OK But What If This Story Dropped in 2016?

Jack Holmes
Photo credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS - Getty Images

From Esquire

"What if Obama..."

It doesn't do all that much good to ask the question these days. The comparison no longer carries much weight now that we've tumbled into the vortex. For all the talk of media bias against Donald Trump, many in the Lamestream Set have acquiesced to his and his aides' ref-working tactics, continually lowering the bar so he might clear it. For instance, there's not a ton of talk about the fact that he doesn't read his briefing reports, or much of anything at all. His primary source of information about the world is a cable-news channel built to shovel resentment and paranoia at older people in between commercials selling them catheters.

There's certainly no expectation that the president will behave like an emotionally functional adult. Whenever he says some batshit crazy thing in public, many of his supporters will calmly explain that you should not take what the president says seriously. You've got to expect a public tantrum or two from the leader of the free world. Oh, he accused a cable-news host of murder on Twitter? That's just his unconventional leadership style. So are the constant playground insults from this 72-year-old man. So are the deranged snake-oil routines, including his suggestion that people be injected with household disinfectants. So is the incessant talk of television ratings during a pandemic where his government's poor response has left more than 90,000 Americans dead.

This bar-lowering also serves non-fans who are struggling to come to grips with reality. Hence the repeated pronouncements that today is the day he became president on the basis that he engaged in more standard gestures of jingoistic militarism. It broadens the definition of the term to include the office's current occupant, allowing some to avoid truly reckoning with the prospect that the man with more power over our lives and our futures than anyone else is clearly incompetent and possibly insane.

But honestly. What would have happened if this report from CNN came out in 2016?

The Saudi military trainee who killed three US sailors and wounded several others in a terror attack last year on a military base in Pensacola, Florida, was a longtime associate of al Qaeda who had communicated with operatives from the group as recently as the night before the shooting, the Justice Department and the FBI announced Monday. ...

"The evidence we've been able to develop from the killer's devices shows that the Pensacola attack was actually the brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation by a longtime AQAP associate," Wray said, referring to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the deadliest branches of the terror group. ...

The officials stopped short of saying that Alshamrani had been directed by the terror group, but said his ties to the AQAP began as far back as 2015 and were "significant."

There will be some dispute over whether this is the first successful al Qaeda operation in the homeland since 9/11, an act of terror on U.S. soil under a Republican president for which that president received little scrutiny for years. Even when we learned George W. Bush had ignored repeated intelligence briefings on the threat posed by al Qaeda, it was somehow considered impolite to suggest his incompetence had allowed the attackers an opening to strike. In Republican circles, it took Donald Trump going on the debate stage, hell-bent on embarrassing Jeb(!) Bush, to point out Jeb(!)'s brother did not, in fact, "keep us safe."

But again: think 2016. For one thing, CNN's headline would likely not have been "FBI finds al Qaeda link after breaking encryption on Pensacola attacker's iPhone." It might have been something closer to "Saudi citizen with al Qaeda ties infiltrated U.S. military training program ahead of terror attack," or the like. It would then have occasioned an almighty shit storm on Fox News and the wider conservative media and, likely, from candidate Donald J. Trump himself. These folks would have told their fans that Barack Obama's negligence led directly to the attack, just like HILLARY CLINTON with BENGHAZI. Congressional hearings would immediately ensue. Lindsey Graham would go into hysterics.

And much of this scrutiny would be justified: what was the vetting procedure for trainees? Why are we even training Saudi soldiers on U.S. airbases, or anywhere else? Just last week, we learned the feds have known for some time about the Saudi embassy's role in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. These are our friends?

More than that, the government of Saudi Arabia is one of the world's premier human-rights abusers, and not just with regard to their own citizens. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, you might remember, also was found by U.S. intelligence to have ordered the killing of Washington Post writer—and Virginia resident—Jamal Khashoggi. They're also engaged in a horrific proxy war against Iran in Yemen, with the backing of the United States. Speaking of, that's one of the things the State Department inspector general was looking into when he was fired by Trump on Friday night, that time when you do things as a politician that are totally above-board. Steve Linick was investigating whether the Trumpists declared a phony state of emergency—wouldn't be the first time—as a pretense to sell the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates more weapons to drop on Yemeni civilians.

Photo credit: Josh Brasted - Getty Images

And here we are obligated to mention that the Saudis are putting money in Trump's pocket through his hotels—at the very least—and that the Son-in-Law-in-Chief, Jared Kushner, reportedly was Whatsapp buddies with the crown prince. Every recent American president, including Obama, has been unacceptably friendly towards the Saudi regime. But it has been apparent for some time that the various grifters populating the renovated swamp of Trumplandia are conducting shadow foreign policy towards a number of countries that may or may not benefit them personally over the American national interest. None of this will get too much mention in the media, however, and it's hard to believe it's just the pandemic sucking up all the oxygen. Nobody seems to care. Certainly, there won't be any congressional hearings, since Democrats refuse to conduct meaningful oversight. Instead, we'll get months of Lindsey Graham's hearings on the real issue of our time...

OBAMAGATE!

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