STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Scaramucci: Trump's word salad upsets people

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci says President Trump's response to Saudi Arabia shows he tends to spice up his statements to the public.

Posted: Nov 21, 2018 6:08 PM
Updated: Nov 21, 2018 6:27 PM

In a stunning statement, brutally honest even by Trumpian standards, the President made his views of Saudi Arabia -- past, present and future -- crystal clear Tuesday.

Undermining his own CIA's intelligence assessment and hyperventilating about the virtues of the Saudis (a "truly spectacular ally," he called them last weekend), Donald Trump made plain he has no intention of losing confidence in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, let alone imposing sanctions or him or any other Saudi royal over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump not only pardoned the Thanksgiving turkey, he also pardoned the crown prince, to the detriment of US interests and values.

Doubling down on Saudi Arabia

Having not bothered to listen to the audio of the horrific final minutes of Khashoggi's life or to read the CIA's report on why analysts reasoned that the prince directed the killing, Trump doubled down on his apparent conviction that the relationship with Saudi Arabia was too big to fail.

His first foreign trip as President took him to Riyadh and Jerusalem -- a remarkable and unprecedented effort to reinvest in two relationships he believed his predecessor had undermined for the sake of a nuclear agreement he deemed the worst in history. And over the past year, Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, never looked back, giving the young crown prince support and the space to pursue a series of reckless, impulsive policies -- from Qatar to Yemen to a repressive crackdown at home.

Is Saudi Arabia really an ally?

Trump went to considerable lengths Tuesday to laud the virtues of the kingdom with respect to the United States -- on arms sales, investment, containment of Iran and the fight against Islamic terror. And there's no doubt the United States has an important relationship with the Saudis stretching back decades, driven primarily by oil and the need to maintain stability in the Gulf. But it's also a fact that America's close allies -- France, Britain, Australia, Canada -- share values as well as interests. And while no two countries' interests line up across the board, the weight of relationships must reflect more than just commercial or economic interest.

It would be more accurate to describe Saudi Arabia as a security partner -- and not necessarily on all issues. Under the crown prince, Riyadh has become even more repressive, as the brutal killing of Khashoggi and the crackdown on all domestic dissent suggest. But for Trump, allies are merely transactional partners heaping material benefits on the United States -- in this case cheap oil, money for weapons sales and job creation. The President ignores the downsides of these transactions and exaggerates the upsides.

The great bamboozle

But it is no exaggeration to suggest that amid all of Prince bin Salman's failures, perhaps his most important foreign policy achievement has been the bamboozling of Trump. Look no further than Tuesday's statement. Yes, the crown prince has undertaken some ameliorating steps at home, such as an effort to diversify the economy, allowing women to drive and controlling the religious police. But he's covered that over with deep repression on any and all dissent.

Abroad, Trump has watched from the sidelines as the Saudi royal has laid economic siege to Qatar, where the United States maintains its most important military base in the region, and he's intensified a war in Yemen with much help from the rival Houthis and Iran -- in the process turning an already failing state into the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

Indeed, instead of helping to contain Iran, Saudi Arabia has helped expand the room it has to meddle. As for arms sales and investment, Trump has profoundly exaggerated what the Saudis have done for America -- $14.5 billion in weapons sales, not $110 billion, and tens of thousands of jobs, not half a million, let alone the million to which he has referred.

The US has leverage

The killing of Khashoggi and the absence of an appropriate response will only persuade Prince bin Salman and other authoritarians that when it comes to human rights, and journalists, America just doesn't give a damn. The Trump administration has already coddled strongmen -- from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Chinese President Xi Jinping, to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. And so the pass on the Saudi crown prince was predictable.

And yet looked at from another perspective, the United States now has leverage over Saudi Arabia.

It's a perverse thought that in going easy on Prince bin Salman on the Khashoggi killing, the Trump administration could well press harder to end the war in Yemen, ease tensions with Qatar and get the Saudis to support a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is fair and equitable and that goes beyond the pro-Israeli approach the administration appears to be taking.

Of course, the Trump administration would need to show a willingness to use that leverage. And while stopping US refueling of Saudi aircraft operating in Yemen is a good step, as the administration announced earlier this year, it's going to take a great deal more than that to resolve the conflict.

One can always hope. But it seems doubtful, in light of Trump's statement Tuesday, that he is willing to make the effort to restore balance and reciprocity to a US-Saudi relationship.

Right now, that relationship is much more focused on meeting Saudi interests than ours.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30900

Reported Deaths: 1111
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds249840
DeSoto159416
Madison130034
Jones112449
Neshoba98871
Rankin93412
Harrison91211
Lauderdale90979
Forrest86942
Scott77115
Jackson62216
Copiah60215
Washington5849
Leake57819
Holmes55341
Lee54718
Wayne54513
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51518
Yazoo5096
Leflore48751
Grenada4835
Lowndes48313
Lincoln46034
Lamar4587
Pike43112
Monroe40130
Lafayette3914
Sunflower3727
Attala36023
Covington3565
Panola3506
Newton3399
Bolivar33414
Simpson3173
Adams31118
Pontotoc2866
Tate28310
Marion28111
Chickasaw27718
Claiborne27410
Noxubee2638
Jasper2626
Winston2616
Pearl River25432
Clay25010
Marshall2323
Smith21811
Clarke20724
Union2079
Coahoma2016
Walthall1995
Kemper17914
Lawrence1772
Yalobusha1707
Carroll16511
Humphreys1479
Tallahatchie1364
Itawamba1358
Montgomery1322
Calhoun1304
Tippah13011
Hancock12813
Webster12710
Jefferson Davis1114
Prentiss1083
Jefferson1073
Greene1058
Tunica1003
Wilkinson949
Amite912
George883
Tishomingo801
Quitman760
Choctaw744
Alcorn692
Perry664
Stone651
Franklin452
Sharkey370
Benton360
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 44375

Reported Deaths: 984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5221152
Montgomery4127103
Mobile4080134
Tuscaloosa228842
Marshall171110
Madison14307
Lee138437
Shelby128423
Morgan11025
Walker93924
Elmore92514
Franklin89514
Dallas8809
Baldwin8649
Etowah73913
DeKalb7195
Butler63328
Chambers62927
Autauga60712
Tallapoosa59169
Russell5520
Unassigned50323
Houston4964
Limestone4950
Lauderdale4906
Lowndes47221
Cullman4524
Pike4295
Colbert3956
St. Clair3822
Coffee3772
Bullock36910
Covington3587
Calhoun3545
Escambia3506
Barbour3492
Hale31121
Talladega3097
Marengo30211
Wilcox2918
Dale2880
Sumter28512
Clarke2746
Jackson2732
Winston2583
Chilton2462
Blount2351
Monroe2352
Pickens2356
Marion22413
Conecuh2097
Randolph2069
Choctaw19512
Macon1949
Bibb1901
Greene1868
Perry1771
Henry1343
Crenshaw1253
Washington1097
Lawrence1080
Cherokee977
Geneva800
Lamar771
Fayette701
Clay652
Coosa581
Cleburne361
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 86°
Columbus
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 87°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 78°
Starkville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 82°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather