It’s no secret I am not a fan of President Trump’s temperament, style, or morals, but I’ve been honest about supporting many pieces of his agenda. I fall into the same bucket as many conservative commentators who applaud when he does right while booing when he does wrong. His statement on the Saudi Arabia situation regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi is worthy of more than just boos. It’s an embarrassment to the United States because it sends the wrong message to any who read it, foreign or domestic.
I’m not alone in feeling this way, though fewer conservatives than I’d like to see are willing to speak out:
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) November 20, 2018
I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First. I’m also pretty sure John Bolton wrote it.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) November 20, 2018
Let’s look at the President’s points one-by-one.
He led with his strongest point: Iran. Saudi Arabia is the primary counterbalance that keeps Iran from becoming the dominant regime in the Middle East. It behooves us to keep the Saudis better equipped, which also helps bolster our economy. Keeping the Saudis ahead of Iran should have been the only thing the President highlighted as reasons to not completely end our relationship with them. But it wasn’t. He added more points to his pitch.
Wrong, wrong, and wrong. This tells Americans and the world that our loyalty is for sale. If you spend enough money, you can get away with murder. It wasn’t the President’s intention to deliver such a message, but that’s exactly how it came out. The consummate salesman saw it as a benefit to include in his message as if this was a value proposition. It should have gone unsaid.
A little punishment
This part of the message says, “we did something.” It wasn’t much, but at least there’s some action being taken against those directly responsible. However, it should have been noted that this is the initial response and as the investigation continues it’s very likely we will deliver harsher punishment to others responsible. He couldn’t say that, though, because we won’t deliver any more punishment. We won’t investigate further. As far as the White House is concerned, this is done. Mohammed bin Salman isn’t getting his hand slapped, let alone any actual punishment for his evil actions.
This paragraph tells us either the President wrote the statement himself or someone is excellent at mimicking him. It’s classic Trump in style and function. Say something bad about the victim but temper it by saying the victim’s affiliations had nothing to do with his decision. Then acknowledge the possibility that MBS was involved; “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
He did. Despite weak protestations from the Kingdom, every piece of evidence and every action the Saudis took all point unquestionably towards MBS.
The last two paragraphs were for his base. They’re intended to justify the decision and remind his supporters that he’s doing this because it’s in the best interests of the United States. It’s his closing of the sales pitch and it will work on most Republicans who embrace him.
For me, this is all a bunch of nonsense. It’s a smokescreen to keep us from seeing the reality of the situation, which can be summed up in one paragraph:
A decent ally that does lots of business with America just got a free pass because the man responsible happens to be very friendly to the administration. We are abandoning our values in the same way President Obama did on numerous occasions with his foreign policy. The message to the world is that our silence on human rights issues is for sale.
The message should have been, “We will punish MBS for murdering Jamal Khashoggi, but we will not let this bolster Iran’s foothold in the Middle East.” Instead, the message was, “It is what it is, but we need the business.” Very sad.