CNN's Anderson Cooper: Taliban Meeting Shows "Pattern" Of Trump Meeting With Enemies Only In Pursuit Of Headlines

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CNN's Anderson Cooper points out that President Trump's canceling of a meeting with Taliban leaders after inviting them to the US shows a pattern in the President's behavior.

Transcript via CNN:





e begin with the president's invitation, now revoked, to the Taliban. Had it come to pass, Taliban representatives would right now be at Camp David as guests of the president, brought here to finalize a deal for pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. They'd be staying at the very same place as Congresswoman Liz Cheney pointed out today that her father, the vice president, President Bush and other top officials gathered just days after New York and Washington had been attacked on 9/11 to plan a response.

At least that was the idea, which the president revealed in a tweet on Saturday, in which he also rescinded the invitation, citing the suicide attack on Thursday that killed an American soldier.

Now, as you might imagine, the tweet raised a number of questions and criticisms. Why would the president invite the Taliban to America days before the anniversary of 9/11? And why to Camp David of all places? Why would he have the president of Afghanistan come as well when the Taliban has refused to deal directly with the Afghan government and has refused to stop attacks against that government? And why reveal anything at all and potentially jeopardize future talks unless, as several critics have said, it was simply a way for the president to show what an impressive secret this all was.

He talked about it this afternoon on his way to a political rally in North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a meeting scheduled. It was my idea and it was my idea to terminate it. I didn't even -- I didn't discuss it with anybody else. When I heard very simply that they killed one of our soldiers and 12 other innocent people, I said, there's no way I'm meeting on that basis. There's no way I'm meeting. They did a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the soldier was Sergeant First Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz from Puerto Rico. The president, however, did not say that this particular killing, as sickening as it is, scuttled the talks. In all, 16 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan this year and this killing was the fourth in the last several weeks. In fact, more than 2,400 American service members have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

The president didn't mention that, nor did he mention that he once opposed talking to the Taliban at all. And, of course, there's a tweet back from January of 2012. While Barack Obama is slashing the military, he's also negotiating with our sworn enemy, the Taliban, who facilitated 9/11.

There are other tweets and sound bites along those lines, as well. But showing what might be generously called his self-inconsistency over the years is almost too easy -- inconsistency about negotiations, about revealing your negotiating position in advance, about becoming sentimental about your negotiating partner, strategic surprise, and more.

Instead, consider for a minute what this episode shows about the opposite. What it says about how consistent the president is in other ways. The reporting suggests he wanted the Camp David talks to be some kind of grand gesture, which is certainly what he sought from Kim Jong-un, and which critics say he debased himself to get.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's got a great personality. He's a, you know, funny guy. He's a very smart guy. He's a great negotiator. He loves his people.

He wrote me beautiful letters. And they're great letters. We fell in love.

A lot of progress has been made. A lot of friendships have been made. And this has been, in particular, a great friendship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, keeping 'em honest, not only has progress not been made, each week seems to bring another North Korean missile test, including, reportedly, two more today. Today. Which, as you know, the president routinely dismisses, because as also as you know, in addition to accepting love letters without real progress, he is consistent as well in gravitating towards thugs and adversaries over democratically elected leaders and allies.

Remember this, of course, from Helsinki.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and they said, they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, as you know, this was not a one-off. The president has been as consistent with Vladimir Putin as he's been lately with Kim Jong-un, at least since the first love letter arrived. Just as he's consistently sided with Saudi Arabia's crowned prince, Mohammad bin Salman, who reputedly ordered the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi embassy.

[20:05:02]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They deny it. They deny it every way you can imagine. In the not-too-distant future, I think we'll know an answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The answer appears to be that murdering and sawing up an American resident is OK and so is imprisoning and all but killing Otto Warmbier as the North Koreans did, and so apparently is annexing Crimea as Vladimir Putin did.

The question tonight, was the president's approach to the Taliban part of that kind of pattern, that same pattern, or was he preparing to embrace an adversary, bitter adversary, and pursue either some kind of big headline as in the case of North Korea or as a way to simply get out of America's longest war without even any real peace agreement left behind.

If that pattern holds, perhaps, or as the president himself likes to say, we'll see what happens.

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