It’s hard for an American politician to embarrass himself these days. But over the weekend, Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator from Connecticut, pulled it off with panache.
Murphy dashed off a tweetstorm outlining his conspiracy theory about U.S. policy toward Venezuela. And it’s a doozy.
“Democrats need to be careful about a potential trap being set by Trump et al. in Venezuela,” he starts out. “Cheering humanitarian convoys sounds like the right thing to do, but what if it’s not about the aid? What if the real agenda is laying a pretext for war? Follow my logic for a second.”
So when President Trump isn’t scheming to advance Vladimir Putin’s interests, he’s scheming to wage war on Putin’s allies. Got it.
Murphy’s tweets ramble, but his “logic” boils down to this: Trump has wanted to go to war with Nicolas Maduro for years. He’s found a warmongering partner in Marco Rubio. They and other secret schemers are hoping that humanitarian aid “will be the match that lights a civil war” in Venezuela. Meanwhile, Rubio tries to exacerbate the crisis by issuing warnings to Maduro.
Murphy’s conspiracy theory, like so many, involves a touch of pseudo-history: “go look up the 1947 Rio Treaty,” he concludes. “It’s a Western Hemisphere mutual defense treaty, and may not require a war declaration if Trump is legitimately coming to the defense of Colombia. Don’t think the Venezuela hawks don’t know this.”
This is a United States senator. He’s Joe Lieberman’s successor. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And his response to U.S. support for Venezuelan democracy is a delusional Twitter rant out of a Seymour Hersh fantasy.
It’s a sad day when one has to debunk the conspiracy theory of a sitting senator—but here goes. There’s not much we can say with certainty about Donald Trump’s thinking, but we know he has zero interest in getting the U.S. into war. He’s been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, and he’s trying with all his might to pull American troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. Far from wanting a military confrontation with North Korea (as another paranoid theory held), Trump has been obsessively and depressingly obsequious toward Kim Jong-un.
The potential danger of Trump’s Venezuela policy amounts to the very opposite of Murphy’s concerns. If Maduro and his supporters continue to dig in, Trump might lose interest in the cause of regime change altogether. For the most part, he’d rather we make deals with tyrants than topple them. It’s not hard to imagine the president blaming his advisers for a drawn-out standoff, switching gears, and flattering Maduro before announcing talks. Then we’d be treated to a new round of Trump-as-Putin’s-stooge theorizing.
On January 29, Murphy wrote in the Washington Post, “Democrats should not let our anger at Trump’s double standard goad us into advocating for a retraction of our country’s commitment to supporting democracy and dignity for people in Venezuela and around the world.”
It seems he had about a month’s worth of principle in him.