Adel al-Jubeir, the Washington playboy cum Saudi foreign minister, on Sunday finally delivered the phrase we’ve all been expecting: They were rogue operators.
“This was an operation that was a rogue operation,” he told Fox News’s Bret Baier of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Virginia-based contributor to The Post.
Why would the Saudis use the Rogue Operator excuse (after first suggesting Khashoggi was killed in a brawl)? It’s preposterous to think that 15 agents from the authoritarian country flew to Turkey purely on a lark and dismembered a dissident with a bone saw in the Saudi consulate.
Well, maybe because President Trump, eager to let the crown prince and king off the hook, publicly invited such an explanation days earlier. “It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,” he said, after King Salman tested the excuse on Trump by telephone.
Calling the killers rogues diminishes the monstrosity by making the perpetrators sound like rascals out for adventure and fun. Even Sarah Palin goes rogue! A “rogue operator” sounds as harmless as the 1980s pop song:
Coast to coast, LA to Chicago, western male
Across the north and south, to Key Largo, love for sale
Smooth operator, smooth operator
The rogue-operator explanation must have special appeal to Trump because he is so familiar with rogues. The election hacking was done not by Russia but by a 400-pound rogue sitting on his bed. The special prosecutor’s office isn’t a legitimate arm of law enforcement but 13 angry Democrats on a rogue witch hunt.
Trump’s pre-midterms campaign speeches warn of rogues around every corner: “There are a lot of rigged things going on,” he announced. Among them: Democrats are financing the caravan of migrants from Honduras. “The deep state” within the Justice Department refuses to investigate Hillary Clinton and Benghazi. More deep staters at the State Department are hiding Clinton’s deleted emails. The sexual-assault allegations of Christine Blasey Ford were a “con job” plotted by Democrats (who also artificially inflated hurricane deaths in Puerto Rico). And “Democrats have become the party of crime.” Protesters are paid by George Soros.
Trump allies in Congress, meanwhile, have started a “whispering campaign” against Khashoggi to portray him as a Muslim Brotherhood figure and Osama bin Laden acolyte, The Post reports. So now the murder victim is a rogue, too?
His eyes are like angels but his heart is cold
No need to ask
He’s a rogue operator
Rogue operator, rogue operator
Trump occasionally even uses the rogue-operator explanation to jettison close aides if they put him in jeopardy, especially those caught up in the Robert Mueller probe: Paul Manafort (“worked for me for a very short period of time”), Michael Cohen (did “a tiny, tiny fraction” of Trump’s legal work) and George Papadopoulos (“low-level volunteer”).
Conversely, Trump has great faith in other, more useful rogues. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who pleaded guilty to assault for body slamming a journalist, earned praise from Trump at a rally last week for the assault. Vladimir Putin “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial” of election meddling. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is “very honorable” as well as “honest.” And now Trump, though acknowledging flaws in the Saudi explanation, says he “would love if” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman isn’t implicated in the Khashoggi killing.
Some of Trump’s best friends are rogues. His aides are liable to go rogue at any moment. And his political opponents, rogues all, are flagrantly breaking all laws to thwart him. How can it be that one man’s life is such a rogues’ gallery?
The president told the Associated Press last week why he’s qualified to doubt climate science: “My uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years, Dr. John Trump. And I didn’t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for science.”
Well, my grandfather was born on a farm. And I didn’t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for bull. I therefore am academically qualified to pronounce Trump the greatest rogue of all.
Last week, while Trump was helping the Saudis excuse the Khashoggi killing and accusing his critics and political opponents of every manner of illegality and conspiracy theories, Putin delivered a rather different message: a speech hailing the fading of U.S. economic and military power.
“Thank God, this situation of a unipolar world, of a monopoly, is coming to an end,” Putin said. “It’s practically already over.”
Trump’s rogue friend may be correct. While Trump trashes the international frameworks and alliances that made the United States powerful, and spreads doubts about American democracy being overrun by deceit and corruption, our enemies are exulting.
The Trump presidency is a rogue operation.