Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius is not overrated, but he will be on social media today. Donald Trump will say that he is or something.
Obama has often misfired on Syria and the Islamic State. I wish he had been a more aggressive leader since this crisis began four years ago. I wish he hadn’t sounded petty and political last week in criticizing GOP politicians. But Tuesday he was a model of responsible leadership.
Now look at Trump’s behavior over the past few days. He has displayed a level of irresponsibility that borders on recklessness. This is a time when the essence of leadership is clarity and restraint — when even politicians should put aside their usual braggadocio and self-aggrandizement for the good of the country.
Trump has done the opposite. He appears to be inflaming the situation deliberately, to advance his presidential campaign. It’s rare that we see this level of demagoguery in U.S. politics, but it’s frightening. His divisive comments play so directly into the polarizing strategies of our terrorist adversaries — who want to foment Western-Muslim hatred — that a case can be made that he has put the country at greater risk.
Trump tosses hand grenades of rumor, slander and intolerance. He makes inflammatory statements with no factual support, such as his assertion Nov. 14 that “our president wants to take in 250,000 [refugees] from Syria,” or his claim last Saturday that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” in Muslim neighborhoods in New Jersey when the Twin Towers fell.
Trump is running for President as a Kardashian, a mass media creation supported by other Kardashians. Trump’s Kardashian’s are similar media sponges who traffic in the outrageous to maintain an anger level with just enough irrational to be dangerous. And like the Kardashians, to Trump there is no such thing as bad publicity. But we’re not talking about media ratings or markets shares or clicks.
As Ignatius points out, the nation has fortunately been limited to lone wolf attacks from radical Islamists. Most American Muslims feel as if they are part of the national community. Trump is taking us all away from this place.
The current occupant of the White House defaults daily to partisan rhetoric when challenged and intentionally mischaracterizes the position of his opponents with straw men and exagerations. Like the Kardashians’ personal lives, the Obama presidency has been a train wreck where everybody else gets mangled. Such is Trumpism. When the goal is to win American Idol, you do different things.
Conservative commentators fairly criticize Obama for divisive rhetoric. Such is the fuel of Trump’s ascendency. The later’s zero-sum popularity game in which bad publicity is good publicity is so Kardashian. This modern day tabloid reality is being manipulated by a master who already has his own brand name. The Kardashians, like Trump have become successful brands. But the former isn’t trying to become President.