By David Leonhardt, Opinion Columnist
“This is where having credibility — and having a president who didn’t lie about everything — would be really, really helpful,” Samantha Power, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, wrote recently.
A president with credibility would be better able to persuade foreign governments to help protect American diplomats and military members who are now at risk.
A president with credibility would be more likely to beat Iran in the global court of public opinion.
A president with credibility would be able to set clear red lines that might influence Iran’s behavior in coming weeks.
But President Trump has no credibility. His political rise was built on a lie (about Barack Obama’s birthplace). He has told thousands of untruths since becoming president. He appears to be lying again — about why he ordered the assassination of Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most significant military leader.
Over the weekend, Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat, tweeted the following: “The moment we all feared is likely upon us.” Murphy was referring to Trump’s rash behavior. But Murphy just as easily could have been referring to Trump’s credibility. The United States has entered a serious national security conflict, and the whole world knows our president is a habitual liar.
Trump and his aides have said he ordered Suleimani’s killing to prevent an upcoming attack on Americans. But that explanation doesn’t make much sense on its face: How would the killing of a general stop an attack? Plus, as Slate’s Joshua Keating writes: “Subsequent reporting suggests there was no ticking bomb. The Soleimani strike was first raised not as a preventive measure, but as a response to an attack on a U.S. facility in Iraq that killed an American contractor a week earlier.”
Vanity Fair’s Abigail Tracy writes that though “the Washington defense and diplomatic communities are not exactly mourning the death of Qassim Suleimani, a powerful Iranian commander … there has been such an erosion in confidence, domestically and abroad, in not only what the Trump administration says but in its ability to construct a lucid foreign policy.”
“When someone has proven over and over again that they are not trustworthy, you can, and in important situations should, stop trusting them,” Vox’s Matt Yglesias writes. Yglesias adds: “Unfortunately, in the escalating crisis with Iran, many people [in the media] seem to have forgotten this basic principle.”
Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone, on Vice President Mike Pence’s claim that Suleimani supported the 9/11 hijackers: “The administration has provided no evidence that Suleimani personally assisted the transit of future 9/11 hijackers. And the formal investigation into the 9/11 attacks absolves Iran of fore-knowledge and operational involvement in the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.”