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Amid our country's currently raging political dysfunction, any week that begins with raised tensions with Iran and ends with an apparent de-escalation in that aggression qualifies as a good one.

As you may have noticed, my long dalliance with pragmatism has fully overrun me recently. I'm just looking these days to get by.

If the preposterous second-place and Russian-endorsed president gets a couple of approval-rating points out of what you could call a good week, then so be it. Bully for the bully.

He'll have plenty of opportunities to give back those points by November.

What matters for the United States right now--until we might heal ourselves--is that facsimiles of function manage to survive somehow among these ultimately pointless shouts of partisan political disdain and derision.

Did President Trump have a legitimate basis for assassinating the Iran general, something specific that qualified as credible information of an imminent threat posed by the general's continued drawing of breath?

I'd guess not, considering that administration officials can't produce such information and that, in asserting an unspecified imminence, they rely on that all-too-convenient refrain that they can't tell us because it is entirely too sensitive a classified matter.

Come now: If this tweeter-in-chief had credible and compelling information about the general's posing an imminent threat, he'd have tweeted it a week ago with all caps and exclamation points, classified or no.

Only at week's end did Trump say without elaboration that Iran was plotting to "blow up our embassy," which, for all we know, might be so. Maybe Iran is always plotting to blow up something of ours.

I understand that many of you don't care whether there was a credible imminent threat, but only that this general was in fact a terrorist and deserved to die.

I don't mean to hedge or straddle, but I can see that position. I was struck by the report in The New York Times, the world's best newspaper, that the CIA director had advised Situation Room attendees that the threat of keeping this general alive was probably greater than the threat of any retaliatory attacks against us for killing him.

That's more reasoning than I had given this president credit for.

Then there is the dust-up over the matter of the president being the constitutional commander-in-chief but Congress the constitutional official declarer of war. It's unclear how that can work in the modern day when you'd hate to have to wait for this Congress' agreement on anything before you could send a drone on a little killing mission.

The United States Congress did not formally declare war in Korea or Vietnam. Presidents relied on congressional "resolutions of authorization of military force," presumably something a little less than declaring war, in the two Iraqi ... well ... wars.

The operative statute is the War Powers Act of 1973, but it couldn't possibly have prevented this drone strike to kill this general.

It calls for notifying Congress within 48 hours of having done such a thing.

So, we're right back where we started: Maybe we had an imminent threat and maybe we didn't, but, in the immortal words of Hillary Clinton, what difference does it possibly make at this point?

Iran fired inconsequentially landing missiles, mainly to show its people it was doing something. Trump seemed to appreciate Iran's hollow gesture, considering that his own gestures, by a great preponderance, also are hollow.

In the end, or what seemed to be this chapter's end, Iran pretty clearly signaled that it didn't want to do anything else but would if it had to. Trump pretty clearly signaled that was welcome news because he didn't want to do anything else either. But both sides stressed, of course, that, by golly, if you messed with them one more time ...

It's too bad that Iran's leaders and Trump can't get together and exchange hollow self-serving gestures across a negotiating table.

Something good might come of it, like the Obama administration's multi-national pact impairing Iran's nuclear capability, which Trump undid because Tom Cotton told him it was wimpy.

Anyway, at week's end the Democratic House was passing a pointless concurrent resolution to tighten the War Powers Act and the Senate was considering a joint resolution that probably couldn't pass, which is why the House went with a toothless concurrent resolution rather than bothering with an attempt at a substantial joint one.

That is 2020 America, where even articles of impeachment hang in the tactician's limbo.

Ideally, we'd have a president who was more stable, transparent and respectful of consensus than this one. And we'd have congressional leaders who, even if of different parties, trusted each other and the president at least enough for a heads-up exchange in the national interest about a major military initiative.

That's going to require voters with better attitudes and candidates with better minds, hearts and souls.

------------v------------

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 01/12/2020

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