We’re All Going to Die

Here’s one way to make America great again.

In the days ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first visit to the White House during the Trump presidency, in March 2017, [National Security Council] career staffers were told the president wanted to tell Merkel that other NATO countries owed the U.S. money. Could they prepare a report on the topic? Career NSC staffers got to work and returned with the basics: that NATO countries don’t owe the United States money because that’s not how the military alliance works; that every NATO country is supposed to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense, and that while many had fallen short of that commitment, others met it or were on track to do so. In short, no one “owed” the United States anything.

NSC career staffers presented this information to a senior administration official in the West Wing. According to one of them, the official replied: “The president is going to say it anyway, so we need to help him. I mean, it’s not a legal document.”

The career staffers were flummoxed.

“It was the weird disregard for facts that made it offensive,” one of the then-staffers said. “They said, ‘Never mind all that, he’s going to do it anyway so give us stuff that helps the case.’ It was frightening, in a way.” The then-staffer said he refused to contribute further: “I didn’t want to lie.

How would you go about giving the president “stuff” that would help him make the case to Angela Merkel that NATO countries owe the United States money when they do not, in fact, own the United States any money?

If the president is just going to say something without any regard for the facts, then why even bother to manufacture facts? And if the administration is just going to make stuff up, that’s hardly going to impress Merkel who will be just as flummoxed as the career staffers. Finally, if you’re just going to lie, then why ask the National Security Council to come up with your lies? Why not just ask the Sean Hannity’s staff for some particularly pungent line of bullshit that he’s confident will smell like roses to the dunces who watch his show?

It’s telling that Trump’s staffers aren’t willing to take a stand and tell him that he’s off his rocker. They go around asking experts and intellectuals to help them manage his ignorance and buffoonery.

This incident took place less than two months into Trump’s presidency but nothing has improved in the interim. For a while, there was the semblance of a rationale process when H.R. McMaster was the National Security Advisor, but even that is easy to exaggerate.

Under John Bolton’s management, things are back to total chaos.

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