Picking a day, a week or an event when Donald Trump’s White House may have reached its nadir is impossible. There have been so many of those moments and there will inevitably be many more.
Canadians have understandably been deeply concerned by the Trump presidency’s abortive plan to prevent 3M from sending three million high-quality N95 face masks to Ontario from its plant in China.
Far worse than that, in the raw geopolitical scheme, has been a fiasco that has just played out over six days in Washington and the western Pacific. It culminated in a letter of resignation from Thomas Modly, the acting secretary of the navy, after he called the highly-decorated captain of a frontline U.S. aircraft carrier “stupid” and “naive” some three days after sacking him.
The debacle with Modly, and the firing Tuesday by President Trump of the inspector general responsible for overseeing the $2-trillion COVID-19 economic rescue package, underscored the dysfunction of the Trump presidency amid growing frictions between the political and uniformed leadership in Washington.
What this portends for global security and the defence of U.S. and western interests everywhere is clearly not good.
China, which is seeking to push the U.S. Navy back beyond Taiwan and the Philippines, and Russia, which wants to keep the U.S. Navy surface fleet out of the Arctic, must have been amused at seeing Washington score what soccer commentators call “an own goal.”
This ugly sideshow has exploded at a time when the laser focus of Trump’s presidency should be on the grave public health crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is ravaging New York City and threatening to do the same to other major U.S. cities such as Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles.
The first scene in this bizarre six-day, multi-act drama involving Modly and Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt began last Thursday, when the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that the highly-decorated fighter pilot and nuclear propulsion expert had sent a withering email to the navy brass.
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In that note, Crozier had urgently sought permission to offload almost all of the 5,500 sailors on his ship in the U.S. territory of Guam, which lies to the southeast of Japan, and put most them in quarantine after more than 100 of the crew, the captain included, had become infected with the coronavirus.
Modly responded to the email by sacking Crozier over the objections of the senior navy brass who wanted investigators to conduct an inquiry into the leak.
There always seems to be many episodes in Trump’s reality TV-like gong show of a presidency. The second in this tawdry saga came after the Roosevelt’s crew gave Crozier an affectionate goodbye as he walked down the gangplank from their ship for the last time.