Trump’s motives come into question with execution of Iranian general

Marley Gardner, Staff Writer

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Executing Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani has nothing to do with the safety of the American people. President Donald Trump ordered it  for one reason and one reason only—to get re-elected. 

Throughout Trump’s presidency, a growing number of Democrats and Republicans alike have come to see 2020 as the year to finally get him out of office. While the idea of a new president excites many people all across the world, the idea is a great deal less feasible now because the American people historically re-elect during wartime.

Trump’s approval ratings have stayed nearly stagnant for months, and below the 50% mark, according to FiveThirtyEight. When the conflict brought Trump’s recent impeachment process to a pause, the motives of the severity of his retaliation came into question. Despite impeachment without removal only really being the equivalent of an asterisk in a history textbook, it may impact the spark he once had with supporters for the 2020 election. In a world that feeds off shock value, his action is less shocking than it would be had it come from another commander in chief.

Through nearly 70 years of conflict between the U.S. and Iran, spanning 12 different presidencies, the situation too closely mirrors the action that former President Bill Clinton took two decades ago. It is not a coincidence that during Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, he ordered air strikes on Iraq without congressional support. Trump’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect, at least for his political reign—and gain.

On top of distracting from his impeachment, the threat of a war is just what he needs for re-election.Trump claimed that Soleimani was an immediate threat and recent actions could back that up. On Dec. 27, a pro-Iranian militia attacked an Iraq-U.S. military base with 30 rockets, killing one U.S. interpreter and injuring three soldiers. Trump’s reprisal was five air strikes on Iranian-backed militia, Kata’ib Hezbollah, killing 24, and injuring even more. On Dec. 31, thousands of protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad with molotov cocktails. Less than a month later, a suspected militia attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad wounded one person lon Jan. 27. Despite the Pentagon presenting alternatives, Trump’s retaliation in the Iranian conflict upped the ante: killing a powerful military leader in Iran.

This is precisely the advantage Trump needed. His campaign has made no secret of his separation from the “traditional” Republicans, twisting the party’s image and forming a group of die-hard alt-right supporters. Although throughout his presidency, he’s slowly lost some of his once loyal disciples. A number of fellow Republican politicians have even gone as far to announce their opposition to him in the 2020 primary elections. Trump is betting on a long history of Americans re-electing presidents during wartime.

The trend of re-election during wartime has stretched all throughout U.S. history. From James Madison in the War of 1812, it’s even stood its ground in relatively recent years with Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon in the Vietnam War, as well as George W. Bush during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. With the unspoken tradition being over 200 years old, Trump’s odds, and ego, have skyrocketed. 

Along with distracting from his impeachment and the historical re-election trends, Trump’s killing of Soleimani is even gaining sympathy from some Democrats. Although she also criticized Trump and his radical decision for stirring up tensions, Elizabeth Warren, female front runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination, referred to Soleimani as a “murderer” in a Tweet, suggesting an element of approval. If the Democrats are willing to look past the fact that the U.S. invaded Iran in the first place, and offer Trump a bit of subtle praise, then there’s no doubt it will win him back some supporters on the Republican side and the swing votes.

With primaries quickly approaching, and the general election following just a few months later, Trump’s motive is crystal clear, and his actions have paved his road to re-election.