Over the weekend, Trump claimed that he canceled a secret meeting with the Taliban that was going to be hosted at Camp David on or just before the anniversary of 9/11, and while that sounds bad, the truth is somehow worse.
Honestly, I descended into making a series of increasingly-inaudible sounds while reading this report from the New York Times as one eye twitched and the other drooped. I may have had a stroke. I'm not sure.
The Times reports that Trump's plan to bring the Taliban to Camp David was actually a last-minute gambit by Trump to take credit for a non-binding, tentative peace agreement that diplomats in the field have been working on without his input.
When a vague agreement of some description was seemingly in reach, the Used Car Salesman genes in Trump's brain activated.
Mr. Trump suggested that he would even invite President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, whose government has not been party to the talks, and get him to sign on.
In the days that followed, Mr. Trump came up with an even more remarkable idea — he would not only bring the Taliban to Washington, but to Camp David, the crown jewel of the American presidency. The leaders of a rugged militant organization deemed terrorists by the United States would be hosted in the mountain getaway used for presidents, prime ministers and kings just three days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that led to the Afghan war.
Thus began an extraordinary few days of ad hoc diplomatic wrangling that upended the talks in a weekend Twitter storm. On display were all of the characteristic traits of the Trump presidency — the yearning ambition for the grand prize, the endless quest to achieve what no other president has achieved, the willingness to defy convention, the volatile mood swings and the tribal infighting.
What would have been one of the biggest headline-grabbing moments of his tenure was put together on the spur of the moment and then canceled on the spur of the moment. The usual National Security Council process was dispensed with; only a small circle of advisers was even clued in.
It appears that Trump's "secret" meeting with the Taliban was only a secret insofar as the plans were not discussed with the National Security Council because members of the council thought it was insane.
Trump doesn't really entertain dissenting opinions, you know, so people who didn't agree with his plans were cut out of the process. That was the "secret."
The New York Times also reports that the Taliban never agreed to make the trip to Camp David, so Trump canceled a meeting that was never officially booked.
Trump did, however, cancel future peace talks with the Taliban, meaning the peace agreement Trump swooped in to take credit for at the last second is probably dead.
On Sunday, after their negotiating team held an emergency internal meeting in Doha, the Taliban said Mr. Trump’s decision to cancel the talks would hurt only the United States. The Afghan government blamed the Taliban, saying that the violence was making the peace process difficult.
American officials stressed that the peace drive was not over and the deal had been neither rejected nor accepted. With Mr. Trump especially, anything can happen.
But for the moment, at least, all sides seemed certain of one thing: Violence will now intensify. The war will go on.
Trump somehow found a way to make the Taliban look reasonable in comparison to himself.
On the surface, Trump claims that he canceled his fake meeting and peace talks because of a bombing that killed an American service member, but that was not the first service member to be killed in action this year while peace talks were ongoing. By all appearances, Trump canceled talks because he didn't get his photo op.