Every day, another bombshell drops: President Trump fires FBI head Comey because he knew too much about Trump’s Russian connection. And just two days ago, the news that Trump had asked the director of National Intelligence and the head of the National Security Agency to publicly deny there was any collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Both refused.

Naturally, the media is full of people asking if Donald Trump will be impeached. Probably not, legal scholars tell us, or anyway not yet — at least, not on the basis of what has emerged so far.

But discredited? Trump already is.

So what better way to escape his domestic unraveling than to take off to the Middle East — and learn about its unraveling.

The Saudis, rolling out the red carpet and attracting dozens of other Muslim rulers, certainly showed him the kind of superficial adoration that he thrives on. And he reciprocated, a 180-degree switch from his wildly anti-Muslim denunciations during his presidential campaign.

Indeed, despite his previous negative comments about Saudi Arabia, Trump has much in common with them: they both have lots of wives (though the Saudis have them simultaneously). And for both, running the country is a family enterprise (though the Saudi ruler prefers his son, not his daughter, to have the key role).

And they both spend a lot of money coloring their hair (though the aging Saudi royals prefer black to Trump’s yellow). And they both go in for that grand mixture of opulence and poor taste that unlimited amounts of money can buy (though, at least in the poor-taste department, Trump is the winner). And finally, they don’t drink alcohol (though the Saudis aren’t quite as abstemious as the Quran would like).

Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia pretty much followed the planned script — a mutual show of affection between him and America’s richest Arab friend, highlighted by the promise of a $110-billion arms deal, punctuated by some elaborate dinners with Ivanka and Melania as pretty much the sole women in attendance.

During the campaign, Trump frequently denounced the Iranian nuclear deal that was, objectively, among the key achievements of President Obama’s foreign policy. In Saudi Arabia, and again in Israel, he underlined his anti-Iranian rhetoric to the unsurprising delight of both recipients.

There was surely a bit of unintended irony in Trump’s repeated attacks on Iran. It had just held a democratic election in which the moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani was the run-away winner. Saudi Arabia is far less democratic than just about any other country in the decidedly undemocratic Arab World. It’s also such a patriarchal society that women still aren’t allowed to drive or even travel abroad without their husband’s, or their father’s, permission. It’s amazing that its puritanical, male-controlled government has managed to survive far into the 21st century.



And for all the bombast from Trump about Iranian terrorism, the birthplace of al-Qaeda, and the religious inspiration for ISIS, is Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam that Saudi Arabia practices is considerably more radical, and backward, than Iran’s Shi’ite version of Islam.

But, undeniably, Saudi Arabia is the US’s most important Arab ally in the Middle East. It may have a medieval societal structure, but its survival represents an element of stability in a very unstable region. The overthrow of the Sa’ud regime could be a disaster for the West. If the new arms deal helps keep the regime in power, that’s good news. 

The flip-side of that coin is that a US rapprochement with Rouhani’s relatively moderate Iran, building on Obama’s nuclear deal, could provide additional stability in the area. But Trump will have none of it.

Trump has publicly boasted of his ability to solve the Palestinian problem, but his pledge of allegiance to Israel upon his arrival there clearly contradicts that particular promise: “I stand in awe of the accomplishments of the Jewish people and I make this promise to you: my administration will always stand with Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s pronouncement that Israel supports a Palestinian state so long as its “security remains in Israel’s hands’’ — a total non-starter for the Palestinians — underlined just how impossible a two-state solution is. And, of course, the half million or so Israeli settlers spread across the West Bank make it practically, as well as politically and philosophically, an impossibility.

Trump’s visit virtually coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel took over the West Bank. There’s no reason to believe things will be much different in Palestine another half century down the road.

As platitude followed platitude from Riyadh to Jerusalem, the Israeli visit emerged as the most interesting when Trump went off-script to deny that he ever “mentioned the word or name Israel” in the Oval Office during his meeting with the Russian foreign minister. No one had accused him of that. What he had been correctly accused of was revealing top-secret information from a non-American source to the Russians.

And what the un-clued-in President Trump was doing a week later, in denying that he mentioned Israel when he met with Russians, was unwittingly confirming that indeed Israel had been the source of the intelligence he had revealed to our principal antagonist.

Trump seemed exhausted during much of his Middle East pilgrimage. But the scandals and revelations that are continuing to emerge back home will be considerably more exhausting — both for our president as well as for our country.