It’s the pictures, stupid

It's the pictures, stupid

by digby

Trump saw the horrifying pictures of the latest gas attack in Syria and got upset. He even called out his pal Vlad, in the process betraying the fact that he still, after being in office all this time, sees all relationships between world leaders as personal, rather than strategic. (After all, Putin's support for Assad isn't contingent on Assad's decency. There isn't any.)

President Trump on Sunday promised a “big price” to be paid for what he said was a chemical weapons attack that choked dozens of Syrians to death the day before, and a top White House official said the administration would not rule out a missile strike to retaliate against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In a tweet, Mr. Trump laid the blame for the attack partly on President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, the first time since his election that he has criticized the Russian leader by name on Twitter. Mr. Putin’s forces have been fighting for years to keep the Assad government in power amid Syria’s brutal civil war.

Mr. Trump also left no doubt that he believed the assessment of aid groups that Mr. Assad’s military had used chemical weapons to inflict the carnage on Saturday in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. The attack left at least 42 people dead in their homes from apparent suffocation and sent many others to clinics with burning eyes and breathing problems.

Thomas P. Bossert, Mr. Trump’s homeland security adviser, said he and the rest of the president’s national security team had been in talks with Mr. Trump late Saturday and early Sunday about how to respond. Asked specifically about the possibility of a missile strike, Mr. Bossert did not rule it out.

“I wouldn’t take anything off the table,” Mr. Bossert said on ABC’s “This Week.” “These are horrible photos; we’re looking into the attack at this point.”

That raised the prospect of a strike along the lines of one that the president ordered almost exactly a year ago after a sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 civilians. In that strike, the United States military dropped 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Al Shayrat airfield.

Mr. Trump may be considering such a strike even as he has expressed his desire in recent days to pull American troops out of Syria, where they are seeking to eliminate the last vestiges of the Islamic State. White House officials said Mr. Trump would have a meeting and dinner on Monday at the White House with senior military leaders.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Mr. Trump should make good on what the president appeared to be threatening on Twitter.

If the president “doesn’t follow through and live up to that tweet, he’s going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran,” Mr. Graham said on “This Week.” “This is a defining moment.”

“You need to follow through with that tweet,” he added. “Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right.”

That's Graham again thinking he's being psychologically clever again. But taunting him about looking weak in the eyes of Russia obviously doesn't work. Everyone in the world has been taunting Trump that he's being weak on Russia for the past two years.

Syria has been a dystopian hellscape the entire time he has been in office. He believes that war should be "short and brutal" and should not spare civilians so this is frustrating to him because pictures of toddlers suffering and dying make him look bad. (He didn't seem upset about nerve gas assassinations in England and there have other reports of similar attacks in Syria since he famously "became president" by ordering a bombing.)

He does not want any pictures of children dying from chemical attacks on the front pages or on cable news. He thought if he withdrew troops from Syria, Assad wouldn't have to gas kids and it won't be on the front page because he'd win and it would all be over. And then everything would be fine. Why did he have to go and screw up Trump's plans?