Friday, June 21, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He couldn't make up his mind what story to tell about not attacking Iran.

Last night, the media reported that Trump had ordered and then withdrawn an airstrike on Iran, in retaliation for its shooting down an American drone. In a somewhat surprising move, given the secrecy that usually surrounds military decision-making, Trump admitted to it in a tweet this morning. He explained it this way:

....On Monday [Iran] shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not........proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.

This cannot be true, unless Trump expects anyone to believe that the military failed to tell him about potential casualties until he asked with ten minutes to spare. (Or, for that matter, that it never occurred to him to ask until it was almost too late.)

Even his own staff was unwilling to let that insult to the Defense Department go unchallenged, telling reporters that Trump had in fact been briefed before he authorized the mission in the first place.

Having been called out by his own advisors, Trump then changed his story. In an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, Trump said that he hadn't approved the strike at all, and that "no planes were in the air" at all when he had second thoughts.

It's still not clear which (if either) of Trump's versions are true, or even partially true. But Trump's own staff was willing to tell reporters why they thought Trump told the stories that he did:

Why should I care about this?

  • The United States military is not a political prop.
  • Presidents who are tough don't need to try to look tough.
  • It's bad if a president's own staff calls him a liar and an attention-seeker.