In yesterday’s first Senate Intelligence Committee hearings into Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Senator James Langford (R-Okla.) asked former FBI agent Clint Watts, “Why did he (Putin) think he could get away with it this time? This isn’t new for the Russians, they’ve done this for a long time across Europe. But it was much more engaging this time in our election. Why now?”
Why now? Because it worked! Why else? That’s essentially what the ex-FBI guy said. Trump and his people actually picked up Russian conspiracy stories like ‘the election was rigged’ and passed it along to the American public during the campaign like it was a relay baton.
Now, that may cause some to think Mr. Trump to be an unwitting stooge, or even Putin’s puppet. But let’s gives our president more benefit than doubt. Perhaps there is another way to see it, nothing any less unsavory, mind you, just different.
All we have to do is go back and look at patterns. We all fall into them, racers do, and we rely on them as long as they keep working to our advantage. And just as election meddling falls into a Putin pattern, so does ‘the false promise’ indicate to Trump. The examples are legion, especially among tradesmen working his building sites, but you might remember this story from before the election as well.
In August 2010, former NBA star Alonzo Mourning hosted a charity golf tournament at the Trump National Golf Club, Westchester in New York. One of the tournament promotions was a $1 million hole-in-one contest. Obviously, the odds were long, but Martin Greenberg, the CEO of Sterling Commodities Corp., hit the shot of his life, and next thing he knows he standing next to Alonzo getting congratulating on his boon. But before he even left the grounds, oops, sorry, Martin, no million for you.
This is beautiful, and Trumpian to a tee. According to the insurance policy purchased to indemnify the hole-in-one promotion, the minimum distance of the hole had to be 150-yards. But the Trump National folks had set the par 3 13th at only 139 yards, meaning it was 11 yards too short to qualify for the prize. Happenstance, or extra insurance?
As you might expect, Mr. Greenberg went nuts, then sued Mourning’s charity, the Trump National, and the insurance company for the $1million and legal expenses. Donald eventually settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $158,000 to the charity of Greenberg’s choice. But here’s the kicker. It wasn’t Trump or Trump National that paid that settlement, it was the Trump Foundation, his eponymous charity. But Trump hadn’t put a dime into his own foundation since 2008! Meaning he paid the settlement with O.P.M., other peoples’ money, which they had contributed thinking it was going to a charitable organization.
This is lack of ethics at a grandmaster’s level. But that’s how the man rolls, by scamming people before, then screwing them after, then turning it around to make it look like he’s the Big Man making a charitable contribution when, in fact, he is using other people’s charitable contributions as a personal slush fund. Mendacity has no finer practitioner.
It is beyond contemptible, of course, but ethics be damned. That metric has no value to Mr. Trump. As long as he comes out on top, that’s how you define winning.
So let’s get back to Putin. There are many who believe Putin has something on Trump based on that infamous dossier put together by a former MI6 British intelligence agent. And Russian bodies are starting to pile up who might have neen linked to that dossier’s anonymous sources. But if that is too inside baseball for you, consider patterns of behavior.
What if Trump and his scamps weren’t colluding with the Russians, or being played as dupes at all? Could it be that in his own mind Trump was playing Putin!? Yes, doing the same thing he has has done with contractors in the building trade, or architects, or hole-in-one contest winners for years, using them when they were needed, then stiffing them when it came time to pay.
Perhaps taking the long view that he wasn’t going to win, anyway, so let’s see if we can take a dip into that oligarch pool of rubles down the line, or, if he did beat Hillary they could work with the Russians in the War on Terror later, the Trump campaign didn’t see anything wrong with using Putin and the Russians to help get elected. Real politic, baby, do what it takes to get to the next level. It never dawned on him that that might be illegal or beyond the pale. Why wouldn’t you do it? You’d be a chump not to. It’s a win either way.
“Oh, should we not have done that?”
No, Donald, you shouldn’t.
But we can’t blame him or his gang of merry men. The fault, dear citizens, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, to steal a line from Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. For now we have opened ourselves to the whirlwind, because though President Trump may be a rogue, President Putin is a cold-eyed assassin who may have a long view of his own in mind. Be careful who you think you’re scamming.
If this was just business it would be one thing. Not right, certainly, cynical as can be, but they’d have deserved each other. But America isn’t a business. It is a country like no other. And now this is the man who represents it.
There is a reason countless millions who have risked their lives to reach these shores. My mother was one such person whose country was lost to Mr. Putin’s in the wake of WWII.
America is an idea and an ideal, the only country in history so conceived. It is an idea of equality and justice that, while admittedly flawed in practice, has persevered, and given hope and succor to the world for over two centuries. It is the beau ideal of what mankind is capable of when it reaches for its higher register.
But fear is a powerful emotion, so powerful that it can darken any idea, even one as old and wise and gleaming as America. And so desperate were America’s white lower and shrinking middle-class misbegotten – who a 2015 Princeton study show to be dying younger and younger of suicide, alcoholism, and opioid abuse – that they were willing to kick their natural conservative candidates to the curb in favor of a blustering confidence man with a hard heart and easy solutions – “We are going to turn it around fast. It’s going to be easy.”
This is the real danger of the Trump presidency, that a naïve but egotistical showman incapable of admitting what he doesn’t know – or, more sinister still, one who thinks he can play the former KGB agent in Moscow as his own dupe – now blusters around the world stage presenting what is, in fact, a Potemkin village of ignorance and deceit.
The prospect of jeopardizing the American ideal in the name of such a man isn’t just a sobering thought, it’s a very real possibility that ought to have us all quite terrorized. Maybe if this had published tomorrow it could be read as a joke, but not today.