Minutes after Donald Trump’s announced U.S. military airstrikes in Syria, Rachel Maddow said on her MSNBC show that no matter how the decision was made, the timing has the appearance of a “wag the dog” situation.
“There are national security consequences to having a presidency that is as chaotic as Mr. Trump’s presidency, that is as consumed by scandal and criminal intrigue as his presidency is,” Maddow said Friday night, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the FBI raid on Trump attorney Michael Cohen, among other things.
According to Maddow, enemies and allies alike may believe that Trump “issued the order to launch this strike tonight, even in part, because… he wanted to distract from a catastrophic domestic scandal that is blowing up at home at the same time.”
“Even if the tail is not wagging the dog, even if you give the president every benefit of the doubt,” Maddow continued, “even if this decision was taken with absolutely no regard for whatever else is going on in the president’s life right now, what else is going on in the president’s life right now unavoidably creates a real perception around the globe that that may have been part of the motivation.”
Maddow called this context “a sad thing,” and “an upsetting thing in terms of American influence around the world.”
Early Friday evening in an address from the White House, Trump announced that U.S. forces would conduct “precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.”
The combined American-British-French operation, Trump said, is in response to a chemical weapons attack ordered by al-Assad against civilians in a town near Syria’s capital of Damascus.
“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons used by that very terrible regime,” Trump said.
In 1998, critics accused President Bill Clinton of using the bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan to distract from his sex scandal involving White House intern Monica Lewinsky. News of the Clinton scandal broke just a month after the release of the film “Wag the Dog,” about Hollywood insiders who stage a war to distract from a presidential sex scandal.
Here are some of the responses to Maddow’ remarks:
If you’re going to speculate about the domestic political impact, fine, but what reason is there to believe that scandal speculation will change their military effectiveness? https://t.co/Rlm2ITcUDF
— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) April 14, 2018
The way @maddow is responding to Trump’s attack on Syria is as shining an example of why our free press, and those who represent it, is an institution we must defend with our lives. She is one of our best. She is brilliant. And she has a soul. I’m grateful to be able to hear her.
— Ken Olin (@kenolin1) April 14, 2018
Dude. So would you have not wanted America to do something about people who were gassed to death? Seriously….I think not tolerating that is more important than the Mueller probe for now. Mueller and porn stars aren't going anywhere, Brian. This is pathetic.
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) April 14, 2018
Just bc Clinton did it and you were all happy and supportive when your choice for Pres. does it. Does not mean all serious Pres. do such things.
— Louis Marino (@LouisMarino7) April 14, 2018