Opinion

Franken: Donald Trump’s defiant strategy

TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Erdogan shakes hands with President Donald Trump (White House photo by Shealah Craighead).

It’s really difficult to tell because his hands are so small, but it looks for all the world that President Donald Trump has an extended middle finger raised at, well, all the world. Who knew that he could speak in sign language? Or at least that he knew how to say one word? Come to think of it, it’s two words.

He seems to have decided on a defiance strategy, his last resort, since his “high crimes” and his low crime of total incompetence are there for everyone to see as he faces impeachment. Every once in a while, he pokes himself in the eye with his raised midget digit. So it was with his Doral debacle.

First he sent out his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to announce that POTUS had decided to choose the National Doral resort and golf courses in steamy Miami for next June’s G-7 summit, just as he had warned he might do. By now you know who owns the Doral: The Trump Organization. The president makes millions each year from the company from which he never financially removed himself when he had moved into the White House.

But after he was reminded that he was the defendant in various lawsuits for violation of the Constitution’s “emoluments clause,” which prohibits other nations contributing something of value personally to a sitting president, he decided to back down. Not only does Trump use that universal gesture of defiance here at home, he flaunts it worldwide, particularly raising it against allies, especially those who have democratic governments.

He’s a bit more careful with despots like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, because he realizes that they’ll raise it right back, or because he really wishes he could have the dictatorial powers that they brutally exercise — he has a bad case of meanness envy.

So when Turkey’s autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, decided he’d invade Syria and wipe out the Kurds, Trump gave him a smart salute (the non-finger variety) and pulled U.S. troops aside, allowing the Turks to brutalize the Kurds.

Never mind that he was turning his back on American allies. The Trumpster insists that he really did put up a ruckus, releasing a letter he sent to Erdogan in which he wrote, “Let’s work out a good deal” and “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool.” Erdogan is a tough guy. He obviously considers Donald Trump a fool. His government let it be known that he tossed the letter in the “garbage bin,” a finger of his own.

Then he went ahead with his invasion. Trump at home is using the same kind of tactic, in spite of the reality that his every act of flammable defiance feeds the flames that threaten to consume his presidency. He sent chief of staff Mulvaney to confess that it was true, the president of the United States had really tried to muscle the president of Ukraine to get involved in U.S. politics, which would be a crime.

Nevertheless, Mulvaney even growled, “Get over it,” putting words to the Trump finger. Usually, but not always, the Trump belligerence works, because of his rabid base. But that base is starting to show some wear and tear, and if the erosion continues, soon America might have to “get over” the Trump presidency.

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2019 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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