Donald Trump’s Defense? Obama Is to Blame for Russia, Syria, Michael Flynn and Every Other Disgrace

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People gather to protest the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump in Paris, France, July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Never in American political history has there been a figure as thoroughly blameless as Donald J. Trump. Nothing is ever his fault. In all matters, he is blameless. Others may err, but he remains without blemish in his gilded penthouse

Speaking in Paris on Thursday, the president made clear who was to blame for his son Donald Jr.’s troubling meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya: Loretta E. Lynch, who was President Barack Obama’s attorney general.

“Somebody said that her visas or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch, now maybe that’s wrong. I just heard that a little while ago. But, was a little surprised to hear that, she was here because of Lynch," Trump said.

But of course. How wrong we all were, to think that the 39-year-old Trump Jr.was responsible for his own actions, or that Trump Sr. was responsible for everything that went on in his political campaign.

I’d go even further: it was Obama who picked Lynch as his attorney general, which makes this whole fiasco over Trump’s less-than-brilliant son his fault. Mr. Obama, why did you force the Trump campaign into colluding with Russia? Have you no decency, sir?

Blaming may be Trump’s most finely-honed skill. Someone else is always wrecking our country: undocumented immigrants from Latin America, refugees from Syria, liberal Democrats, the Japanese, the Chinese, the French with their silly theories about melting ice caps. And only Trump can fix it. Unless, of course, those opposing forces somehow confound him. Which, if they do, he will let you know very clearly.

Some may have thought that in assuming the office of the presidency, Trump would also assume the responsibilities that come with being the most powerful man on Earth. No such luck, for while the power of the presidency is great, the man who now has the presidency is small.

In his inauguration address, Trump blamed the nation’s shortcomings on a “small group in our nation’s Capital” that, in his dark vision, “has reaped the rewards of government.” Behind him stood three former presidents and a plethora of congressional leaders, listening to the castigations of a reality television star who hadn’t performed a minute of public service.

Trump quickly discovered how difficult it is to govern, but instead of mastering those difficulties, he has resorted to blaming others for his failures. Trump’s managerial style is chaotic, but Chief of Staff Reince R. Priebus is the one at fault for the persistent disorder in the West Wing. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the Russia investigation worse by recusing himself. The Deep State is trying to undermine him, as are liberal media outlets. That the man persists in the face of such adversity is a testament to his gold-plated will.

No one gets more blame than the Democrats, Obama in particular.  And, yes, all presidents blame their predecessors. But they don’t do it so persistently, and with so little class.

After being forced to fire National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn in February for ties to Russia, he blamed Obama for the whole imbroglio, since Flynn had also once served in the Obama administration. “Just remember, he was approved by the Obama administration at the highest level,” Trump told Fox News two months later, neglecting the fact that Obama had explicitly warned him, after the election, about hiring Flynn. “And when they say we didn’t vet, well, Obama I guess didn’t vet, because he was approved at the highest level of security by the Obama administration.”

When the Syrian regime gassed its own citizens in April, Trump again went after Obama: “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.” True, the Obama administration did too little on Syria. But the Obama administration is over. Does the Trump administration have any ideas other than It was the other guy?

Last month, American college student Otto Warmbier died after being returned from imprisonment in North Korea. Quickly dispensing with shows of grief, Trump blamed Obama: “It's a total disgrace what happened to Otto. It should never, ever be allowed to happen. And frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the results would have been a lot different.” The obvious implication was that Obama hadn’t done enough to bring Warmbier home, leaving Trump to deal with the tragic fallout. Trump Jr. reinforced that point in a tweet.

The Republicans have had eight years to come up with their own answer to the Affordable Care Act. They have both chambers of Congress, not to mention a president who promised he'd scrap the healthcare law and introduce a much better one. So why has the Republican effort to repeal and replace the ACA been so frustrating and, thus far, fruitless? 

You get one guess.

“If we went and got the single greatest health care plan in the history of the world, we would not get one Democrat vote, because they’re obstructionists,” Trump said last month in Iowa. He repeated the complaint in a tweet: "If we had even a little Democrat support, just a little, like a couple of votes, you’d have everything." But hadn't he promised Americans that he'd be a dealmaker nonpareil? Or does the art of the deal involve incessant complaining? 

Amazingly, even Russia’s interference in the presidential election was Obama’s fault. Last month, Trump tweeted, “the Obama administration knew far in advance of November 8 about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. Why?"

Well, in good part because Trump had already said the elections were “rigged,” with goonish adviser Roger Stone predicting a potential “bloodbath” after a Hillary Clinton victory. The milieu of suspicion fostered by the Trump campaign made it impossible for Obama to speak about Russian meddling without falling prey to scurrilous accusations of meddling on Clinton’s behalf.

The incessant desire to blame is rooted in Trump’s fragile psychology, which is itself rooted in a soil rich with illusion. The son of a wealthy real estate developer, Trump has nevertheless always entertained the fiction that he was a largely self-made billionaire, even though his career is in fact littered with failure, deception, unpaid debts, unmet obligations and the shameless swindling of the very Americans he says he’s fighting for.

Such fictions were easy enough to maintain on The Apprentice, but less so as the occupant of the most scrutinized political office in the world. No amount of fawning Fox News coverage can disguise the fact that he has less managerial ability than a junior Wendy’s employee, no ability whatsoever to persuade legislators of either party, virtually no understanding of policy foreign or domestic and a pathological obsession with his own image.

And as that image crumbles, Trump is desperately and unconvincingly making the case that his presidency is being sabotaged by forces beyond his control, ghosts of the past come back to haunt him. Does he think that Americans are that stupid? Obama’s gone, as are Loretta and Hillary. It’s all on you now, Donnie.