Earlier this week, the Washington Post published a story showing the Republican Party in a state of alarm as it looks ahead toward the 2018 midterm elections. The piece was a run-of-the-mill electoral analysis, but one deeply troubling paragraph stood out when reporters revealed that Trump privately reassured his advisers about the upcoming elections. Trump reportedly told his team that the midterms might not go so poorly because Republicans under George W. Bush had fared well in the 2002 midterms after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
This, of course, raises the frightening question of whether the President is secretly hoping for a foreign terrorist attack to boost his party’s numbers prior to the 2018 midterms.
Trump has shown a propensity toward capitalizing on external threats. He jumps at the opportunity to denounce foreign terror attacks, especially when they are committed in the name of Islam, but is often more tentative and quiet when it comes to attacks committed by domestic terrorists.
Plus, he has repeatedly lobbed childish provocations at North Korea, despite the tenuous nature of the diplomatic situation, leading Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to estimate the likelihood of Trump launching a nuclear strike on North Korea to be around 30 percent.
Trump’s devil-may-care approach to democratic norms, including keeping ties to his business interests, regularly harassing the free press, and firing his FBI director for not being loyal also paint the picture of an unpredictable leader.
And while it seems far-fetched that the leader of the US would wish an external threat on his own people, Naomi Klein makes clear in her book Shock Doctrine that outside threats can become real opportunities for powerholders like Trump.
Klein warns, “We need to focus on what [the Trump] administration will do when it has a major external shock to exploit. Maybe it will be an economic crash like 2008, maybe a natural disaster like Sandy, or maybe it will be a horrific terrorist event like Manchester or Paris in 2015. Any one such crisis could redraw the political map overnight. And it could give Trump and his crew free rein to ram through their most extreme ideas.”
As dim-witted as we know Trump to be, we must acknowledge that he may be just smart and conniving enough to take advantage of a bad situation.