In a sign of either his incredible stupidity or how deeply Vladimir Putin has compromised him, over the weekend Donald Trump, a/k/a/ Der Trumpenführer, said he believed Putin's denial that Russia had sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential more than the unanimous findings of America's intelligence agencies that such interference had in fact occurred. The situation is mind boggling and in normal times, before the rise the Fox News alternate reality, those who claim to be true patriots would be shocked and outraged by such a statement. Two columns look at this shocking development, one in the New York Times and one in the Washington Post. First, here are excerpts from the piece in the Times:
Consider the strategic and historical magnitude of what “President” Donald Trump said last week: He said that he believed the intelligence conclusions of a nation hostile to this country — Russia — over the intelligence conclusions drawn by American agencies.It is a striking declaration, a betrayal of American trust and interests that is almost treasonous in its own right.
Trump went on to call the fact that Russia interfered in our election an “artificial Democratic hit job” that would cause people to die in Syria because Putin’s hurt feelings about being called on his crimes would prevent him from making a deal to end the bloody conflict in that country. And he called former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan and former F.B.I. Director James Comey “political hacks.”
Trump was grasping at straws and throwing all of them into the air. Believe Putin. Care about his feelings. Blame domestic enemies. Undercut the investigation. Use helpless Syrians as a shield.
John McCain rightly issued a blistering rebuke of Trump, writing in a statement:
“There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a K.G.B. colonel over that of the American intelligence community. There’s no ‘principled realism’ in cooperating with Russia to prop up the murderous Assad regime, which remains the greatest obstacle to a political solution that would bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria. Vladimir Putin does not have America’s interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naïve but also places our national security at risk.”
Trump is pursuing his own interest, not American interests. And, on the question of Russia attacking our elections, Trump and Putin’s interest align against the facts and against America. Let’s say this again, as a clear declaration: Russia attacked our elections. They stole emails that were published and broadcast ad nauseam. They created and distributed propaganda on social media designed to exacerbate our divisions, content that was seen by nearly half the country. . . . . We don’t know if the Russian election meddling was dispositive, but we know that it was disruptive.
The column in the Post is equally brutal and rightly sees Trump himself as a major national security risk. Here are highlights:Clapper and Brennan shot back at Trump on CNN on Sunday morning, claiming that the president was being played. Clapper said: “The threat posed by Russia, as John just said, is manifest and obvious. To try to paint it in any other way is, I think, astounding, and in fact, poses a peril to this country.”
. . . . . Trump’s authoritarianism, narcissism and racism threaten our democracy, but his gullibility threatens our national security. A man so uneducated and incurious about the world is willing, like his followers, to buy any crackpot conspiracy theory that makes its way to him via the Infowars-“Fox & Friends” pipeline. On the world stage, that makes him a sitting duck for slick manipulators and experienced flatterers.All that was much in evidence on Saturday. . . . Could Trump actually believe that the ex-KGB operative is insulted by the accusation he pulled off a masterful plot, at very little cost, to tip the scales in an American presidential election and get the candidate of his choice? Certainly, Trump is not only gullible but also running scared as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III breathes down his neck.
The strands connecting Russia and the Trump campaign — via Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. — are numerous and robust. The evidence of a sophisticated social media plan to sway American voters has come to light. What do Trump allies do about the mountain of evidence of Russian meddling in favor of the presidential candidate who invited Russian hacking and who fixated on the WikiLeaks email dump in the final days of the campaign? What to do about the unanimous verdict of the intelligence community? Just wish it away, I suppose.
Trump and his followers are willing to believe anything because they want to believe anything that confirms their counterfactual world. Anyone who sides with their alternative universe (Sebastian Gorka, Vladimir Putin, Bill O’Reilly, Roy Moore) is a hero and a victim of those pro-immigrant, globalist, anti-Christian elites. Anyone who presents cold, hard facts (the mainstream media, scientists, allied governments, Democrats, #NeverTrumpers) that explode their dearly held myths is an enemy of the people.Yes, that’s the mental universe in which Trump and his ilk reside.
He’s putty in the hands of wily autocrats. He’s therefore the type of target that counterintelligence operatives dream of — an arrogant fool. . . . . What’s more, the Kremlin now has useful idiots in the persons of Fox News hosts, right-wing American bloggers, talk show hosts and Stephen K. Bannon (who is out recruiting like-minded Senate candidates) to buck up their pet U.S. president. Most of all, the Kremlin can count on the Republican tribalists in Congress who will explain away evidence and savage the president’s accusers to protect the GOP tribe and its leader — who just so happens to be an easy mark for our most formidable international foe.