Donald Trump thinks it's appropriate to keep all of his military decisions secret -- I mean, other than the decision about transgender soldiers, since that particular topic has the benefit of being a divisive social issue that'd trigger his outraged base. Everything else is off the table, which is probably why both Congress and the American people were mostly unaware that there are 1,000 American soldiers deployed to Niger in Central Africa.
Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press: "I didn't know there was 1,000 troops in Niger. They are going to brief us next week as to why they were there and what they were doing."
Beyond the unexplained deaths of four Green Berets in the southwestern region of Niger, the creepiest aspect of this story is that it's entirely possible that Trump himself didn't know either. He might've been briefed at some point, but it doesn't really matter because he has the retention of a poop-flinging spider monkey. Plus, long ago, Trump delegated all military decisions to the Pentagon, rather than having to provide his own personal greenlight for deployments and missions. To repeat: Trump doesn't make any military decisions himself, while delightfully retaining his commander-in-chief title.
“What I do is I authorize my military," Trump said back in April, "We have the greatest military in the world and they’ve done a job as usual. We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and, frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”
Total authorization, eh? First, he's repeatedly said he knows more about fighting ISIS than the generals -- and, apparently, the Army is in Niger to fight Boko Haram, an ISIS affiliate. Why, then, is he delegating? Anyone who's been paying attention to Trump knows that this is less about empowering the military and more about shielding himself from blame if something goes wrong. He'll take all the credit when things go well, of course, but now he can blame the generals when things go wrong. In fact, I'm shocked he hasn't blamed the Army and the Pentagon for the Niger ambush yet, but wait for it. It's coming. How do I know this? It's Trump's talent for petty vindictiveness and shameless deflection. Blaming the Green Berets is just around the corner. Believe me.
He's almost there already given how, today, he basically accused Gold Star Widow, Myeshia Johnson, of lying about her conversation with the president. On ABC's Good Morning, America, Johnson told George Stephanopoulos, "What he said was — yes the president — said that he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways. And I was — it made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it. He couldn’t remember my husband’s name." This confirmed the account of Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).
In response, Trump, ever the petulant liar and whiny diaper baby, tweeted today:
He might as well have tweeted, Liar, liar, pants on fire! The widow is fake news!
Another Trump thing that'll live in infamy. For the second time in less than two years, Trump questioned the honesty and integrity of a Gold Star Family. You know, in order to make America great again, or whatever.
And prepared to be shocked: the truth is that Trump contacted far fewer Gold Star Families than he previously said. Roll Call reported:
In the hours after President Donald Trump said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email.
The email exchange, which has not been previously reported, shows that senior White House aides were aware on the day the president made the statement that it was not accurate – but that they should try to make it accurate as soon as possible, given the gathering controversy.
Not only had the president not contacted virtually all the families of military personnel killed this year, the White House did not even have an up-to-date list of those who had been killed.
It feels like the process could've been squelched deliberately, doesn't it? We probably wouldn't be shocked to learn that the names of the fallen were kept away from Trump to shield him and his supporters from news that might make Trump look bad. Or maybe it was the usual thing with this White House: unforgivable incompetence. Either way, just like always in the shadow realm of the "eternal now," Trump fell into a quicksand pit of his own making. Again. He did this to himself. He delegated decisions to the Pentagon, withdrew his involvement, and then he decided to randomly fart some word salad into a microphone about how he's very, very tremendous when it comes to talking to grieving parents, opening the media floodgates to determine whether he actually is. Whoops!
On top of all that, the Niger story has called attention to the fact that the Trump White House added the nation of Chad, Niger's neighbor to the east, to its Muslim ban list for no logical reason. There's a theory proposed by Rachel Maddow suggesting it had to do with Chad being unable to provide to the White House a recent copy of its passport due to a paper shortage, but other than that, it seems random and unexplained. As a consequence, Chad's military has pulled its support in the fight against Boko Haram in Niger.
Bored with winning yet?
No wonder Trump's focusing his energy on the sidebar story about the Gold Star Widow and the phone call. Getting into a he-said-she-said shovel fight on Twitter is a hell of a lot better for Trump than an actual discussion about why there are American boots on the ground in Niger, and why no one, including the Armed Services Committee, was informed about the mission. Oh, and bonus, Rep. Wilson has a funny hat. So, we can all spend some time slamming the Trumps for saying a member of Congress is "wacky."
Trump isn't getting better at being president. He's just as incompetent as ever. Actually, no, strike that. His incompetence appears to be worsening, and the ramifications will escalate as we go. What's next?