In an apparent election-year stunt, the Trump administration releases mock controversial news.
Rabat – The Trump administration has released information about a letter sent by Trump to Syrian President Bashar al Assad in a transparent election year stunt. Mike Pompeo talked about Trump’s valiant efforts to retrieve a US citizen from Syria. Pompeo’s statement does not bear repeating however, as it appears to be an empty election-year stunt, in which Trump is using his secretary of state as a campaign prop.
Pompeo told the press that Trump had asked Assad for “direct communication” with the intention of finding missing US photojournalist Austin Tice. Pompeo claimed Trump tried to open this unorthodox diplomatic channel by sending a personal letter to Assad in March. On August 14, the eighth anniversary of the disappearance of Austin Tice, Trump and Pompeo used the opportunity for what appears to be an election year stunt.
A smoothly written statement from Trump quickly followed Pompeo’s remarks, filled with platitudes about his own efforts to “bring home” citizens abroad that are in need. Campaign rhetoric like “There is no higher priority in my Administration than the recovery and return of Americans missing abroad” soon featured as genuine geopolitical news by established news outlets.
Evidence of the empty nature of Pompeo’s tale of Trumpian heroism is easy to find. The timeline of the events alone reveals that if the US president did indeed send the letter, it was never to be anything but a campaign prop.
According to Pompeo, Trump’s letter went to Assad in March. This occurred three months after the US decided on a set of grueling sanctions to crush the Syrian economy, which would come into effect in June. Assad was evidently aware of the impending devastation for his economy. He engaged in an embarrassingly public dispute with his cousin, Rami Makhlouf, to hurriedly “centralize” the regime’s many shadowy sources of revenue before sanctions took effect.
Observers know well Trump’s confidence in his own abilities to close a difficult deal. However, in this situation, he likely knew this letter was not going to bring anybody home.
Prior to the claim about communications with Assad, Trump’s 2020 re-election bid was already seeing ever more blatant use of the levers of state in favor of his campaign. On August 8, he appeared to use executive orders to give Americans financial aid that his own party had manipulated and blocked in the legislative branch. Under the surface, however, his assistance to struggling Americans proved impossible for most states to implement, and will expire quickly if it does take effect.
Congressionally-approved financial support and essential protections against evictions and foreclosures for citizens have expired. Meanwhile, only Trump’s executive orders, which many economists point to as damaging in the long-term, have been presented as a remedy.
Trump, on his Twitter account, was the first to release news of the August 13 normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel. The hasty nature of the negotiations, likely influenced by Trump’s campaign priorities, came to light the following day. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared to already renege on a key part of the agreement.
The state department, and Mike Pompeo, appears to now have used the solemn occasion that marked the disappearance of a journalist as a campaign event filled with empty rhetoric. While Americans expect political maneuvering during an election year, using the suffering of Austin Tice’s family as a backdrop for apparent political campaigning is another low point in the 2020 US presidential election.