Americans learned over the weekend that serial rapist, murderer, and ISIS terrorist chieftain Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi went up in a blaze of vainglory as he fled in fear from American special operations forces and detonated a suicide vest, blowing up himself and three children.
Reactions split along predictable lines. One side praised President Trump, U.S. military and intelligence operatives, and allies who assisted in the mission. They declared the world safer with Baghdadi dead.
The other side, however, lost its collective, freaking mind.
President Trump had hinted at “something very big” in a Saturday night tweet, setting off speculation that it had to do with Baghdadi. In his Sunday morning announcement to the nation, Trump explained what happened, who was involved, who was notified, and his expectations moving forward. He identified by name the Americans killed by Baghdadi and his men. He spoke for eight-and-a-half minutes and then answered questions from the press for another 40. He was accessible, transparent, and candid.
He was particularly clear about his reasons for authorizing the mission, and they were entirely consistent with what he has said and published in the past. With characteristic frankness and purpose, he described the manner of Baghdadi’s death:
And what they’ve done with the Internet, through recruiting and everything—and that’s why he died like a dog, he died like a coward. He was whimpering, screaming, and crying. And, frankly, I think it’s something that should be brought out so that his followers and all of these young kids that want to leave various countries, including the United States, they should see how he died. He didn’t die a hero. He died a coward—crying, whimpering, screaming, and bringing three kids with him to die a certain death.
In the first 12 hours following the president’s announcement, Democrats and the media attempted to hijack the good news and smear him. B-movie plotlines flew through America’s newsrooms and social media accounts.
The press accused the president of staging the Situation Room photo; giving too many details thus putting lives and diplomatic relations in danger; relishing in the deaths of Baghdadi and the children; exaggerating; disrespecting Democratic leadership, the Kurds, dogs, and Islamic burial customs; acting without moral or legal authority to take control of the oil; and engaging in “locker room talk” about Baghdadi’s remaining body parts coming back to the States.
Grabbing scraps from their dog-eared playbook, they implied Trump is an idiot, a liar, heartless, disrespectful, and unpatriotic.
The New York Times opined that Baghdadi’s death happened in spite of rather than because of President Trump.
Former presidential photographer Pete Souza tweeted misinformation about the timing of events, leading to the theory that the Situation Room photo with Trump and others was staged—a lie that spread like a California wildfire on social media and was barely contained once confronted by the facts.
A CNN correspondent equated Trump’s language about the mission with that of ISIS gloating over its victims.
And somehow that wasn’t enough. In a bizarre series of articles and tweets, we learned certain media have a soft spot for ole’ Baghdadi as something of a “transformation” success story, mixing evil deeds with the not so subtle “you-can’t-help-but-be-impressed” motif.
The most blatant example came from the Washington Post. In less than 36 hours, the Post published three different headlines for the same obituary about Baghdadi. The second of three headlines is what got people’s attention on Sunday. It read:
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48
If only to be called an “austere religious scholar” instead of “psychotic fanatic who tortured and killed people for a living”! You can’t buy that kind of press.
In response to swift and angry backlash, the Post’s vice president for communications Kristine Coratti Kelly tweeted, “Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.” But why was it changed from its original headline in the first place? As usual, no real apology or explanation was forthcoming.
Twitter karma came in the form of the mocking hashtag #WaPoDeathNotices—a litany of neutral to glowing send-offs to real and fictional villains from “unorthodox faith leader” (Satan) to “lung capacity legend & bacon enthusiast” (The Big Bad Wolf).
Media over the weekend once again showed their relentless attempt to isolate Trump, portraying him as a standalone blip in the universe without presidential precedent. He is a caricature, a personified stream of consciousness—contradictory, imbalanced, responding only to flights of fancy and base urges, rather than thoughtful deliberation and long-held, commonsensical convictions.
But maybe it’s better to think of him more as the “Butterfly Effect” president—not exactly a chest pounding image, but apt nonetheless. It is the idea that a minute change in a complex system can have a significant impact.
To his supporters, Trump is that welcome change, arriving at a distinct moment in history and in the midst of a complex and deep brokenness in us individually and as a people and in our system of government. Simple expressions of patriotism, once common and taken for granted, are now mighty acts of courage.
Trump displays this kind of courage so often, if not every single day, and thus disrupts the flow of invective aimed at our national soul, heart, and mind. The outcome is not guaranteed, but we believe Trump has the potential to restore an America First ethos. Save America, save Western Civilization.
For his critics, going back in time to alter the course of history is not (yet) possible, so the next best thing is nullifying the 2016 election with a constant barrage of hyperbolic accusations and, most recently, a manufactured House impeachment “inquiry.” Defeating Trump through the democratic process is far too quaint and too risky. As Obama campaign manager David Plouffe put it in a June 13, 2016 tweet (since deleted): “It is not enough to simply beat Trump. He must be destroyed thoroughly. His kind must not rise again.”
Trump is simply doing what he promised, and whether you view that as a virtue or a vice, it’s two sides of the same coin.