The Combination of Malevolence and Incompetence

When Benjamin Wittes wrote about Trump’s travel ban, he called it “Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence.” I’m not ready to suggest that the incompetence we’ve seen from this administration tempers their malevolence, but the two words do a good job of capturing much of what we’ve seen in the last few days.

To begin with, there is the botched raid in Yemen over the weekend.

U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens was killed in the raid on a branch of al Qaeda, also known as AQAP, in al Bayda province, which the Pentagon said also killed 14 militants. However, medics at the scene said about 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed.

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.

As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.

There was also the rollback of an attempt to dismiss all the the inspector generals.

The email shows that the effort to replace the inspectors was not limited to a handful of agencies, but that it was intended to take aim at inspectors general across government departments…

However, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that the White House had told him the phone calls to inspectors general were a “mistake” and the work of a “junior person.” The inspectors general were later told to disregard the initial calls.

It turns out that the “junior person” was actually Justin Clark, who was deputy national political director of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and who has been named deputy assistant to the president and the White House director of intergovernmental affairs.

Yesterday we learned about the disastrous telephone call between Trump and the prime minister of one of our closest allies – Australia.

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Finally, Trump continues his efforts to alienate and offend the country on our southern border.

President Donald Trump threatened in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them…

The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump’s determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt given to AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

Only an uninformed idiot whose only skill is trying to bully other people would suggest that Mexico’s military is scared. The death toll related to the “war on drugs” in that country has been staggering – aided, in part, by things like Bush’s “Merida Initiative.” I’d be willing to bet that Trump is completely ignorant of those facts.

Electing a bully to be president who is this uninformed and incompetent is one thing. But from all indications it looks like Trump has surrounded himself with people who have nefarious motives, are equally uninformed, and have a stunning lack of experience. This will not end well.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .