Washington In Review

Washington In Review


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Except for the Washington Nationals’ winning the World Series, there are few things in the Capital that are normal. While the Nats’ win surprised most of the baseball world, in the scheme of things this was “normal”.



The House finally actually voted this morning officially to endorse public hearings to establish the grounds to form the basis for the impeachment resolution. Assuming the House impeaches the President, the Democrats would like to conclude this process before Thanksgiving. They would then throw the onus on the Senate to proceed with a trial, probably before Christmas.



President Trump accomplished a significant foreign policy victory in directing U.S. forces to proceed with their attack on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last weekend in Syria. His death by U.S. Special Forces disrupts, for at least a time, the leadership of this global terrorist organization. It also affirms to America’s enemies that despite whatever political chaos may be occurring at home, America’s global leadership in intelligence and military tactics should not be underestimated.

There were two major fallouts from Trump’s conduct of this raid. First, as has been noted, the President dismissed his failure to inform key Democratic Congressional leaders in the Committee of Eight of the imminent attack, because he feared a “leak”.  On the other hand, he boasted of having informed and advised Russia, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria of the intended raid; but apparently none of U.S. allies.

Second, the President’s description of al-Baghdadi’s end— “whimpering, crying, and blowing himself up…”, while presumably accurate was intentionally and unnecessarily demeaning. Unlike President Obama who made a point of saying that Osama bin-Laden received a proper Muslim burial—albeit at sea—President Trump sought to gratuitously insult al-Baghdadi. This is a foolish degrading of Muslims and an attack on all Muslims.


Next to Go

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is on his way to the woodshed. As Ronald Reagan did with David Stockman, Mulvaney’s days in the Trump Administration are numbered; and he knows it. He lost his job two weeks ago when in a press conference he deviated from the President’s line about Ukraine. Mulvaney had suggested there was a quid pro quo in Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Although Mulvaney shortly thereafter tried to walk back his previous statement, his failure to remain a 100% loyalist meant he was dispensable. The proof came last weekend when the decision to attack ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was being made and monitored by the President with key White House staff, Mulvaney was out of town for the weekend. Trump expects complete, unequivocal loyalty from his staff with no deviation. Mulvaney broke the rule and his departure is imminent.

The President has a problem, however, in firing Mulvaney. First, Mulvaney is officially also Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Second, Mulvaney gave up his House seat to join the Trump White House team and was a leading House Member in the Trump wing of the GOP.  Third, firing Mulvaney could seriously affect other House loyalists. They may begin to realize that President Trump does not really care about the party, their future, and their ideology. Mulvaney’s departure will underscore very starkly for Republicans that at the end of the day the President cares only about himself. Everyone else is dispensable.



One of the techniques that Richard Nixon employed when he was in throes of the Watergate impeachment investigation was to travel—both at home and abroad—and try to distract attention from the work in Congress. President Trump began that very successfully with the capture and killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. What Trump will learn, as did Nixon, is that these events have a very short shelf life. This excitement will soon need to be replaced by more and more excitement. A trade deal with China and Thanksgiving and Christmas Parties will help, but there will be a steady drum roll towards the House impeachment and then the Senate trial. What the President will be unable to deflect, however, is if there are events still to be uncovered which will motivate Republican Senators to abandon the Trump ship because of either their own honor or political exigencies.

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