Prominent Republicans and Trump advisers are struggling to “contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods,” Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman wrote in October. The headline sums it: “Trump Seethes As Advisers Fear the President Is ‘Unraveling.’”
Sherman says Chief of Staff John Kelly “can’t control Trump’s tweets” but “is doing his best to physically sequester the president.” Kelly is also “miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision” — like, say, launching a nuclear warhead.
In July, Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, was asked whether he would obey Trump if given the order to nuke China. Swift replied, “The answer would be yes.” That the possibility of World War III is now a subject of open discussion is troubling.
Consequently, one might be understandably relieved that our increasingly deranged commander in chief is surrounded by rational men, adult supervisors who, it is hoped, will stand between him and the nuclear trigger — men like Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general; Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis, another retired four-star Marine Corps general; and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, an active duty lieutenant general in the Army.
But what does it say about our current state of affairs that these three committed militarists, who, for 16 years, have been busy waging our forever war on terrorism, are considered the best and brightest in the Trump administration?
Trump isn’t totally bad, some on the Left argued during the 2016 campaign. He wasn’t a liberal interventionist like Hillary Clinton.
Indeed. He’s proven himself more a thoughtless neocon, ready to confront Iran and prone to mysterious North Korea-directed threats, like when he informed a gathering of military leaders on October 5, “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” A cryptic comment that a week later he followed with the tweet: “Sorry, only one thing will work!”
It’s increasingly clear that Trump poses an existential threat to human life on the Pacific Rim, and that the Left should make his removal from office a political priority. Yes, a President Pence would be worse than Trump in many respects. He will certainly be more effective at wielding government power to achieve his reactionary objectives. Pence, however, is not likely to cause a nuclear holocaust in a fit of piqué.
In short: Trump must go. Progressive Americans must have faith in their collective power to change the present situation and to defeat Trump, Pence and the congressional Republicans.
We cannot wait for a campaign to cohere around a candidate in 2020; the danger is clear and present. Nor should a healthy Left require a single politician or campaign organization to mobilize the millions of Americans who reject the Trump agenda. We can heed the words of Eugene V. Debs, who, said: “I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.”
We can also draw inspiration from South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution. Over a series of Saturdays in the fall of 2016, South Koreans demonstrated by the hundreds of thousands to demand the resignation of President Park Geunhye, daughter of former South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee, for political extortion. On Dec. 9, 2016, the National Assembly voted to impeach. She is currently awaiting trial in prison, charged with abuse of power and accepting bribes. Imagine what life would be like were we to follow suit. Cell phones are not allowed in prison.
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.