Home/Daniel Larison/Trump Was ‘Presidential’ Last Night, But That’s Not a Good Thing

Trump Was ‘Presidential’ Last Night, But That’s Not a Good Thing

One of the more common positive reactions to Trump’s awful Afghanistan speech was to praise it as “presidential.” Since it is now commonplace for our presidents to start and escalate wars with little or no debate, it is true that Trump was being “presidential” last night, but it also shows why it shouldn’t be considered a compliment. Committing to increase troop levels while offering no coherent or discernible strategy for the war they are being sent to fight is certainly “presidential,” but it is also horrible leadership. Acknowledging that the war has not been successful after sixteen years, Trump nonetheless vowed to continue it indefinitely without any explanation as to why this time escalation would succeed where it had failed before. There is nothing admirable about this, and the fact that Trump is being lauded for it confirms that there is something very wrong in our political culture and in our media.

Paul Miller gushes:

Last night was one of Donald Trump’s finest moments as president.

That is a frankly bizarre reaction. Trump acquiesced to the prevailing view among his advisers and Cabinet officials to send more troops to fight in a desultory war that started when many of the soldiers that will be deployed were toddlers. He is doing that against his own instincts primarily because he doesn’t want to be blamed for “losing” a war that cannot be won and because he is so obsessed with “winning” that he can’t admit that it isn’t possible. These are terrible reasons to continue a war whose costs have long outstripped what few benefits the U.S. may have gained from it.

Miller says later on:

Trump said “win” and “victory” more times in 15 minutes than President Barack Obama did in eight years.

I suppose he did, but I don’t see how fantasizing about a victory that can’t be achieved is an improvement. If anything, it just shows how divorced from reality Trump’s so-called strategy is. Constantly talking about how “we will always win” as Trump did is not an honest appraisal of the realities of the current situation. It is a species of delusion that refuses to face the unpleasant truth that the war can’t be won at an acceptable cost. Trump has proven to be every bit as “presidential” as LBJ and George W. Bush at their worst.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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