For Donald Trump, this is what losing looks like

For a minute there, the fatalists almost had everyone else convinced that Donald Trump’s bizarre decision to assassinate an Iranian leader somehow meant that Trump was now magically winning. The fatalists always look for an excuse to assure us that Trump will indeed win unless we all cower in fear and yell “Trump is going to win no matter what.” Perhaps these types aren’t familiar with the concept of a self fulfilling prophecy.

In any case, it’s already becoming clear that Donald Trump is very much not winning this Iran mess. He thought he’d be praised by all sides for taking out Qasem Soleimani, and Iran would be too afraid to retaliate, and Trump would finally see the boost in his non-competitive reelection numbers that he’s been trying and failing to score for three years. Instead most folks are condemning the reckless and unilateral manner in which he handled this, and they’re making clear that they’ll blame Trump if this ends up in a war.

Even Trump understands by now that he’s losing his Iran gambit, and that he’s in danger of losing even bigger. It’s why he’s now resorting to writing checks he knows he can’t cash, by making absurdly specific threats about the military attack he’ll launch on Iran if this keeps escalating (hint: you can’t launch a clandestine attack if you tell your enemy how many sites you’re going to hit, the timing of how you’ll hit them, and the nature of the sites you’re targeting). Also, Trump is now taking serious heat for threatening to bomb Iranian cultural sites, which would be a war crime and essentially mass murder. So now he’s going to have even less leverage.

All that Donald Trump had to do was to respond to the attack on the U.S. Embassy with a proportional response, and move on. Instead he tried to get cute by taking out Soleimani and then hoping it would all just work out for him. Now the Iranian government – which clearly wants Trump gone so it can reestablish its prior peace deal with the United States – can use this debacle to try to further weaken his dying presidency. Trump, having already lost his Iran gambit, is now reduced to hoping the negative impact to his 2020 chances ends up being minimal.

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