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Moyers writes: “It’s been a week now since Donald Trump once again became our president. Here’s how it happened. After he unleashed missiles on a Syrian airfield, members of Washington’s national security establishment and elite pundits swooned.”

Bill Moyers. (photo: PBS)
Bill Moyers. (photo: PBS)

Ask Yourself: Will Donald Trump EVER Become President?

By Bill Moyers,

15 April 17


As our institutions bend and buckle and approach the breaking point, the president bombs Syria and is hailed by an obeisant media.

t’s been a week now since Donald Trump once again became our president.

Here’s how it happened.

After he unleashed missiles on a Syrian airfield, members of Washington’s national security establishment and elite pundits swooned. Top Democrats and Republicans led the way. Good soldiers all in the military-industrial-political complex, they stood smartly at attention and saluted the commander-in-chief for sending a message to the world, although exactly what the message meant remains far from clear.

The headline above Glenn Greenwald’s story at The Intercept summed up the response: “The Spoils of War — Trump Lavished with Media and Bipartisan Praise for Bombing Syria.” The hawkish Hillary Clinton, who long had been critical of Barack Obama for not bringing Bashar Assad to heel, “appeared at an event” — and this was before the bombing even happened! — “and offered her categorical support for what Trump was planning.”

Up in the choir loft, the media and pundits sang as one from the official hymnal, praising Trump’s “presidential moment” and transforming him from a pathetic dunderhead suffering from narcissistic personality disorder into the Lord of Hosts. It was CNN’s Fareed Zakaria who pronounced the decision to fire away as the “big moment” when “Donald Trump became president of the United States.”

The theatrics were perfect. The Pentagon shopped to the media a video of the missiles as they were lofted up and away. MSNBC’s Brian Williams was among those moved by the aesthetics of violence: “We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two Navy vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

When I heard those words, I thought back to that night in 2003 when another president lit up the skies over Baghdad with the “shock and awe” of his air attack on Iraq. Suddenly the press was talking about George W. Bush as if he were George Washington, George Marshall and George Patton rolled into one. A touch of George III came later, as our newly refurbished president donned a flight suit and strutted aboard the aircraft carrier with the banner behind him that read: “Mission Accomplished.” Not quite.

Then a more recent scene and another miraculous moment came to mind, from six weeks ago — Feb. 28, to be exact. Donald Trump spoke to a joint session of Congress. He paused, pointed to the balcony and recognized the widow of the Navy SEAL who was killed during a raid on an alleged terrorist compound in Yemen, the very first military mission dispatched into harm’s way by the brand-new commander-in-chief himself.

That mission went badly, so much so that at least two dozen local civilians, including women and children, were killed. Trump did not mention them. He focused on honoring the grieving widow in the balcony who was trying, unsuccessfully, to hold back her tears as wave after wave of applause rolled across the House chamber and ricocheted from wall to wall.

Time magazine’s White House correspondent tweeted that the speech was the “clearest example Trump is beginning to own and understand the powers of the office.” The next day, The Washington Post’s White House bureau chief tweeted, “This is the best morning of Donald Trump’s presidency. He is basking in positive pundit reviews. All that tumult [of the previous month] feels like yesteryear.” Politico’s man on the scene admiringly described it in a tweet as Trump’s “Reaganesque moment.”

And over at CNN, liberal commentator Van Jones called it

“one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period… And for people who have been hoping that he [Trump] would become unifying, hoping that he might find some way to become presidential, they should be happy with that moment… He did something tonight that you cannot take away from him. He became president of the United States.” [italics mine]

I understand what these people were saying — that although constitutionally Trump had become president when he was inaugurated four weeks earlier, he had not metaphorically made the leap into the persona expected of him. He did not fit the mythical image of a president we prefer over the real thing. Above all, he had yet to put on a sufficiently good show (the crowd at the inauguration was not much larger than his two undersized hands clasped together). Nor had the establishment pundits fully weighed in with any semblance of support, and without their blessing, Trump was obviously just a usurper who could barely read a speech, even with a teleprompter.

But after the dramatic spectacle of that Feb. 28 speech, the white smoke rose from the chimney: America at last had a president who could act the part even if his cronies were ripping out the plumbing, stripping the wiring and carting it all off in Uber cars.

Alas, the euphoria of that night was not to last. Once again it evaporated as fast as the truth on Kellyanne Conway’s lips. Trump quickly returned to governing by anarchy. Chaos again ruled the White House. Wrecking crews installed by Bannon and Priebus at federal agencies continued their bloodbaths. Trump’s state of mind once again became the subject of much speculation. Trump’s health care “reform” went down in flames. His proposed budget exploded on contact with reality. Conflicts of interest littered the city like cow patties in a pasture. The atmosphere stank like a fetid swamp, the one Trump has made no attempt to drain. And his popularity dropped lower than any president so early in the game.

Yet after the bombing a week ago, Trump towers again. Fifty-nine cruise missiles — tomahawks — were all it took.

Mind you, there is little to show for the attack. The airbase was open the very next day. Russia’s Putin and Syria’s Assad may be forced into a tighter embrace as Donald chills on Vladimir — and vice versa.

And really, what was the big deal, anyway? As Glenn Greenwald wrote,

“The CIA has spent more than a billion dollars a year to arm anti-Assad rebels for years, and the US began bombing Syria in 2014 — the seventh predominantly Muslim country bombed by Obama — and never stopped. Trump had already escalated that bombing campaign, culminating in a strike last month that Syrians say destroyed a mosque and killed dozens. What makes this latest attack new is that rather than allegedly targeting terrorist’s sites of ISIS and al-Qaida, it targets the Syrian government — something Obama threatened to do in 2013 but never did.”

Trump will be tempted to do it again, because he likes big booms and especially if such thunderbolts gain him adulation from hard-liners in the national security complex and the press.

There will be opportunities because even if Assad stops using chemical weapons, he will no doubt continue to pummel what remains of Syria’s civilian population. As Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department official, told The Huffington Post: “You’ll see many more pictures of beautiful [Syrian] babies [dying] on TV – specifically to humiliate the United States and show the fecklessness of military action.” In other words, Trump is about to find out why Obama avoided military intervention in Syria.

Meanwhile, here at home, our institutions bend and buckle and approach the breaking point from benign, blind or willful neglect — and above all, from a leadership vacuum.

One example: our transportation infrastructure. A week ago, as Trump & Company plotted the attack on the Syrian airfield, here in the Northeast corridor of America’s vast transportation system a second train derailment in two weeks again plunged hundreds of thousands of commuters into nail-biting, life-upending chaos.

It began as a minor derailment at Penn Station, the hub of our transit network, but like a spider web, everything transit-related is so connected in these parts that the upheaval quickly spread to Long Island and New Jersey and then to the corridor between Boston and Washington, DC. The New York Times called the calamity “another reminder of the decrepit, tenuous state of much of the region’s infrastructure and transit systems.”

You would think this would be a priority of Donald Trump. He grew up in New York. He knows the crucial role of mass transit. He spins a good spiel on infrastructure. Yet for all this, he has rejected an Obama-era program that would have funded long-range improvements to our regional infrastructure, even as he proposes huge tax breaks for builders and real estate developers like himself.

He also wants to increase defense spending by $54 billion and proposes to slash non-military spending by a corresponding amount. This includes slicing funds for Amtrak and transit and commuter rail programs across the country. The National Association of Rail Passengers estimates the cuts of federal funding for Amtrak’s national network of trains would drastically affect service to 23 states and 144 million Americans, many of them in rural towns in the Midwest and the South, including my home town in East Texas which went for Trump by an overwhelming majority — and I mean overwhelming.

How is it Trump seems to care the least for the very folks who voted for him? Not a day passes that he doesn’t betray some of them.

And instead of bombing another country, how about building our own with better bridges, railroads, highways and airports, how about tending to those who need jobs and homes, how about health care that really gets the job done?

Then we might finally achieve the transformative moment when even Donald Trump at last becomes president for real. But don’t hold your breath. It is foolish to expect anything like this from a man-child who plays with America’s destiny as if it were a rag doll in his gilded crib. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+19 # mashiguo 2017-04-15 09:22
The poodle's kernel: Trump starts bombing and all of a sudden Russia recedes into the background.

Could there be any clearer evidence that the whole unsubstantiated Russian allegations are pure deep state skullduggery?
+32 # Blackjack 2017-04-15 09:23
We are a violent nation. . .period. We have become one over a long period of time and will remain so until people finally have had enough and DEMAND that our money be spent on repairing our self-inflicted wounds at home rather than allowing it to continue to be used on weaponry to wreak havoc upon the world. We obviously aren't there yet. Brian Williams, once a legitimate and trusted journalist, has become deplorable!
+36 # vt143 2017-04-15 10:33
Let's face it: The U.S. LOVES war. Believe it! We love it because is seems always to be waged somewhere else, in abstract, and Brian Williams and the like can get off watching the "beauty." Eat it, Jack! If those bombs were raining down on his family and his country he would be singing a wholly different tune! We love a Marine (one too many) who’s died and tears are falling everywhere but forget about the civilians that died in the very same attack. Foreigners. Another abstract. Another cartoon in a cartoon graveyard. And all this adulation does the predictable to the Narcissist-In-C hief. He will keep pressing the button like the thirsty rat in the Skinner box. Reward, Reward REWARD!! And the bombs keep falling, people cheer and swoon and the bodies keep piling up. And you wonder what the world hates us! Do you really???
+26 # Saberoff 2017-04-15 11:10
Are the American people so stupid that they do not see around these seemingly endless charades?

Thanks again, Bill Moyers! I hope we all live long enough to see some forward movement at least.
+27 # Wise woman 2017-04-15 11:11
There's not much more to add that hasn't already been said. The only thing is, what are we going to do about it? That's us, we the people. How long are we going to tolerate killing innocent people around the globe? How long are we going to tolerate the freak show in Washington? Bernie is right. This will never change from the top. It's bottoms up all the way or nothing.
+26 # Elroys 2017-04-15 11:22
Right on, Bill. Trump is dis-eased beyond remedy. Making things go "boom" in the night is really easy - any idiot can do that. But for what outcome? To quell the thirst for adoration by the feckless few who will clap for the thunder of missiles in the night? To feed the insane ego man-child called Trump for a few minutes? If the American people are still too ignorant to see through this con man whose only metric is the size of his bank account and the tonnage of gold glitter embedded in his sofas and chairs, then there's deeper issues in America than any of us imagined.

it is especially incumbent among those of us who came of age in the "golden years" of the 50s, 60s and 70s (boomers) to stand up, be counted and make big change aside our Gen X and millennial children.

If you think "everything will just be OK" with a corrupt fool like Trump at the helm, then you should run to the nearest psychiatrist to have your head examined. That is unless you are equally corrupt and ignorant.

Have a nice day
+13 # Anonymot 2017-04-15 11:30
Thank you for the clarity that has become increasingly rare. The power of Deep State to seep into the cracks of small minds and mass media is their great strength and Lo! the suckers eat it up, the Clintonites, Obama blind, and huggers of the Bushes, thorns and all. And now the Trumped.
+19 # economagic 2017-04-15 11:36
"You would think this would be a priority of Donald Trump. He grew up in New York. He knows the crucial role of mass transit. He spins a good spiel on infrastructure."

I would bet that Mr. Trump has never ridden mass transit in his life, nor probably any other form of public transportation, even a limousine rented with chauffeur.

But Moyers is great as usual. The last sentence sums up his thesis, and that of much of the populace. In context, the line quoted reads more as rhetorical flourish than the kind of lapses we increasingly see in some of his age peers.
-13 # skylinefirepest 2017-04-15 14:46
I certainly don't know if trump will become presidential... what I do know, however, is that I am grateful beyond belief that the wicked witch of the South is NOT our president.
+4 # Dale 2017-04-15 13:08
Of course, there are domestic reasons for Trump’s backing down on his promises to improve relations with Russia. A principal reason was the Democratic insistence that Russia interfered in the American elections in favor of Trump. This stance conveniently ignored that the United States had for decades, not just interfered with elections in other countries, but actively engaged in regime change and war to force a country into submission to the imperial vision. But both intransigent Republicans and corporate Democrats see no contradiction in this stance. Since Presidents Harry Truman and John Kennedy, the Democratic Party has been the principal architect of foreign interventionism and creating anti-communist and anti-Russian hysteria. Without any serious examination of why they lost the election, the Democrats screamed our enemies the Reds are sabotaging our honest and fair elections. The Democrats rightly moaned and groaned about almost all of Trump’s policies, but the one possible good outcome was singled out for special attack. Red-baiting was now turned against some of Trump’s advisors. They made enough noise about it that several Trump appointees had to go due to contacts with Russians (is not contact with foreign friends or foes standard in diplomacy?). Despite his intransigent character Trump caved and acted to end establishing better relations with the Russians by hitting a Syrian base with missiles.
+8 # tomtom 2017-04-15 13:13
With 196 nations and only 9 with Nukes, this would be the ideal time for the 187 nations w/o Nukes, to unite and force the outlaws to dismantle and undergo complete/contin uous monitoring by all nations, to guarantee that everyone's enemies don't possess them. Short of aliens, tougher than us, giving us an ultimatum, it's the only way we can stop the proliferation and accompanying B.S. to justify their need. Of course the weapon's profiteers will raise a stink, they/it needs to be stopped. Imagine if 50 nation's leaders have their fingers on their buttons? We have too many nut cases holding power, as it is!
+3 # djnova50 2017-04-15 13:13
Trump is channeling Clinton. I used to see Andrew Levine articles on RSN. Not so much anymore. Trump is doing what we were afraid Clinton would do. Take a look at this article by Andrew Levine:

Officially, Trump is now a war criminal; but, so is Obama and Bush. I doubt that the Democrats will charge Trump with war crimes. If they did, they would have to bring charges against Obama and Bush.
+4 # elkingo 2017-04-15 14:32
As ever Bill, right on the nose, and lyrically so. I admit, I was swayed, even moved by the rocket attack on Syria. As in 'hit that 2 bit Hitler prick back, any way at all.' I love to see the bully get a "taste of his own medicine." But this didn't affect Assad at all, and I was a fool.

And as for Donald's sickening 'political theater:

"And everyone did praise the prince who this fight did win // 'But what good came of it at last?', quoth Little Peterkin". Just more homicide and more violently murdered dead children. I am chastened.

And Trump sickeningly exploiting the Medea- like grief of that poor woman, the widow of the SEAL who was killed. A vile new low in disgusting showmanship.And yeah, the guys Old Man, ex-military himself thought the mission was a crock and refused to meet with Trump. Now THERE'S a real American hero. (As in "why was it worth my son's life?")

Brian Williams "aesthetic" hysteria puts one in mind of Count Ciano, Mussolini's nephew, rhapsodizing over the bombs he dropped on harmless unarmed Ethiopians as "the opening of white flowers."

And Leonard Cohen's "guided by the beauty of our weapons" had to be sarcastic or oblique, given his beautiful soul. Might as well take Dylan's 'we got God on our side" at face value.

This (our?) capitalist country is wholly and dangerously insane, and now worse than ever.
Isn't the era of The Boy King, Trump and Kim il Song (sp?) with their Jr. High School schoolyard macho mentality with nukes?
+4 # elkingo 2017-04-15 14:44
Weep America: we are in dark shadow.
+8 # rosiec 2017-04-15 14:48
Thank you Bill Moyers!! America never learns. Theater and smoke screen...
0 # Cassandra2012 2017-04-16 16:00
Quoting rosiec:
Thank you Bill Moyers!! America never learns. Theater and smoke screen...

And endless lies and bloviating. ....
+2 # Carol R 2017-04-15 17:33
The bloviating idiot is in his glory, killing and destroying the cultures of those who are different. He is a disgrace and a disaster to humanity.

This is what I believe Jesus today would say:

Love everyone. Our lives are enriched by caring about those who are suffering. We must not give in to the hatred that pervades our culture. Life is short and needs to be blessed by those who give, not those who take away. It is easier for a wealthy man to go through a needle than to get into heaven. I said that long ago and it doubly applies today.

Love your neighbors, especially the ones who are different. We are all the same and all deserve to be cared for. Do not hate. Do not kill. Do not destroy that which belongs to your neighbor.

Love everyone all the time and this planet will become one of peace on earth.

Love you all...Jesus Christ
+3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-04-15 17:46
Thanks for this clear indictment of the US media. It loves war. Brian William's adulation of war porn may have been the most obscene but across the media Americans were told that the essential job of the president is war and killing.

For the mass media Trump may have attained presidential status that night, but among his supporters he lost it. He's now being attacked by a long list of his strongest supporters, including Michael Savage and Ann Coulter. Trump made himself a one term president and he is now a lame duck.

The lame duckhood is a good thing. Donald Duck has no where to go. He is now a captured and tamed duck of the neo-cons, Pentagon and CIA. Their proxy wars in the middles east are lost. Trump can bomb the way to success in these wars.

Trump has been read the riot act by Russia and China. They will not cooperate with him at all and they are definitely not afraid of him or of the US military.
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-04-16 08:01
Here's an insightful comment on US culture. It is exactly what we need to change --

"Since presidents are thought to come into their own only during state-sponsored butchery, we may find a parallel in what Randolph Bourne said of the state itself. Writing in 1918, after the evil evangelist Woodrow Wilson had taken the United States into the Great War, Bourne observed that a republican state in peacetime is boring. It “has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man’s emotions. What it has are of military origin, and in an unmilitary era such as we have passed through since the Civil War, even military trappings have been scarcely seen. In such an era the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men.

“With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war….”
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-04-16 08:07

Then everything changes.

“The moment war is declared…,” Bourne continued, “the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part.”
+1 # Wise woman 2017-04-15 18:19
Vt143 - you surely nailed it and said it better than I have. So good to read your comment. Does vt stand for Vermont or vet? Either way, both are good.

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