Trump Wags The Dog

Clete Wetli | January 8, 2020 | Opinion Article

The movie, Wag the Dog, was inspired by an old aphorism that said, “A dog is smarter than its tail, but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would wag the dog.” So, “wag the dog” quickly became modern political parlance for ruthless, shameless politicians who purposefully create distractions and diversions from important issues, especially ones that cast them in a negative way. As Trump faces a serious impeachment trial and the rotten fruit of his reckless policies cause his poll numbers to drop, he suddenly decides to have an epic “wag the dog” moment by assassinating Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani.

Now, let’s be painfully and deliberately clear. Soleimani was evil and deserved his fate, but the problem is the dubious timing, the profound lack of articulated Middle East policy by Trump, and the lack of indisputable evidence that he was, indeed, posing an imminent threat. Yeah, those things really do matter. There are lots of bad guys in the world, but killing them indiscriminately makes us no better than them. Cherishing the rule of law has always been what sets America apart. In the few, but very significant, darker moments when America has ignored it, the worst of atrocities have occurred. 

True to form, Alabama politicians were quick to jockey for the position as Trump’s Chief Sycophants and Apologist Czars. First, there was Jessica Taylor, AL Congressional candidate, who spewed partisan babble in response to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s observation that Trump did not seek Congressional approval for the assassination and has no substantive foreign policy to deal with the consequences. Taylor said, “I’m honestly not surprised that she said that. Many of the things that come out of her mouth are frankly un-American.”  Actually, what’s not surprising is for extremist Republicans to call folks un-American for having legitimate concerns about assassinating foreign leaders, abandoning diplomacy, tearing up agreements, and dragging our country into another potentially endless, costly war.

AL Rep. Bradley Byrne was also quick to grab some media attention in the conservative Yellowhammer News echo-chamber saying, “Ilhan Omar diminished 9/11, opposes Israel, and now she is upset that President Trump took out a murderous terrorist – at this point, we have to wonder what side is she on? Maybe she wishes Obama were still here to bow before the Ayatollah, but here in America we serve the Constitution of the U.S. first and swear in front of God to defend this country and its people. And that’s exactly what President Trump is doing.” Byrne’s statement is such obvious propaganda and shows that his knowledge of foreign policy and the truth could fit in a thimble and still rattle.

That’s the whole point of Trump wagging the dog. Anyone critical of his impulsive and reckless action can now be called anti-American, anti-military, and somehow in league with terrorists or socialists. It’s absurd and it’s dangerous. This is especially true in Trump’s case as he continues to insult and alienate our closest allies. Trump seems to think that being “tough” is better than being smart. It’s clear that he only listens to sycophants and that he has no long-term plan for the Middle East except to provoke violence for his own short-term political gain. Every one of his MAGA hat-wearing worshippers is probably thrilled at the prospect of getting to watch missile strikes on television while they cheer, “‘Mericuh!” and ramble on about American Exceptionalism.

People are right to be skeptical about Trump’s motives and whether Soleimani posed a legitimate imminent threat. It’s important to remember that Iran was complying with the nuclear deal when Trump made the decision to forego the agreement. Again, the world is better off with Soleimani dead, but his assassination only escalates an already volatile situation. 

Trump has some explaining to do, but unfortunately, he’s a proven serial liar. Right now, he impetuously executed a tactic, but he has no strategy. Trump can keep wagging the dog, but most folks aren’t fooled by what he’s done. He still deserves impeachment and removal from office. In fact, it clarifies why he is so uniquely unfit to be our President and, especially, our Commander-in-Chief.


Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.

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