“We’ll see what happens” is one of President Trump’s favorite phrases. His trademark talk and tweets contain a limited vocabulary of words and phrases, which he slots together in seemingly random combinations. How many times have we heard “believe me,” “that I can tell you,” “amazing,” “sad,” and of course “no collusion”?
But “we’ll see what happens” is in a class by itself when it comes to strange pronouncements from the supposed Commander in Chief, especially one as braggadocios as Trump. With this phrase he robs himself of any agency, any power to influence events. He does not command or lead or shape the future. He is a passive bystander, just waiting to see what happens, like the rest of us who feel powerless to halt history’s latest lurch into the dark.
The phrase serves a purpose though. “We’ll see what happens” is a weak man’s abdication of responsibility. If “what happens” turns out to be bad Trump can claim he didn’t have anything to do with it. We’ve seen this already, most recently when he blamed “my generals” for the military deaths in Niger. To paraphrase another president, the buck does not stop with this Commander in Chief. On the other hand if something good does happen he can jump in and claim credit. When he leads a grandiose victory parade will the sycophantic cheers of his base drown out the memory of those weaselly words?
Trump is just waiting to “see what happens” with North Korea. Maybe it will be the fire and fury of a nuclear World War III, or maybe Kim Jong Un will learn from Putin and say something nice about Trump. Then perhaps what happens will be a cozy dinner with Rocket Man at Mar-a-Largo complete with “the most beautiful chocolate cake.” We’ll see.
But perhaps the “see what happens” President isn’t really as passive as he makes out. He certainly does not command or lead or shape the future in any constructive way, but he does create chaos. He lobs tweets like verbal hand grenades blowing up the norms of American democracy. He does everything possible to destroy Obamacare so he can make his “disaster” lie about it true. He cries “fake news” so loud and so often that he undermines the very concept of objective truth.
We are lost in a funhouse hall of mirrors, but it isn’t funny at all. To find the exit we must wait on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. We’ll see, but on this subject President Trump really doesn’t want to “see what happens” at all.