Trump's art of the giveaway

Donald Trump came to national prominence with his best-selling 1987 book, "The Art of the Deal." As Presiden...

Posted: Nov 26, 2018 8:09 AM
Updated: Nov 26, 2018 8:09 AM

Donald Trump came to national prominence with his best-selling 1987 book, "The Art of the Deal." As President, he is perfecting the art of the giveaway.

Take how he is approaching Jamal Khashoggi's murder, which the CIA concluded was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS.

2016 Presidential election

Asia

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

East Asia

Eastern Europe

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

Embassies and consulates

Europe

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government departments and authorities

International relations

International relations and national security

Investigations

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

North America

North Korea

Political candidates

Political Figures - Intl

Political Figures - US

Politics

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Saudi Arabia

State departments and diplomatic services

The Americas

United States

US Federal elections

US federal government

US Presidential elections

Vladimir Putin

White House

The CIA assessed that a resident of Virginia working for the Washington Post was dismembered by Saudi officials acting on orders of MBS.

In an ordinary administration, that would have been carefully considered and likely leveraged to try to achieve multiple US goals in the greater Middle East.

But this is an administration run by an impulsive President who doesn't overly trouble himself with facts.

And so, on Tuesday, Trump released a statement saying he was all-in with MBS because of what he contended were the hundreds of thousands of jobs that the Saudis were creating in the States and the huge arms deals that the US has negotiated with them.

This is a classic case of believing your own propaganda. The jobs likely to be created in the US and the arms deals are both small potatoes.

Trump's all-in support for MBS is not distinguished by its transactional nature. After all, many previous American presidents also gave the Saudis a pass because US interests in the Middle East almost always trumped human rights concerns. In an emblematic interview about the Saudis with CNN's Fareed Zakaria in 2015, President Barack Obama observed, "Sometimes we have to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns that we have in terms of countering terrorism or dealing with regional stability."

What distinguishes Trump's embrace of MBS is that other presidents would have taken advantage of this international outrage to get some American wins on the board.

Those wins would include:

  • Ending the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen
  • Lifting the Saudi-led blockade of its neighbor and US ally Qatar
  • The release of jailed Saudi civil society activists who face execution
  • And significant Saudi funding for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

To be sure, some of Trump's cabinet members, such as Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have sought to pressure the Saudis to end the Yemen war.

But Trump himself has squandered this moment of maximum leverage with MBS. Trump has signaled that the young crown prince has a free hand at home to imprison and execute and can continue his overseas adventurism with no more than a slap on the wrist.

The art of the giveaway was also demonstrated by the Trump administration's decision in May to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This has long been a central goal of the Israeli government. But every other US administration has punted on this to avoid losing American influence with the Palestinians. Trump ordered the embassy move while extracting no concessions from the Israeli government, such as ceasing or even slowing its settlement-building in Palestinian territory.

After the embassy move, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared that Americans negotiating a peace deal led by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could no longer be considered honest brokers. Meanwhile, Kushner has yet to release his Middle East peace plan after two years of effort.

The art of the giveaway is also unfolding in Trump's much-vaunted negotiations with North Korea. Trump has declared "there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea" and that he and the country's dictator, Kim Jong Un, have even fallen "in love." Meanwhile, the North Korean ballistic missile program seems to be accelerating, according to the New York Times. And the Washington Post reports that US intelligence has concluded that North Korea plans to hide elements of its nuclear weapons program.

Of course, the art of the giveaway reached its apotheosis with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump embraces Putin at every turn despite conclusions of his own intelligence community that Putin ordered interference in the 2016 presidential election -- and the British assessment that the attempted assassination of a Russian defector was ordered at a senior level of Russia.

The grim apogee of the art of giveaway took place in September at the Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin. Trump stood next to Putin and declared of the interference in the 2016 presidential election, "He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."

Trump could have used the Helsinki meeting as the moment to tell Putin to knock off interfering with American elections. Instead, he gave him a free pass to do so.

Trump is particularly susceptible to authoritarian regimes. Kim, MBS and Putin are dictators to whom Trump always gives the benefit of doubt. They all play Trump like a Stradivarius, writing him "beautiful letters" (Kim) and assuring him that his own intelligence community's conclusions about Khashoggi and about the election are false (MBS and Putin.)

By contrast, Trump harangues and insults leaders of Western democracies that are longtime US allies, such as Canada, France, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom. To what strategic purpose it's never been clear.

Perhaps when he is tending his future Trump Presidential Library, Trump will find a ghostwriter to help him with a memoir entitled: "The Art of the Giveaway."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
51° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 51°
Columbus
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 52°
Oxford
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 36°
Starkville
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 43°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather