The Frederica Wilson affair may finally be waning. President Trump’s critics are reduced to noting that, at an event celebrating fallen FBI agents, the wannabe “rock star” didn’t grandstand by claiming credit for funding the building named after the heroes, as Gen. Kelly remembered. Instead, she grandstanded by claiming credit for getting the building named for them.
The anti-Trumpers need to take a piece out of Kelly because he is able to speak up effectively for President Trump. Thus, as Charles Blow of the New York Times says, Kelly is “VERY dangerous.” Whether they can accomplish this based on Kelly’s confusion over the precise nature of Wilson’s grandstanding is another matter. It seems to me that President Trump and his chief of staff won this round decisively.
The next round likely will be fought over the ambush in Niger that resulted in the deaths that produced the ridiculous controversy over Trump’s phone call. The anti-Trumpers hope to spin the ambush as Trump’s Benghazi. A guy from USA Today (I think it was) floated this idea on Fox News’ Special Report. (He was in Charles Krauthammer’s seat. Get well soon, Charles). So, inevitably, did the ridiculous Frederica Wilson.
There is more substance to the ambush than there is to Trump’s phone call. Four Americans died and at least two reportedly were badly injured, so the matter is serious. From all that appear so far, however, the Niger ambush presents no promising lines of attack on Trump.
There are two issues here: the sending of troops to Niger and the ambush itself.
President Obama sent a few hundred U.S. troops to Niger to help that country’s government combat ISIS. President Trump added a few hundred troops to the U.S. force.
I have no view on whether sending troops to Niger was a good idea. But it was a bipartisan one. I don’t see how Democrats get any mileage out of our involvement there.
Ambushes are a fact of life. If enough troops go on enough missions, some will be ambushed. Thus, an ambush bears no resemblance to an attack on a U.S. embassy that results in the killing of a U.S. ambassador. Thankfully, decades go by without that happening.
I don’t mean to say the Niger ambush couldn’t have been prevented with better intelligence gathering and/or decision-making. I have no idea whether it could have been.
If the ambush can be attributed to faulty intelligence and/or bad decisions on the ground, that’s clearly a matter of concern. However, culpability would likely reside with commanders and/or intelligence officers in Africa. It’s difficult to believe that the president, the Secretary of Defense, top generals at the Pentagon, or top CIA officials were involved in any way that would attach blame to them.
One can imagine scenarios in which the Niger ambush might resemble Benghazi. If President Trump or Secretary Mattis received urgent pleas from folks on the ground that this type of mission was too dangerous, this would hark back to the warnings sent to Hillary Clinton about the need to beef up security at the consulate in Benghazi.
If, following the ambush, advisers to Trump and/or Mattis made materially false claims about who or what was responsible for the ambush, this would parallel the false claims by Team Obama that the Benghazi attacks were the result of a video, rather than terrorism. But, to my knowledge, Trump’s team has not made such false claims. Everyone seems to agree that the ambush was carried out by ISIS in the Greater Sahara.
Attempting to gain political mileage from the Niger ambush strikes me as the worst kind of political ambulance chasing. Neither political party is above this practice, but the Democrats seem to pursue it more aggressively, or at least less meritoriously, perhaps because they know the mainstream media will back them in this enterprise.