It’s impossible to ignore the degree to which the military strike pushes a slew of unflattering stories about the Trump administration to the side of the page.
The agony of Donald Trump — well, one of the many agonies — is that there are times when he will actually do the right thing, or at least a defensible thing, and we’ll be left wondering, even more than we did with other presidents, about what his motivations were, whether they fit into any truly considered plan or whether his actions amount to the newest episode of a continuing reality show.
Such is the case with the strike against Syria, which is too big a risk in too complicated a place to be used for distraction, for diversion.
There’s justification for it, absolutely. President Obama had advisers who wished he’d done something similar.
But Trump’s military action makes little sense in the context of most of what he said in the years before he was elected and after.
I can’t square Trump’s statements over the last two days that the United States can’t stand by idly in the face of such grotesque suffering with his determination to bar those who suffer from being accepted as refugees. The babies prompt outrage and heartache when they’re writhing in Syria, but God forbid they come here.
And so two questions, loud and urgent: Why did he do this now? And who exactly is he?
It’s impossible to ignore the degree to which the military strike pushes a slew of unflattering stories about the Trump administration to the side of the page. Nothing drowns out scandal like the fury of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The notion that military action salvages a president on the defensive is nothing new. But there’s a fresh wrinkle in this case, because those bombs put Trump at particular odds with Russia at a moment when there’s enormous advantage in that.
What’s more, the quickness with which those missiles followed the Assad regime’s latest atrocity cast Trump in an emphatically decisive light.
That brings me back to the question: Who is this president? Is he guided by any fixed philosophies or is he moved by moods and operating on whim? It’s a concern that’s amplified in Trump’s presidency because his background is so unusual: no government experience, no military service. On top of which, his performance has made clear, time and again, how woefully uninformed he can be.
A positive interpretation of these latest developments is that Trump is someone who’s willing to adjust to a deeper, fresher understanding of events, to learn and to evolve. Consistency can definitely be overrated. At times it’s just a euphemism for stubbornness.
But another take is that Trump isn’t just uninformed but unformed. And that’s not reassuring at all.