Let’s give credit where it’s due: As commander in chief, President Donald Trump can claim success for the military operation that took out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the long-elusive founder of ISIS, who, according to the White House and military sources, blew himself up setting off a vest of explosives that also took the lives of three of his children. This was the president, making his nationally televised announcement: “Last night the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice. … He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone.”
The commando raid happened in Syria. It was a coordinated operation, involving forces that oddly included Kurdish troops, the same allies that Trump had just jettisoned when he cleared the way for Turkey to annihilate them by pulling out a U.S. contingent that had offered a buffer zone of protection for the Kurds. Since then, the region has been in turmoil, as the Russians have moved in to replace the Americans, who are in an embarrassing retreat.
Still, al-Baghdadi’s violent end was a moment of success. Trump relished it and offered his typical self-serving embellishments, saying he watched live as the terrorist leader “died like a dog” and was “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” before he blew himself up. Still, the American victory didn’t stop a cascade of booing and even chants of “Lock him up!” when Trump ended his day by attending that night’s World Series matchup. U.S. presidents have attended Major League Baseball games for generations.
It’s a tradition. What is not a tradition is a Washington team being in the Series. The last time that happened was 1933, when the old Senators played the New York Giants and President Franklin Roosevelt showed up. In case you were wondering, I wasn’t there. I watched it on the telly, even though, as my few regular readers can attest, I’m a huge baseball groupie and “root, root, root for the home team” (for non-fans, that’s from “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”).
But even so, I didn’t go to any of the three World Series games the Nationals hosted. Frankly, I couldn’t afford to pay the exorbitant amounts they were charging for tickets, or at least was not willing to spend in good conscience what I considered to be a price gouging. And frankly, there was that other reason I didn’t go Sunday. In case I have to spell it out for you, it was because P-R-E-S-I-D-E-N-T T-R-U-M-P was there.
At least he didn’t throw out the first pitch, like President Roosevelt back in ’33. But the very fact that he occupied a choice seat gave new meaning to “foul territory.” For the record, Jose Andres threw out the first pitch. He’s the chef who has fed so many thousands of people caught up in natural disasters, including in Puerto Rico, which President Trump has repeatedly disdained. Not surprisingly, he’s a prominent critic of Trump.
Also, for the record, the Nats lost the game; the score was 7 to 1. Just as obviously, the score in Syria was “the fight against terrorism” 1, ISIS 0. That breaks a real losing streak for the Trump team. The question will be whether he’ll be invited back next year as president, or will his struggles with impeachment consume him, even with his victory over ISIS.
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.