When politicians want to drastically change government, a tactic they commonly use is to overwhelm the news cycle. A quick look back at the first six months of the Trump presidency demonstrates this as they and the Republican party have become experts.
Of course, news agencies are justified in investigating and thoroughly covering the Trump Jr. meeting with Russians, Trump’s war against immigrants and the Republicans’ obsession with taking healthcare away from Americans. These are all important issues as are the hundreds of others that conservatives are trying to sneak through. But flooding the news cycle has the intended consequence of some news being buried. Not every issue can get equal time, which is the whole point.
Take the kerfuffle involving Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt and Qatar. Here’s the basic timeline:
- May 20th – Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia where they cater to his fragile ego with giant wall portraits of Trump, all male sword dances and a male only Toby Keith concert.
- May 23rd – a Qatar news agency publishes a story about remarks made by their leader that seemed to support Iran and Israel while questioning whether or not Trump would maintain his presidency.
- May 23rd – in twenty minutes, Saudi Arabia began news interviews regarding the information.
- June 5th – Saudi Arabia and UAE cut ties to Qatar according to CNN.
- June 6th – Trump starts tweeting that Qatar is responsible for funding terrorism, an opinion echoed by Saudi Arabia.
- July – Saudi Arabia and UAE issue a demand list to Qatar. In addition to demands they cut ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and ISIS, they also wanted a shutdown of the Al Jazeera News Agency (as they are critical of Saudi Arabia and the UAE) and the expulsion of the Turkish military.
As the Qatar demand list came out, the New York Times broke the story that Donald Trump Jr. had met with Russians during the election to obtain dirt on Clinton. That’s not to say the Qatar story was completely ignored, just that it received little attention and thus very little discussion. I’m also not saying that Trump campaign officials conspiring with Russians isn’t a valid story. It is. It’s huge.
What I am advocating for is a return to discussing the implications of the Qatar issue.
From the moment the Qatar story was published, they denied it. The Qatari government released statement after statement that neither they nor the news agency in question had published the story. Instead, they insisted they were hacked, but Trump and the Arab countries would hear none of it and went on the attack. Trump began tweeting and speaking about how Qatar was supporting terrorism without giving any specific evidence.
These talking points were the same being issued by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Talking points that U.S. Intel agencies did not agree with. In fact, secretary of defense James Mattis signed an arms deal with the Qataris while Trump was claiming they supported terrorism, and secretary of state Rex Tillerson stated that the demands were unreasonable. So, it would seem Trump was receiving intel and information on Qatar not from his own staff and intel community, but from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Now we're learning that the FBI and British intelligence believe that not only was the Qatar news agency hacked but that it was done by the UAE. An accusation that the UAE denies.
What all this means for the US.
Everyone knows the way to Trump’s heart is through his ego. Stroke that puppy, and he will believe anything you say. The Saudis went all out for Trump’s visit, and were rewarded with a huge arms deal (previously negotiated by the Obama administration) and support in their beef against Qatar. As far as we know, Trump did not mention the fact that the 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia. Apparently, the Saudis are aware that flattery with Trump will get you a free pass.
It also appears that Trump never conferred with his staff or intelligence agencies before speaking or tweeting on the subject. I suppose it would have been much worse if he had and then ignored their advice. But the wooing from the Saudis was enough for him to echo their perspective without a second thought. He didn’t even wait for the investigation that showed Qatar was in fact hacked and that they never wrote or said any of those things reported in the article.
It’s important to note that whoever wrote that article had intended to pull Trump on their side. The entire piece deals with the supposed comments made by the leader of Qatar in regard to other Arab countries. As a side note, it mentions Trump and how he may not last as president. The writer knew Trump would be offended by this and judging by his reaction, he was. In other words, Trump’s habit of relying on fake news and not the U.S. intelligence agencies has caused an international incident. An incident that he will never back down from or apologize for.
The ease of which Trump was manipulated and used by these instigators should scare the hell out of every American. One can clearly see a similar situation where the outcome is military action and the loss of life.
Trump’s staff and congress must recognize the danger of Trump’s ego and how susceptible he is to compliments. The blockade of Qatar is just another demonstration of the dangers Trump’s ego places on our national security.