Sunday, April 08, 2018

Silence Is Not Golden.

Admittedly, it was pretty silly when last month Joe Biden, condemning Donald Trump for his remarks about women, declared "if we were in high school, I'd take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him... Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room."

He was, though, more mature when two months earlier he had tweeted "It’s not how a president should speak. It’s not how a president should behave. Most of all, it’s not what a president should believe. We’re better than this."

In February, Rob Porter- who couldn't obtain a security clearance from the FBI- was allowed to remain in his highly sensitive position before being fired.  Biden observed "controlled chaos" in the administration and remarked "I'm having enormous difficulty understanding how this White House functions."

He's at least naming names. But Joe Biden no longer is the second banana to the leader of the free world, and the responsibility for calling out the current President of the United States of America should not fall upon him.

Earlier today, Sunday, we learned

Doctors and rescue workers in Syria said at least 42 people were killed in an apparent chemical attack on a rebel-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, located near the capital of Damascus. Rescue workers said they found families suffocated in their homes and shelters and videos spread online showing purported victims of the attack. “The attack was near bomb shelters and so it spread quickly in them,” a paramedic who helped treat a group of victims said. “The gas was concentrated and in a place where people thought they were safe.

President Trump took to Twitter, blaming Syria itself, Iran, and- finally- Vladimir Putin, although it is not clear what "President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price..." means, nor even what Trump meant by it. (Assad will pay a big price? Supporting a genocidal tyrant is a big price to pay for geopolitical influence? Something else?)

He did, however, blame someone else- the former president, Barack H. Obama:

We should not assume, without asking, precisely what Trump is saying or what he believes his predecessor should have done.  When Obama, as the last president fluent in English, declared a "red line," he implied he would take decisive action if Damascus went beyond a certain point. If Obama had in fact taken action, he would not have crossed the red line; it was already crossed by Assad. However, Trump's tweet suggests he believed the then-President himself should have acted- "crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand"- without provocation.

Responding to Sunday's attack, Kathy Gilsinanin in The Atlantic argues that the 2014 chemical weapons deal struck by Obama Secretary of State John Kerry failed to prevent attacks such as the one Sunday because it did not include chlorine gas, which has civilian uses, and did not include "everything."

Gilsinan acknowledges that the agreement did force Damascus to declare 1300 tons of nuclear weapons, which were then destroyed. Moreover, "if all this added up to something short of disarmament, Trump's strike on regime targets following last April's sarin attack haven't achieved it either."

President Trump wants us to disregard the reality that Barack Obama left the office of the presidency over thirteen months ago.

Republican members of Congress have reacted to the outrages of the Trump Administration by remaining silent, raising their heads out of the sand only to support, nearly or completely unanimously, President Trump's legislative initiatives which have strengthened his hand.

And now there is this: former president Barack Obama remains silent.  A lovely tradition has persisted wherein no former president criticizes an incumbent President, although the extent of that tradition is exaggerated.  It is, of course, a small, exclusive, and privileged club. But Donald J. Trump is no ordinary President, and no ordinary human being. As a candidate, he practically birthed birtherism, and rode his conspiracy theory to the presidency; and as President, he has gone so far as to denounce former President Obama on foreign soil.

At six-foot-one, it is time for Barack Obama to stand up tall and defend his record. He should do so for his country and for his party. But most of all, he could show a little self-respect.

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