Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Let's face it, Trump hit Soleimani to distract from impeachment

Via the Free Beacon, I believe she’s the first Democrat in Congress to accuse Trump on the record of trying to wag the dog with last night’s operation.

If you had Debbie’s name in the office pool, come collect your winnings.

Granted, granted, Trump himself has mused openly in the past about presidents potentially starting wars with Iran to improve their political position at home. But the timing in this case doesn’t add up. If he was going to whack a major terrorist to try to derail impeachment, the optimal time was before House Democrats took the big vote, not after. Ordering the Soleimani operation a month ago might have given some of those red-district freshman Dems reason to think twice about supporting his removal from office. Too late now. And if he was going to whack a major terrorist to try to derail his removal from office by the Senate, obviously that would require a scenario in which he faced even the slightest chance of removal happening, which of course he doesn’t. Normally Wasserman Schultz and her Democratic colleagues would be the first ones to tell you that, too: “Senate Republicans are so deep in the tank for Trump that he could strangle their own family members in front of them and he wouldn’t be removed.” Correct. But now that it’s convenient to float a wag-the-dog theory to explain last night’s attack, somehow we need to pretend that Trump was panicked about the trial and needed a distraction.

We’ll have to wait to see what shakes out in the reporting over the few days but Mike Pompeo and Marco Rubio have offered hair-raising possibilities for why Trump might have felt obliged to act quickly and forcefully. Even if you’re inclined to believe the most cynical explanation for his actions, you’re still left having to explain why he’d do something as insanely provocative as killing Iran’s supreme military commander if all he wanted to do was create a foreign policy crisis to rally Americans around him. He could have seized on Kim Jong Un’s latest belligerence to pick a (rhetorical) fight instead. Or he could have retaliated for Iran’s provocation at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad last week with something more measured, like a strike on the militia leaders who led that attack. Killing Soleimani is a bit like nuking an enemy city somewhere. It certainly does create a distraction, but the consequences are so dangerous and unpredictable that the crisis you’ve created will likely end up exceeding any political risk posed to you by impeachment.

We can’t even conclude that hitting Soleimani is a surefire long-term winner for Trump in consolidating his base. To the GOP circa 2005, sure, anytime you hit a terrorist is a day to celebrate. To the GOP circa 2020, which has a small but influential paleocon component, risking war with Iran is a divisive issue. It’s something that might alienate the principled nationalists who otherwise support Trump. And if any president badly needs a fully unified base in order to win reelection, it’s the guy who’s been limping along at 43-44 percent job approval for virtually his entire presidency. It’d be one thing if Trump was weak within his own party and needed to do something spectacular like liquidate Iran’s archterrorist in order to fire Republicans up, but the truth is the opposite. His support within the party was already practically unanimous. He didn’t need to take any risks to consolidate it, let alone a risk as enormous as eliminating Qassem Soleimani.

Like I said in this morning’s post, I think his reasoning for ordering the strike was to draw the starkest contrast he could with Obama’s foreign policy. The Benghazi fiasco is Exhibit A in the right-wing case that O (and Hillary Clinton) didn’t take the security of American diplomats seriously enough. After pro-Iranian militias descended on the embassy in Baghdad last week, Trump decided to abandon his attempts at rapprochement with Iran and use the incident to demonstrate that when you threaten his diplomats, he’s apt to reduce your national-hero military commander to a fine red mist. Obama showed weakness so Trump would show shocking strength. It was the anti-Benghazi — a term Trump himself used on New Year’s Eve, no doubt while the Soleimani operation was being planned.

Maybe the reporting will say differently but I think that’s what drove this, not distracting the country from a slam-dunk impeachment trial that Trump knows he’s going to win and is actually looking forward to because it’ll finally give him a chance to put on a defense.

I’ll say this much for Debbie, though. Unquestionably, if the partisan roles were reversed, some righties would be making this same charge today.

Two clips for you here, one of Wasserman Schultz and the other of Fox Business host Stuart Varney wondering what the Soleimani strike means for impeachment. Are we really going to remove a president who’s just taken out one of the world’s leading terrorists? Answer: Well … yeah, if he’s guilty of high crimes or misdemeanors. But Trump’s not going to be found guilty of that.

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