Friday, April 28, 2017

Why did senators go to the White House for a briefing on North Korea?

Why did nearly 100 senators get on a bus Wednesday afternoon to ride over to the White House for a briefing on North Korea, instead of having national security leaders come to Capitol Hill?

Here's why.  To make Donald Trump look like a strong Commander-in-Chief, ready to take on North Korea.   See, the 100 day mark is upon us, and Trump hasn't got much to show for it.   So let's put on a show.   Sen. Bernie Sanders, for one, did not go, telling Chris Hayes he "didn't want to be part of a photo-op for the White House's roadshow."

Don't get me wrong.  North Korea's nuclear ambitions make for a dangerous and urgent world crisis, especially as fueled by Trump's provocations.  So it should be taken very seriously.  But let's have true gravitas . . . not fake drama.

This trek, orchestrated by the White House, was an amateurish show of power on the part of Trump.  Capitol Hill is far better equipped to hold a large meeting with top security than this White House meeting room, which required hastily cobbled-together security protection.

They needn't have bothered.  One senator said he heard nothing new, nothing that couldn't be printed on the front page of the morning paper.  Others were "underwhelmed" and baffled by what purpose was served.  All agreed that it is good to have dialogue with the national security team.   But there was no announcement of a new threat or new strategy.   In fact, a joint statement from the security chiefs afterward simply stated that the plan is to continue pressuring North Korea "by tightening economic sanctions  and pursuing diplomatic measures."

So why all the drama?   Why not simply have the national security chiefs go to Capitol Hill for the briefing?    That's the key:   There would be no drama.  It would lack the image-enhancing optics of having this august body answer a summons by the Commander-in-Chief to a meeting -- wait for it -- in the Eisenhower Theater of the White House.    Perhaps Trump's image-makers were desperate for a little borrowed glory from a genuine war hero.

The true spirit of President Eisenhower, however, is better captured by his valedictory warning against the growing "military-industrial complex," as well as this quote:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."    Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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