Members Only | June 21, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Humiliation of Trump’s Weakness

Iran bloodied his nose. Who's next to punch the bully?

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I don’t usually wade into international relations, but I can’t help wondering if Iran knows what most Americans know: our president is chronically and hopelessly weak.

I don’t know if Hassan Rouhani pays regular attention to Donald Trump’s polling numbers. Indeed, I’d doubt it. But it wouldn’t be surprising if the Iranian president understood that Trump has been underwater (under 50 percent approval) since forever. I’d think it shrewd for international leaders to see that Trump can’t rally his own country behind his own agenda much less his country against a foreign rival.

I mean, let’s not forget that time when our president stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Russian President Vladimir Putin as Trump maligned the integrity and reputations of American officials charged with protecting the United States. Not to mention sabotaging international allies, finding common ground with strongmen and dictators, and otherwise undermining the global order established after World War II.

An opportunity for ridicule.

Put all these together and you can speculate with some reason that, even if you don’t know much about international affairs, as I don’t, Tehran might have been betting that it could shoot down an American spy drone without much fear of the president’s counter-punching. It could exhibit strength even as sanctions are taking a big bite out of Iran’s economy. And that, as it turns out, is pretty much what happened.

The Pentagon was prepared last night to launch air strikes in Iran as retaliation for its shooting down a spy drone. Then, with 10 minutes remaining, the president called it off. Trump explained his reasoning on Twitter this morning. It might be true, as he said, that he thought strikes were disproportionate, but you know, that’s something you sorta kinda wanna figure out before you greenlight the deaths of hundreds.

The president was weak before he took action. The president is now weaker for not taking action. And he’s weaker still for being indecisive—all in the public eye. Sure, Tehran is now toning down its rhetoric, that’s good, but it seems to me that the deed is done. It bloodied Trump’s nose, and he’s just going to take it. All of which leads me to wonder who’s next in line to punch the bully to reveal his, and America’s, impotence.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want war. I think the fact that we are even talking about another Middle East war at all is the result of no one, not one person, ever having been held accountable for the crime against humanity that was the invasion, occupation and abandonment of Iraq. Our leaders lied to us to start a war. Our leaders may be lying to us again to start another. One thing preventing me from epic fits of despair is knowing that our president has bankrupted pretty much all of his good will with his own people. Any effort to bring us to war, I hope, would be doomed before starting.

I do, however, want the land of the free to lead, and that’s impossible with bumbling psycho-goon for president. Not only does it pull out of the multinational deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons; the Trump administration keeps haranguing Tehran to honor the deal. Yes, even though we pulled out! What’s the word for demanding that others do something you yourself are not prepared to do, but harping on them to do it all the same? What’s the word? Well, it’ll come to me eventually.

Trump won’t lead, can’t lead, which is an opportunity for Democratic partisans. First, ridicule him. He blinked! Sooo weak! Weakness is bad domestically (he doesn’t know what he wants politically nor does he know how to get it) and internationally (he doesn’t know what he wants from Iran nor how to get it). All he knows how to do is crazy-making as well as the satisfaction of making everyone feel crazy. These are a sociopath’s goals, not a diplomat’s. The message: he has no business being president.

But Democrats shouldn’t stop there.

I’d say most Americans, like me, don’t know much about international affairs, but most of us can tell how any president is doing on the global stage in the sense that he’s behaving like a world leader should. For a lot of people, this president is just too embarrassing, something I believe is reflected in his polling. Americans know he’s weak. Foreign leaders know he’s weak. And that weakness is bad for everyone.

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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