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Killing ISIS leader a victory for Trump, but won’t thwart political reckoning

10 / 27 / 2019

I turned on the news this morning just as the president was announcing the killing of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, a principal of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Trump took an appropriately serious tone and made fewer errors than in past national addresses. While he gave out too much operational detail and did the usual self-congratulatory thing, his announcement will have his supporters busting. Plenty of non-supporters will also give his administration credit.

When presidents achieve military or anti-terrorism successes, they take a bow — and campaign on it if they’re running for reelection. It’s part of the deal (see Obama and Biden). It’s not done in the crassly boastful fashion that Trump previewed today, but they all do it. And he gets to do it, too. 

That said, this one important kill of the top ISIS leader will not have any impact on the dozens of crimes and abuses of power this president has committed — for actions are facts.

Much of the American population is polarized to a breathtaking degree in 2019. We were on our way here prior to 2016, and then Trump put the condition on steroids and kept filling the prescription. 

But I hold out hope that many folks will still try to make an effort to separate facts and judge all of them on the merits. 

We do see sometimes that a bit of that nuance is still left. A real-time example is seeing recent polls that indicate there’s a difference between the 45% who are only in favor of the impeachment being an inquiry at this juncture — and the 50% who’ve already decided that he should be convicted and removed from office by the Senate.  

The nuance lies in the difference between people who want to know more and those who’ve made a full decision.  

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” 

Not that I’m ascribing “first-rate intelligence” to the American people as a whole at any time in our history. 

But it shouldn’t require high intelligence to hold two opposing ideas at the same time; Just calmness and an effort toward objectivity. 

President Trump had something to do with getting Bagdahdi, as he is president and commander-in-chief. Same as when Obama gave the order and the military bravely succeeded in killing Osama bin-Laden. 

At the same time, this president has broken multiple laws in the U.S. Criminal Code and violated numerous precepts in the U.S. Constitution. 

He has not been convicted of any of this, either in a court of law (this is not possible while he’s president) or by Congress (this is pending). 

It is a very good thing that this murderous terrorist was killed.

But it is also true that this lawless American president must face the full potential consequences for his alleged crimes and abuses. 

One does not obviate the other. And ultimately, through the mechanism of our elected representatives and their appointees, the American people’s collective preference as to consequences for the president’s actions will rule the day.

There are no get-out-of-jail-free cards. Or even hop-out-of-hot-water. The reckoning is coming.