owens knew the risks, just as Ambassador Chris Stevens and his staff knew the risks when they traveled through a war zone to Benghazi. And while I understand and respect the grief expressed recently by Owens’ father, I think he’s wrong to demand a public investigation of the decision-making behind the operation. When we put people in harm’s way, as we must, loss of life is inevitable. We can’t continue to turn such tragedies into political circuses.

I do, however, take issue with Trump’s effort as commander in chief to distance himself from the consequences of his decisions, and more particularly with his use of Owens as a political shield. Maybe, just maybe, rushing to approve this kind of operation over dinner just a week after taking office was a bit hasty. The final decision, the only decision that matters, was his.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

1276 comments
JayBook
JayBook moderator

"Then why isn't James Clapper out of a job?" asks Donnie.

He is. He resigned back in November.

Also, sheets. 

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

My guess is twenty five or thirty firings of high level liberals will do he trick.

-

Lol. So an ideological purge of the intel agencies will do the trick huh Reb boy? 

As if it's liberals corrupting the intel agencies and not he other way around.

InTheMiddle2
InTheMiddle2

@Donnie_Pinko Most in the intel community do not let ideology get in the way of their job, if they did they probably would not last. If there is someone leaking, they need to go to jail-period.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

The staunch republican Joe Scarborough is even saying he lied.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@StraightNoChaser

and it's very revealing all the outrage about lying was not present when Obama told voters before the election to trust him, that they could keep their doctor and keep their insurance plan.

That has a lot more gravity than these ridiculous charges against Sessions.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@StraightNoChaser 

Um, he's on the anti-Russia agitation side of the party with John McCain and Lindsay Graham and the neocons. Why would that be a surprise? 

RantNRave
RantNRave

" Keep up the filthy attacks.  It's very becoming of your party.  I'll get the water running to fill up the thimble.  Do you prefer warm or cold water?


@Down In Out In Albany


Well well well....


you cons have cut your own throats.


And I hope The GOP die a PERMANENT


death.


It's very becoming of your party. 


I'll get the water running to get rid


of the STENCH !


hahahahahahahahahaha

InTheMiddle2
InTheMiddle2

@RantNRave Democratic party is at far greater risk of dying than the GOP. It has become a very closed minded and narrow focused party. Maybe if you were more inclusive it would do better.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

There is another intelligence leak associated with the accusations against Sessions as pitiful as they are.

Time for an enema at the intelligence agencies.

My guess is twenty five or thirty firings of high level liberals will do he trick. 

honested
honested

@JohnnyReb 

So you don't want to find the TRUTH?

What's wrong with you people. 

The notion of 'we won' (And it doesn't matter how badly we had to sell out the United States to win) doesn't have the support of the Majority.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@honested @JohnnyReb

I do not want to learn of the truth, as you put it but extremely twisted in the Sessions case, from an Intelligence leak.

The leaks are against the very nature of intelligence agencies.

In this and other recent leaks, they have been targeted political maneuvers designed to materially conflict with the government.

That's a felony.

I do not support felony. 

honested
honested

@JohnnyReb @honested @Philo_Farnsworth 

Hillary Clinton was defeated in a very close election hinging on less than 300,000 votes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania while winning the Popular Vote by 3 MILLION.

This 'victory' was facilitated by a close alliance between the 'winner' and an Enemy of the United States.

I accept all of this.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@honested @JohnnyReb

no, didn't state that.

Congress gets regular secret briefings from intelligence agencies.

That's the place for such as this to come out, not to MSM.

If the congressional committee considers it a serious breach, they can take action.

Not some political hit job by the media urged on by butt hurt Liberals who can't accept defeat.

Philo_Farnsworth
Philo_Farnsworth

Obama political appointee? You're fired.

Hired by an Obama political appointee? You're fired.

It's a start.

honested
honested

@JohnnyReb @honested 

But as you said, "you do not want to learn the truth"....because that would make conserrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrvatives be Felons.....

I guess that's why you will always insist cavemen rode dinosaurs.

honested
honested

@jezel 

Release the Dossier then pay him a fat welcomed gratuity from the American People!


I do like the term 'failed spy' from the 'so-called president.

Looks like he's a pretty danged good spy!

jezel
jezel

@honested @jezel from what i understand...several Russian officials associated with the dossier have been found dead in recent months.

rimsky
rimsky

@honested @jezel At this point I like to see the die hard anti Hillary FBI's heads on a platter.

RantNRave
RantNRave

@jezel


They don't need to now!


Karma has stepped in!


hahahahahahahahahaha

honested
honested

@jezel @rimsky @honested 

comey?

He still works there?

He's been so quiet lately I figured he had 'retired to spend more time with his family'.

rimsky
rimsky

Clapper? Holder?  What are the charges?

Found anything yet?  Put it on the screen so we can all see them.  

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@rimsky  Eric Holder, the only AG (to my knowledge) to be held in Contempt of Congress.  Such a noble legacy, huh?

rimsky
rimsky

@DownInAlbany @rimsky I said charges.  Republican Congress charging any one from the D side is normal.  Anyhoo Rs are not credible.

What is the reason behind the contempt?

honested
honested

@DownInAlbany @rimsky 

With this 'Congress' you can be held in contempt for not believing the world is only 6,000 year old and denying that cavemen rode dinosaurs.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

Is it a crime to lie to Congress? Why yes it is.

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 makes it a crime to: 1) knowingly and willfully; 2) make any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation; 3) in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States. - See more at: http://corporate.findlaw.com/litigation-disputes/how-to-avoid-going-to-jail-under-18-u-s-c-section-1001-for-lying.html#sthash.1WikpZsH.dpuf

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@StraightNoChaser  Keep up the false narrative, the obvious distortion of what was asked and the answer that was given.  It's a distortion of the facts, plain and simple.  But, don't change a thing.  Keep up the filthy attacks.  It's very becoming of your party.  I'll get the water running to fill up the thimble.  Do you prefer warm or cold water?

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

He's going down, racist POS had no business getting the job anyway. The big fish is Donald Trump but we will take the small ones to get to him. On the day that Trump lies to Congress it will be ball game. Keep on humping Down's. LOL

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

Trump and his entire administration has now entered Nixon territory. Trust me it's going to be great. LOL

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@StraightNoChaser  Nope.  You proggies need to get your rags ready.  There's going to be a lot of egg to be wiped off of your faces.  While your party allows the hatred to further destroy what little is left of your pathetic party.