Was This President Trump's Ballsiest Play Ever?

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

As President, Donald Trump's ballsiest moment might have come as he was negotiating an end to our two-decade presence in Afghanistan. Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Tex.) told the story to Sage Steele on a recent video podcast.


"I want to leave Afghanistan," Trump is supposed to have said at a high-level meeting with the Taliban. "But it's going to be a conditions-based withdrawal." Hunt recalled Trump saying, "If you harm a hair on a single American, I'm going to kill you."

After the translator did his bit — and Hunt indicated that the translator was shocked by Trump's statement and hesitated before passing it along — Trump pulled a picture of the Taliban leader's home out of his pocket, handed it to him, and then left.

Statement. Made.

"If this is not the most gangster thing I’ve ever heard," one X user posted, "I don’t know what is."

It would be superfluous of me to remind you of what happened after Presidentish Joe Biden abruptly (and incompetently) ordered the final bugout from Afghanistan while trying to appease the Taliban, instead.

Here's an Absolutely True VodkaPundit Tale™ to help illustrate the point.

An old online acquaintance of mine (who now works on the Hill) served some time in the Air Force as a nuclear missile officer. I once shared a neighborhood map with the street names blanked out, yet he was able to pinpoint almost exactly where I lived. I learned an important lesson that day: never share a map with a guy who targets Minuteman III nuclear-tipped missiles for a living.


The difference between my old acquaintance, me, Trump, and that Taliban leader is a big one, however. My friend didn't have launch authority, but Trump did. That's a deadly distinction.

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It's certainly a distinction that the unnamed Taliban thug well understood. Sometimes it takes a thuggish act like Trump's to put the fear of God into a genuine thug.

But was that really President Trump's ballsiest moment? Maybe. 

Or maybe it comes in second place to this classic power play against Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

Trump once told the story to friend and golf pro John Daly about the time he put The Fear of God into Putin, too. 

“They’re all saying, ‘Oh, he’s a nuclear power. It’s like they’re afraid of him,’” Trump told Daly, referring to Putin, in the call posted on Instagram Friday.

“You know, he was a friend of mine,” Trump preened. “I got along great with him.”

But Trump insisted on the call that he also played tough with his buddy. If Putin invaded Ukraine, Trump claimed he warned him: “We’re gonna hit Moscow.” And “he sort of believed me, like 5%, 10%,” Trump added. “That’s all you need. He never did it during my time, John, you know ... He didn’t do this during the last four years because he knew he couldn’t,” Trump added.


This is where I'd remind you that Putin seized Crimea and much of the Donbas in 2014 while Barack Obama was our commander-in-chief and launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 on Presidentish Joe Biden's watch. Things were certainly tense between Kyiv and Moscow while Trump was in the Oval Office, but Putin's comparative timidity from 2017 through 2020 certainly lends credence to Trump's story.

The old Strategic Air Command used to control all of our nuclear missiles and bombers. "Peace is our profession," SAC guys used to joke, repeating the official motto, but "war is just something we do for kicks." That attitude was usually enough to dissuade the Soviets from doing anything particularly stupid. 

Trump understands that the real trick to being powerful on the world stage is to appear just crazy enough to use that power — and then you almost never have to.

We had a lot more peace then, too.


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