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Can you be impeached for knowing nothing about anything and caring less?” Esquire

Jack Holmes
January 17, 2020, 11:23 AM CST
While even his most prodigious spokespeople teeter under Fox News questioning (!) about his relationship to Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine henchman Lev Parnas, it’s worth considering that the scheme that led to the president’s impeachment is just one of his various foibles. He could have been impeached, after all, for relentlessly obstructing justice in the Mueller probe. He could have been impeached for his blatant public corruption, which has reached the point where people have started renting large blocs of rooms in his hotels and not even bothering to stay in many of them. Gee, I wonder what they’re getting out of it. Oh, and can you be impeached for knowing nothing about anything and caring less?
It’s a question worth asking as a new book from Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, A Very Stable Genius, begins to trickle out via excerpts. A New York Times review calls it “a comic horror story.” The latest section published in the Post details a meeting Trump had at the Pentagon where he unwittingly laid out his attitude towards, well, everything, but specifically American military power: We can make some money off this. That was the only through-line as his senior defense and diplomatic and national-security advisers tried to tutor him in basic geopolitics and American history. Money. They owe us. We can get them to pay us.
“We should charge them rent,” Trump said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.”
Trump proceeded to explain that NATO, too, was worthless. U.S. generals were letting the allied member countries get away with murder, he said, and they owed the United States a lot of money after not living up to their promise of paying their dues.
“They’re in arrears,” Trump said, reverting to the language of real estate. He lifted both his arms at his sides in frustration. Then he scolded top officials for the untold millions of dollars he believed they had let slip through their fingers by allowing allies to avoid their obligations.
“We are owed money you haven’t been collecting!” Trump told them. “You would totally go bankrupt if you had to run your own business.”
The president appears to view American military alliances as some kind of protection racket. He has openly mused recently about having Saudi Arabia straight-up pay for American troops. This is not the vision of service to the American republic and its Constitution most people have in mind with respect to our military service members. This is reportedly part of a general pattern in the book wherein Trump basically does not know anything about American history, the values and institutions of a democratic republic, or even geography.

In fairness, Trump offered some refreshing pushback against military brass who insist we must have bases everywhere, all over the world, always. The map of our installations abroad is mind-blowing. They’re everywhere. Do we really have business deploying our troops and assets all over the place? Do we think there have been some negative consequences for our relentless meddling and interventionism?
The Adults in the Room in this scene talked a lot about The Post-War International Order, and that’s been mostly good for us, but has it been good for everyone? Are their elements of it we might, uh, revisit? (Not that this president is the one to do it. That would require some capacity for strategic thinking.) We have Iran boxed in with bases all around and we wonder why they’re getting twitchy, particularly after Trump shredded the Iran Deal because Obama—despite the fact they were complying—and re-instituted crushing sanctions on their economy.
Speaking of, that came up.
Trump then repeated a threat he’d made countless times before. He wanted out of the Iran nuclear deal that President Obama had struck in 2015, which called for Iran to eliminate its uranium stockpile and cut its nuclear weaponry.
“It’s the worst deal in history!” Trump declared.
“Well, actually . . .,” Tillerson interjected.
“I don’t want to hear it,” Trump said, cutting off the secretary of state before he could explain some of the benefits of the agreement. “They’re cheating. They’re building. We’re getting out of it. I keep telling you, I keep giving you time, and you keep delaying me. I want out of it.”
I don’t want to hear it! the president said of dissenting information. And that right there, folks, is a nice microcosm of this presidency, which took the Bush-era disdain for inconvenient expertise and shifted it into overdrive. Who cares if they’re abiding by the deal, reached in coordination with the other Western powers over many long years? I want it gone! The repercussions for this spasm of impulsive stubbornness was merely a war narrowly avoided, at least partly due to Iran’s restraint.
Later on, Trump circled another decent point, demanding to know why we are still in Afghanistan. But of course he had to call it a “loser war” and attribute the attrition to military incompetence, rather than, as an ex-Navy SEAL once said on Fox News: “If you remember what Osama bin Laden said, he’s willing to fight this for generations. Is the American people, and the western world, are we as committed as they are to this battle? I doubt that, highly.” At some point, we will have to accept that the people who live there are more invested in the outcomes of our conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq than we are, not least because only a small slice of our population is truly fighting these wars.
Anyway, here’s the president.
“You’re all losers,” Trump said. “You don’t know how to win anymore.”
Trump questioned why the United States couldn’t get some oil as payment for the troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. “We spent $7 trillion; they’re ripping us off,” Trump boomed. “Where is the f—ing oil?”
Even the Bush ghouls used to pretend this was about freedom and democracy.
It was at this point that the descriptions of the president went closer and closer to what you’d expect to hear about a large baby. This is a common trope in Presidential Coverage, wherein the president’s staff and advisers talk bout him like he’s a toddler and stories are framed around The Presidential Mood—as if he has no obligation to get his emotions in check and run the country. Surely, these outbursts of emotion would be similarly tolerated coming from a woman.
Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.
“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.
Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”
The emotional meltdowns and irrational spasms from the world’s most powerful man are, according to the Times review, littered throughout the book. He reportedly considered awarding himself the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He suggested staff secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wife, who accused him of assaulting her, had given herself a black eye to shake Porter down for cash. Nothing sticks out more consistently than the venality. Everything is a transaction, everything is about leverage, everything is about getting ahead no matter what the cost or what the rules are.
“It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas,” the president once whined to a group of aides. All that matters is money and power. How can I use one to get the other? But Times reviewer Dwight Garner really nailed the situation while bouncing off an incident at Pearl Harbor. Trump seemed to have no idea what’d happened in Honolulu. “Throughout,” Garner says of the book, the president “is misinformed and confused while at the same time utterly certain of himself.”


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