Normally I would be reluctant to suggest that the president of the United States — even this president of the United States — would launch a military strike because he’s infuriated with things that have nothing to do with Syria. But reading through the news accounts today of Trump’s state of mind after he canceled a trip to South America, you have to wonder. Here’s an item from the New York Times:
In a brief statement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the president would stay in the United States and oversee America’s response to a suspected and deadly chemical attack in Syria, “and to monitor developments around the world.”
But when the president himself spoke, it was not about Syria but of his outrage that federal agents in New York on Monday raided the office and hotel room of Michael D. Cohen, his longtime lawyer and fixer. The F.B.I. seized documents in what Mr. Trump called “a disgraceful situation” and an “attack on our country.”
And it gets worse:
[A]t a meeting with his military commanders at the White House, Mr. Trump reserved his harshest words for the F.B.I. and top Justice Department officials, railing against the raids in which he said agents “broke into” Mr. Cohen’s office.
Addressing the brass gathered to soberly assess the world situation with rage at federal investigators isn’t a good sign. Politico suggests it could soon get worse:
Trump’s decision to scrap this weekend’s long-planned travel to the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, will leave the president largely alone in the White House with little on his schedule, giving him time to stew and watch cable news.
Angry and increasingly isolated, the president is more unpredictable than ever, according to four people close to him.
And BuzzFeed adds some heat to the story:
Sources close to the administration who had had been in touch with officials described a White House that was at a “high level of freak out” Tuesday morning, as one put it. Putting aside whatever comes out of Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen getting raided, another source said plainly, “I am worried about [Trump’s] response.”
All this worrying from sympathetic aides and supporters appears focused on fears that he will do something politically damaging, like firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who personally approved the raids that have so enraged POTUS) or his ultimate nemesis, Robert Mueller. But so far none of the insiders seem concerned that Trump might overreact to reports that the Assad regime has again used chemical weapons on the rebels they are fighting in their nearly won civil war. Indeed, you have to wonder if some advisers who want to keep Trump from doing something self-destructive against his inquisitors might even encourage him to slake his rage by doing something purely destructive to the Syrians.
Now a strike on Syria might be justified even if the commander-in-chief conducting it is consumed by fury at a very different target that he cannot hit with cruise missiles. An incident similar to the one being alleged right now did, after all, convince Trump to scrap his hands-off policy toward the Syrian civil war and launch a strike just over a year ago.
But the most prudent decisions are not usually or often made by people who are melting down from anger. And aside from the people who might want to deflect Trump from firing everyone in sight with a connection to the Mueller investigation, there are a goodly number of people in his circle who seriously believe that it’s healthy to promote the impression of Trump as an uncontrollably aggressive leader. One of them, it seems plausible, might be his new National Security adviser, John Bolton. Let’s hope he’s not too close by as Trump seethes in the White House this week.