When he had his blog, The Dish, I was a daily reader. Now, Andrew Sullivan is back with a weekly "conversation" at New York Magazine. As he was want to do on his blog, he again gets to the heart of matters from a moderate conservative perspective. He is horrified at the spectacle of Der Trumpenführer and the twin menace that he and Vladimir Putin pose to the West as we have known it for my entire lifetime. Frighteningly, Sullivan gets to the reality that Trump wants to be the American equivalent of Putin and to rule and loot the nation as Putin has done to Russia. His attacks on the media and constant bleating about fake news is a critical first step in his authoritarian agenda. Meanwhile, I continue to feel as if the country is living a Tom Clancy or David Baldacci novel. Can America's institution defeat this foul effort? Here are excerpts from Sullivan's latest column:
The question that remains, of course, is the motive.
Why on Earth would any campaign for president be in constant, secret touch with the intelligence agents of a hostile foreign power?
I cannot know. Maybe Flynn is a rogue loner. It’s also possible, I guess, that the Trump campaign just wanted to keep in touch with the intelligence services of one of this country’s nemeses, if only to wish them Merry Christmas — five times in one day. It’s also conceivable that Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort’s deep ties to the Putin regime were utterly irrelevant to the sudden amendment, this past summer, to the GOP party platform that removed a call to send arms to Ukraine. It’s also possible, I suppose, that deep down I’m straight.
But there’s one explanation that chills me even more than a foreign power’s potential blackmail over an American president. And it is that Trump and Putin are natural allies in their fight against the postwar, U.S.-led international order that has kept the peace for 70 years. Putin and Trump, after all, share a Bannonite foreign policy: a robust defense of nationalism; a view that NATO is obsolete; support for far-right parties throughout Europe; and the goal of smashing the European Union so that Russia can once again extend its tentacles into Eastern Europe, and the U.S. can play one European power off another. I have no idea if Putin has kompromat on the president, but Trump’s actions need no such motivation. Trump and Putin want to form a pincer movement to destroy what we have known for a long time as the West.
Their domestic politics also have disturbing parallels. Trump would love nothing more, it seems to me, than to be an American Putin, treating the country as he long treated his own corporate fiefdom. He once explained he admired the autocrat because Putin has “great control over his country.” Like Putin, Trump would love to control the media. Like Putin, he has developed a leadership cult, devoted to the masses. Like Putin, he believes in a government that has “killers.” Like Putin, he threatens his geographic neighbors. Like Putin, he has cultivated an alliance of convenience with reactionary religious conservatives, to shore up his power. Like Putin, he believes there’s no moral difference between American democracy and Russia’s. Like Putin, he is enriching himself by public office. And, like Putin, he has targeted a minority as a scapegoat — Putin targeted the gays to gin up support while Trump targets the Muslims and Mexicans. And as Putin has RT as his conduit, so Trump has the Murdoch empire.
Steve Bannon, on the other hand, is quite something. I’ve read and reread his 2014 speech at the Vatican to see if I can find any coherence in it, and I confess I failed. It’s a hodgepodge of melodrama, hysteria, and a defense of some kind of “enlightened capitalism” along Judeo-Christian lines, in the face of an imminent Islamist takeover of the planet. It’s the 1950s versus jihad, an attempt to convey the gist of the entire Drudge Report every day and turn it into a thesis. He argues that we are just “at the very beginning stages of a global conflict” that could eradicate 2,000 years of Western civilization. It reads like the apocalyptic, paranoid fantasies of someone who writes letters to the editor, single-spaced, in all caps.
Be very afraid if Trump and Putin are not stopped.