First, let’s get the technicality out-of-the-way. Donald Trump’s “Afghan Strategy” is teleprompter puffery. Or as John Schindler so succinctly phrased it:
There is no Afghan strategy. None whatsoever. That’s all, folks.
— John Schindler (@20committee) August 22, 2017
Now, let’s talk about Republican giddiness.
They’re coming back to town soon. There’s a lot on the plate over at Congress: the debt ceiling, the silly wall, the repeal-and-replace redux. Mercer is breathing down their necks, not to mention Mr. and Mrs. Adelson, the pesky NRA and its killer ads, the Koch boys. Bannon is about to release his brand of fire and fury. The nazis won’t go away. McCain may go away. Putin wants those damn sanctions. Tillerson wants oil contracts. Prince wants his mercenaries. Their media friends have turned. The Democrats have the upper hand on morality. And there’s Mueller. He invaded the anthill and is burrowing deep, following each line to its center. What carcasses will surface? What soldiers will survive?
Then there’s the wild card. The Joker in the deck who can’t resist staring at the sun, praising his white supremacists and generally turning the swamp into a vast pasture of manure.
But the Republicans are giddy.
Donald Trump stayed on script. The demented man-child bent to the will of the generals. He faithfully read every line as they beamed at him from the teleprompter. Sure, there were one or two ad libs but those were harmless. Yes, he kept flashing the “white power” sign but Kelly will work on that.
Republicans are giddy. “We did it boys!” They took to social media for their self congratulations.
John McCain, recuperating from chemo, had the strength to issue a statement. He commended the non-strategy on Afghanistan and lobbed a hit on Obama.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) August 22, 2017
“Commend.” This was the word of the day.
Mitch McConnell, publicly pummeled by Trump and under siege by citizens of the Blue Grass State, stretched out his neck and offered his commendation.
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) August 22, 2017
Just two days before Trump’s scripted talk, mainstream media revealed that some Republicans were questioning his fitness for office. One was the head of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Bob Corker.
Corker hasn’t retracted this view of Trump. His response to the prime time address did not “commend” the president and referred to a chat with the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. Corker still has “substantial questions” but is ok with the generally vague plan including the idea of leveraging Pakistan and India in the conflict.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) August 22, 2017
Marco Rubio, who gained big cred for using the president’s name in denouncing racism just a few days ago, fell back in line. The non-strategy is the “right approach,” he said and the speech was “excellent.” His simple language and truncated structure even sounds like Trump.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 22, 2017
Lindsey Graham followed his usual pattern. First, he went on FOX. Then he tweeted. Like his friend McCain, Graham sang the praises of the non-strategy and bashed former President Obama.
Between Afghanistan and Syria @realDonaldTrump is showing the WILL to stand up to Radical Islam…
….unlike President Obama.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) August 22, 2017
Life is good. The GOP retrieved their preferred narrative. They revived the Obama-hate, the “radical Islam” name-calling, and some semblance of an ethical, empathetic president. The troops are riled up and ready to go kill the bad guys. Of course, the bad guys are far, far away, not marching under swastikas and Confederate flags. To top it off, they pried Steve Bannon out of the Oval Office.
Now they hold their breaths. Trump is in Phoenix tonight. The city’s mayor doesn’t want him and troops on all sides of the spectrum have their marching orders, their signs and chants and flags.
Worst of all, there will be no teleprompter.