The wheels are off
Shutdown now or later, troops home or no, markets calmed or falling off the cliff — the wheels of Donald J. Trump's White House, and sadly of our country, are off.
The last grown-up in the president's inner circle — Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis — will be gone in February. Why? Despite the president's disingenuous tweet that Mattis was "retiring with distinction," the truth is that Mattis resigned in protest of the president's policies — policies that have been nonsensical at best and self-serving at worst. Strong leaders all over our country are shell-shocked.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that "the kind of leadership that causes a dedicated patriot like Jim Mattis to leave should give pause to every American."
But our president last week listened to Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, instead of heeding the wise counsel of his top advisers.
While those advisers — most recently Mattis as the last one standing in his inner circle, along with other cabinet members, federal judges and even the majority of Americans via polls and midterm votes — made it clear that immigration on our Southern border is not America's standout security threat, Trump nonetheless sent thousands of troops in a pre-election photo-op to the border to stop an immigrant caravan that largely wasn't a caravan at all.
The Trump administration blocked designated points of entry on the border to force South and Central American immigrants seeking asylum to try crossing the border at illegal entry points. He made this move after a November order barring them from applying for asylum if they entered illegally. A federal court blocked Trump's order, and on Friday the Supreme Court refused to revive the president's order.
Meanwhile, in a pique over a week of bad Trump headlines about the myriad probes into both his businesses and his campaign, Trump ordered the immediate withdrawal of more than 2,000 troops from Syria and 7,000 troops from Afghanistan — actions largely seen as gifts to our adversaries, Russia and Iran and Turkey.
The Syrian withdrawal is said to have been "the straw that broke the camel's back" and prompted Mattis' resignation letter, in which the defense secretary stressed the importance of U.S. alliances and of being "unambiguous" in approaching adversaries such as Russia and China.
Russia President Vladimir Putin praised Trump for the Syria withdrawal. Literally.
Even Fox and Friends was surprised. Host Brian Kilmeade said to Sarah Sanders: Trump "just re-founded ISIS."
Walling off the government
But that's only the half of it.
After Trump first signaled that he'd sign a continuing resolution for the nation's funding without money to build the wall (you know, the one Mexico was going to pay for), hard-right pundit Ann Coulter called him "gutless."
It set the president in a tailspin. Trump told the GOP that he would not sign any resolution without wall funding. And he went on a tweetstorm blaming the Democrats. This after Trump said on camera about two weeks ago to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer that he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security."
Clearly, our president marches to different drummers: Ann Coulter and Vladimir Putin.
He calls it America First.
It's anything but that.
Corker: You can't make it up
Tennessee's outgoing Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was blindsided — and livid — about the troop withdrawal in Syria.
"You're in a situation where we're very close in the Euphrates River Valley to finishing clearing out, and it's literally, it would be like — I don't know what analogy would be appropriate. But it's a terrible thing for our nation. It's a terrible thing for the allies that we've been working with. It's a terrible thing for the SBF [Syrian Border Forces]. It's hard to imagine that any president would wake up and make this kind of decision like this with this little communication, with this little preparation."
Corker, waiting at the White House to meet with Trump and talk about the Syria action, was told the president canceled their meeting. Corker's thinking was echoed by other Republicans: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida; Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, to name a few.
Corker was similarly nonplussed to hear that the president was again threatening shutdown.
"You can't make this stuff up," he joked with reporters.
One way or another, we pay for it
The stock market reacted to the week's news blows, too.
The Nasdaq index closed on Friday down more than 20 percent from its August peak.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones weren't far behind.
Financial watchers say we've entered a "bear market."
We wonder if Trump will be "proud" to claim that, too.