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Timing Is Everything A commentary

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Posted: Friday, October 18, 2019 2:24 pm

The timing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to turn House Democrats loose on an impeachment inquiry was no accident. President Donald Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urging an investigation of one of Trump’s own political rivals may have provided a convenient excuse but coming, as it did, soon after the start of the 2020 election campaign, it was more about influencing the election outcome by adding to Mr. Trump’s re-election challenges. She knows that a GOP-controlled Senate would never convict Trump, even if the House managed to come up with valid articles of impeachment. She didn’t even require a vote of the full House, leaving it up to committee chairs like Adam Schiff to pursue their anti-Trump agenda.

And speaking of timing, a poor sense of timing happens to be one of Mr. Trump’s major defects. He just can’t seem to stand prosperity. Even when things are going relatively well for him and the nation, he often manages to do something impulsive and stupid, usually against the advice of the few remaining experienced advisors that he hasn’t fired or driven away. Where are John Bolton and the retired generals like McMasters, Kelly and Mattis that he once so admired? Gone, forced out of this revolving-door administration where too many key positions are either vacant or filled by persons with the word “Acting” before the rest of their titles.

His latest impulsive decision was to move U.S. troops out of northern Syria, leaving Turkey free to attack the Kurds who were our allies in the battle to defeat ISIS, following a phone call with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Again, Mr. Trump’s poor sense of timing and judgment makes him his own worst enemy. This decision has alienated many of those closest to him including his remaining military advisors who criticized it as a betrayal of a loyal ally.

I, like many Americans, sympathize with Mr. Trump’s desire to extricate us from endless foreign wars with no apparent exit strategy, but not at the cost of a bloodbath which, in addition to the human tragedy, causes allies and enemies alike to doubt our commitment to anything. Once we commit to something, we need to honor that commitment, regardless of changing administrations and foreign policy. If we can’t keep our word, then we shouldn’t make the commitment in the first place. Military leaders, who know so well the human cost of combat, invariably urge caution before committing to it. Politicians, on the other hand, tend to be quick to commit the lives of others based on the emotions of the moment but then quickly lose interest when victory doesn’t come swiftly.

Beyond the essential qualities of intelligence and integrity, the two most important competencies a president needs are excellent communications and decision making skills. Mr. Trump is sorely deficient in both. He needs help in these areas but he seems prone to rejecting it, relying exclusively on his own meager skills. His tweets and speeches are an embarrassment. His decision making is impulsive and lacks discipline. He doesn’t seem to have a framework for analyzing alternatives and assessing benefits and risks. His administration cannot deal well with difficult decisions because he seems unwilling to consider advice that doesn’t fit his mood at the moment.

Impeachment is not the answer, nor is an election that pits him against a free-spending progressive like Elizabeth Warren or a gaff-prone lightweight like Joe Biden. The GOP simply has to come up with an electable candidate who is actually qualified by experience, judgment, character, and communications and decision making skills to be president. Surely such a person exists. Mr. Trump could best serve his country by throwing his support to such a person and pulling off one of the surprises he is famous for by declining to run for re-election. He could declare that he, no doubt, could have won but has already achieved most of which he set out to do in spite of a hostile opposition party and mainline media that tried to overturn the results of an election and opposed him at every turn and a Congress that accomplished nothing of substance in the way of legislation. He could take credit for a robust economy, get someone to ghost-write a book on his accomplishments in office and announce his intentions to return to the world of business in which he excels, leaving someone else to continue the reforms he instituted in Washington. The liberal press would no longer have Donald Trump to kick around and would have to find some real news to write about.

None of this will happen, of course, because of Mr. Trump’s immense ego but the 2020 election should not again come down to choosing between the lesser of two evils as it is now shaping up to be. If that’s the best that the two major political parties can offer us again, then I predict the demise of the two-party system in America will soon follow. Americans deserve more choices.

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