“There You Go Again”

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Holman Jenkins Jr., of the WSJ editorial board, has scribbled a parodic defense of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, which he finishes with a head-scratching assault on Hillary Clinton. Yes, Hillary. In 2019. The closest thing there is to editorial atavism.

I’ll skip over Jenkins’ multitiered ridicule of Democrats’ “bad assumptions” about the president’s Ukraine policy, such as a quid pro quo out of purely personal interest — not national interest — being anything to get worked up about.

After all, as one must reflect, though Jenkins doesn’t, that bit of gaucherie wasn’t nearly as objectionable as President Clinton having fibbed about an extramarital affair — which was positively unheard of among married men throughout the ages, and thus, for a president, legitimately impeachable. At least Clinton — & Co. — didn’t do any dirty deeds in a White House closet, as Republican President Warren Harding did, also fathering the young lady’s “illegitimate” child. (I’ve never fathomed that term; it’s the parents who are illegitimate.)

The Dems, on the other hand, are being “lazy” in their impeachment charges (bribery, anyone?), says Jenkins.

As if this wasn’t lazy in itself, he goes on to write that “the question of presidential competence, of course, is a sticky one — Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, WMD, I could go on.” But, “by the results, Trumpism has not been half bad.”

It was at this precise point, in reading that line, that I suspected either an editorial spoof or sophistic legalism. Trump’s foreign policy as not “half bad”? In a way, that’s true; it’s been altogether bad.

Tell us, Mr. Jenkins, of Trump’s even partial success in playing out the Taliban peace agreement, which responsible diplomats labored over for two years. And Trump then blew up. Or his success in trade policy with China, which has cost American consumers, businesses and farmers a good deal of unnecessary, financial pain.

Or his success in negotiating an Israel-Palestine agreement, a task he placed in the hands of an incompetent son-in-law and Israel-biased real estate attorney. Or his success with the lovable Kim Jong-un, who is still building his nuclear arsenal and testing ballistic missiles. Or his success in intimidating Iran back to the negotiating table; or in supporting Ukraine against its hegemonic neighbor, thus supporting as well our national-security interests; or in maintaining the best-that-could-be-hoped-for, for now, stabilization of Syria, or in living up to the U.S.’ word there.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Trump’s universally failed foreign policy has been his complete disregard for our allies’ — no, not North Korea and Russia; rather, our traditional allies — interests, which in general have dovetailed with ours. The post-Trump, diplomatic mending to be done will be an immense task.

As promised, I shall now observe Jenkins’ really weird remarks on Hillary Clinton, which he first sets up with a rousing defense — indeed, a rousing vindication — of Trump’s criminalities, impeachable offenses, and reprehensibly unpresidential behavior:

“[Democrats] were not satisfied with opposing him. They sought to destroy him. Mr. Trump, it’s easy to see, believes he must stick around and continue to wrap himself in the immunities and powers of the presidency simply to defend himself and the legitimacy of his 2016 victory.

“When history assesses blame, Hillary Clinton, and not Mr. Trump, will be the biggest sinner of our time. Mrs. Clinton continues to flog the claim … that Russia controls our politics…. In a few years, Mr. Trump’s passage through our national life will not seem so hysterically important as it does now, though an opportunity has been lost. Mrs. Clinton … deserves to be remembered finally as the coward who put the country second because she couldn’t accept the legitimacy of her defeat.”

What can one say about such tripe, other than to say (only faintly modified) what Ronald Reagan said: “There they go again.”


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