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Yes, he wagged the dog

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People are asking about the point of Trump’s missile attack on Syria. Aside from bragging rights about what a tough, masculine guy he is, what did it really do for America?

Trump assures us it’s “mission accomplished” (odd choice of words, given George W. Bush’s embarrassing statement), which leaves us to wonder what exactly the mission was. Meanwhile Assad, “casually walking” to work “briefcase in hand,” blows it off as a nothingburger,

We, the American people, have no way of knowing if the strike was effective, or what “effective” even means. A few buildings were blown up: so what? Assad remains in power, but even the tea party has no idea if they like him or hate him, since he’s anti-ISIS. So it’s a puzzle. What we can and do know is that Trump has succeeded, for the moment, in one thing: distracting attention away from his scandals, after one of his worst weeks yet.

Let’s face it, Trump wagged the dog, as Rachel Maddow reminded us on Friday night. Under the most intense pressure yet following the raid on his lawyer, Michael Cohen, and reports that Cohen really did meet with Russian agents in Prague, not to mention the gathering storm of the sexual affairs, Trump waved the shiniest shiny object in his arsenal: B-1 bombers and 105 cruise missiles. Nothing like huge explosions to distract attention! It worked. All the major cable news networks, even MSNBC and CNN, interrupted their virtually nonstop coverage of the Trump scandals to report nonstop on the attack.

Oddly, Trump himself still is obsessed with the Special Counsel’s investigation. Even as the bombs were falling on Damascus and Homs, he was tweeting: “No collusion! All made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!” Lowlifes? Hmm. Pussy grabbing, anyone?

We’ll see, Mister President. We’ll see.

Democrats seemed momentarily off-balance. Most of their senior Congressional leadership is criticizing the attack, but only obliquely; they seem puzzled how to respond more fully. Pelosi called it “no substitute for a coherent strategy,” but then, Obama didn’t have a coherent strategy either. Chuck Schumer called it “appropriate,” but added, “the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria,” a vanilla statement bland as milquetoast. These are contortions. If Democrats outrightly condemn the attack, they seem to be condoning the use of chemical weapons. If they praise it, they alienate their base, which loathes everything Trump does. So they have to thread the needle.

What do the few remaining independents think? They’re the ones that will either swing the Congress to Democrats this November, or allow Republicans to retain it. This is why I think Rachel—the most popular news anchor on cable T.V.—did such a smart thing. Before people could really absorb the news about Syria, Rachel planted in their minds the “wag the dog” scenario. That’s really smart. It now becomes part of the narrative—not “Was the attack successful?” but “Did Trump do it to help himself?”

Look, does anyone think Donald Trump gives a damn about 40 Syrians dying in a chemical attack? This is a man who in his entire life has never indicated a shred of compassion or concern for another human being, except, possibly, his children (certainly not his serial wives, upon whom he routinely cheats). Just two weeks ago, he promised to get out of Syria altogether; now, we’re involved over there up to our necks.

Who knows what really happened with those chemicals? Assad, the Russians, the Iranians and many others insist it didn’t happen, or was staged, or, even if it did happen, it wasn’t Assad, but someone else. Think about it: this chemical attack was a godsend to Trump. He needed something to buy him a little time and click his approvals up a point or two.

But can you, in the privacy of your heart and the honesty of your mind, really say you wouldn’t put it past Trump to orchestrate the chemical attack in the first place, so that he could say Assad did it and then bomb? Do you doubt that Trump has people who could make it happen and completely cover their tracks?

What Democrats and The Resistance should do now is to be silent on this, to the extent they can; if they have to comment because the media is besieging them, then give Trump faint praise, change the subject to RussiaGate and tax cuts for billionaires, and always, always remind people that this could be a case of wagging the dog.

Most of America already believes Trump is a dishonest, manipulative, amoral liar. From a political point of view, reinforcing that suspicion should be the first thing every Democrat does. I believe he wagged the dog. For that matter, I believe his current act, of getting tough on Russia, is fake. No doubt he’s already told Putin he has to pretend to be tough, for domestic political considerations, but assured Putin not to take it seriously. This is all part of Trump’s wagging the dog: Democrats should accuse him of risking nuclear war, and of killing people, for the sake of advancing his own personal interests. Putting Trump on the defensive is not only good politics, it pisses the hell out of him—and that’s a good feeling for Democrats weary of him and his regime.

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