The long knives are out, of that there is no doubt. Which is why for President Trump to have any chance at all to fulfill his campaign promises and deliver on his upset election win, he will need to get in front of the nagging Russian election hacking scandal that continues to hobble his administration’s early agenda.
As we know, President Trump is a man sensitive to bad press. But simply complaining about the criticism his administration is receiving – “total witch hunt!” – won’t scabbard the blades he faces. For him there is only one way to put this behind him, and it is that most awful of solutions from his standpoint, the full release of his tax returns.
It has been the pebble in his shoe since that first ‘Rude Descending Escalator’ moment in June 2015 when he announced his candidacy. Yes, he won the Republican nomination and the general election without tax transparency, but as he is finding out running is one thing, governing in a tripartite system quite another – think three-legged race.
Questions of a Russian connection linger due in part to the opacity of his business dealings in conjunction with the rather genteel nature of his Putin pronouncements in the face of the Russian election meddling. And his stubborn non-disclosure will only increase the drag on his administrative goals, even with both houses of congress in hand.
The thing is, from a purely strategic standpoint teaming up with Russia to fight ISIS, which seems to be among his goals, already is a stretch, given the Sunni-Shia interests of both nations – we Sunni, them Shiite. Though it wouldn’t mark the first time we have had to collaborate with the Russians.
Perhaps today’s fight against ISIS could be the modern equivalent of allying with the Russian Bear during WW2 to battle the Germans and Japanese.
Notwithstanding our historical differences, when an existential threat to both nations rears up, lesser bi-lateral difficulties, though serious, will be temporarily set aside to mutually address the more grave danger.
‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is not a new concept. Do we think FDR and Churchill willingly embraced Stalin in Yalta? You think they met at the Black Sea resort in February 1945 for a few spirited hands of bridge?
If both Presidents Trump and Putin believe ISIS is such a threat, then linking up may be the prudent thing, even as we keep a close eye on Putin as we do, knowing that his intentions are wide ranging and not fully in accord with our own.
It would be a remarkable three-cushion political bank shot for Putin to help engineer the destruction of ISIS, simultaneously return Russia to its previous position as a major world power, while undermining the European Union and NATO in the process. That kind of Russian dream would have been impossible under a President Hillary, but evidently it’s a risk worth taking with the less experienced and knowledgeable Trump.
We can’t be sure why Trump doesn’t openly acknowledge a Russian strategy if that is his primary motivation. Why allow the slow grind of administration casualties (First, Flynn resigns, now Sessions recuses) to compromise his opening months in office if there is a larger geo-political cause for those actions?
It is by not being forthcoming that the president continues to infer that there is more to his Russian temperance movement than meets the needs of U.S. foreign policy alone. By hiding his tax returns behind the false screen of an IRS audit he perpetuates the conclusion that there is a financial connection between his business empire and Putin’s Russia, and/or that the salacious information contained in the ex-British MI-6 agent’s pre-election dossier may have merit.
Yes, the Democratic opposition is slathering, still reeling from losing what seemed like a can’t-lose election. But you will have no one to blame but yourself, Mr. President, if your early term goes sideways, because there might be, at the least, some uncomfortable information that comes to light with the release of your tax returns.
Remember this, nobody asked you to run for president. You made that choice with the full understanding that by becoming a man for all the people you would subjected to a level of scrutiny beyond that of all other people.
Now that time has come. You have won. The nation has important needs to address. So whose interest is more important, yours or the nations? Let’s see where your true allegiance lies.