Lately, to try to get attention off an issue most of us have put on the back burner until it's resolved -- the pending FBI and Congressional investigations into Russia’s influencing our presidential election - he blames the Obama Administration for giving Trump’s fired National Security Advisor, retired Lt. Gen. “Mike” Flynn, his security clearance. Every time something negative comes up about Flynn, Trump tweets, in effect, nothing to see here, it was Obama’s fault again.
According to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker that isn’t correct. Flynn’s clearance, the Fact Checker writes, “Was a routine matter.” Flynn was fired by Obama from leading the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) but the practice there is that former directors keep a clearance so the sitting director can have a discussion with the former director if required.
The clearance comes up for renewal every five years and Flynn’s was renewed in January 2016. That clearance, according to DIA, was only for Defense Department matters. It did not allow Flynn, for example, to go to other agencies asking for classified information.
At the time also, Flynn was not in the political world. That came later as Trump’s candidacy matured and Flynn became a close and very public national security advisor to the campaign, even speaking at the Republican National Convention. Flynn also was considered as Trump’s vice presidential running mate.
President Obama, two days after the election, warned Trump about putting Flynn in his administration. Best I can tell, that wasn’t based on concerns over Flynn’s alleged coziness to Russia but more about judgements Obama made on Flynn's competence as a manager and his integrity as an advisor.
Trump seems to think everything in Washington is decided based on partisan politics. He seems to think, for example, that former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates advised his White House about Flynn because of politics. She was, after all, the Obama appointed deputy attorney general. Before that, though, she was a more than two decade civil servant who rose through the ranks based on performance, not partisan politics.
(And let's remember, she was informing the White House that Flynn had compromised himself and was subject to Russian blackmail based on lies he had told Vice President Pence and that Pence passed to the nation via national interviews. In short: She told the White House its national security advisor could be blackmailed by Russia. Read that sentence again if that reality hasn't settled in. And, still, it took 18 days and a Washington Post story to get Trump to force out Flynn.)
Trump’s continual linking of “fake news” to pointing a finger at someone else instead of at himself, or his transition team, also continues a drip-drip-drip of credibility. Even those who voted for him and still support him think he plays loose with the truth. Republican congressmen also hold him at arm's length, not wanting to alienate Trump voters for their own reelection purposes.
That diminution of his credibility piles up if he decides, for example, to launch an attack on North Korea. He needs Americans behind any such action, as history has shown us.
Trump’s short-fuse and personality-need to never take blame for anything, in the long run, is a bad strategy for the President of the United States. It may have worked for him as he was building his image in New York City and its tabloids, but it won't work in Washington.
President Trump seems to think the New York Times and Washington Post are akin to the New York tabloids gossip writers who Trump catered to when he was the wolf of New York and who are more malleable when it comes to getting a story line in the media. But those tabloid story lines were aimed at building Trump as a personality, a man about town and New York City player, a far easier task that portraying him as a strong, knowledgeable leader of the world's dominant country.
The Times and Post reporters don't exist simply to parrot any president's spin. Their job is to get to the truth. As Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame put it recently, "Underlying everything reporters do is pursuing the best attainable version of the truth." Trump undermines a key institution in the United States – the mainstream media – so he can cover his own ass and not keep in mind the long-term health and reputation of this nation.
He is on very dangerous territory and we cannot fall victim to his lies and misdirection nor can we accept his behavior as the new normal.