No one but Trump and those he associates with can better manage the combination of the horrific with the absurd. Which brings us to the latest in the Jamal Khashoggi story. Most you can see everywhere in the news. But there is one key point I want to note.
First, unlike with Russia, President Trump does not appear to be getting much push back about his approach from within his administration. I base this both on observation and reports from well sourced journalists. This makes sense as far as it goes because isolating and even overthrowing the government of Iran is a central pillar of administration foreign policy. You cannot isolate both Iran and Saudi Arabia at the same time. This is a simple fact.
But there is clearly something beyond that. The first Bush administration, a quintessentially Realist American government, issued condemnations of the Tiananmen Square massacre but quickly sent signals that it did not plan any change in the relations between the two countries. In other words, there are ways that White Houses who care more about geopolitics than human rights can deal with situations like these, even in the face of great domestic pressure, as existed in 1989.
That’s not what is happening here. What we’re seeing is the same pattern that we see in the case of Russia, absurd cover stories, deflection, counter-accusations. It’s all the same. The causes are likely also the same – some mix of financial inducement and threat.