When I was growing up the word of the American president mattered. At times my parents staid up to listen to States of the Unions, or press conferences after foreign trips. Those moments did not happen in the United States, so they came with instant translation. But there was something that everybody knew, you had to pay attention closely to both words and body language.
The American president, and trust me, abroad we really did not care if they were Democrats or Republicans, was somebody you could implicitly both trust and fear. His words had value, and you never expect direct fumbling, or misdirection, or for that matter ignorance and idiocy.
Having had that experience growing up gives me a unique perspective as to the spectacle we saw in Helsinki. We saw a liar, an insecure man, who blamed American internal politics for what the Russians did. Mind you, I will get this out of the way now. Americans have intervened in elections, especially in Latin America for so long, that most people abroad were amused at the denial from many Americans, even now. That American exceptionalism failed you.
The President of the United States undermined and undercut his own intelligence services. The talk in the media has begun, once again. Donald J Trump is a Russian asset, controlled by the Kremlin. Let’s read those words again. I will say it again, he is indeed an asset, the best kind. He is unlikely self aware enough to understand that he is under their control. The best assets don’t know it.
Jonathan Chait has overtly said what some of us have been thinking for a while. Vladimir Putin is likely Trump’s handler. And this goes back a long time, as in 1987.
During the Soviet era, Russian intelligence cast a wide net to gain leverage over influential figures abroad. (The practice continues to this day.) The Russians would lure or entrap not only prominent politicians and cultural leaders, but also people whom they saw as having the potential for gaining prominence in the future. In 1986, Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin met Trump in New York, flattered him with praise for his building exploits, and invited him to discuss a building in Moscow. Trump visited Moscow in July 1987. He stayed at the National Hotel, in the Lenin Suite, which certainly would have been bugged. There is not much else in the public record to describe his visit, except Trump’s own recollection in The Art of the Deal that Soviet officials were eager for him to build a hotel there. (It never happened.)
Trump returned from Moscow fired up with political ambition. He began the first of a long series of presidential flirtations, which included a flashy trip to New Hampshire. Two months after his Moscow visit, Trump spent almost $100,000 on a series of full-page newspaper ads that published a political manifesto. “An open letter from Donald J. Trump on why America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves,” as Trump labeled it, launched angry populist charges against the allies that benefited from the umbrella of American military protection. “Why are these nations not paying the United States for the human lives and billions of dollars we are losing to protect their interests?”
Trump’s letter avoided the question of whom the U.S. was protecting those countries from. The primary answer, of course, was the Soviet Union. After World War II, the U.S. had created a liberal international order and underwritten its safety by maintaining the world’s strongest military. A central goal of Soviet, and later Russian, foreign policy was to split the U.S. from its allies.
He is not the first one to make this case. It is just the most cogent presentation in recent memory.
We know Trump wants that tower in Moscow. He desires the prestige, perceived or otherwise, of opening that market to his organization. It is not the country he cares about. It is Trump. For him the universe starts and ends with himself.
There is another reason for those political ambitions. Most politicians enter the field to change things to help others, or follow a political goal. Politicians do something else that Trump is using. They determine development policy. In the case of the president, he is helping a bunch of his friends, with things like energy projects, and construction projects. He is benefiting what in Mexico are called, favorite contractors. This is a very corrupt policy, and since Trump came to power it increased by orders of magnitude. (This is what oligarchies look like.)
This puts us in a very difficult spot. In effect, we live in a mature oligarchy. There, I said it. But we also live in a collapsing empire, with a highly compromised president willing to do anything to serve his true masters. They are two of them. The first is himself, the one that he is likely very aware off. The second is the Russian Federation. Trump is doing all he can to serve their interests.
Most Americans who were aware in the early 1970s remember Watergate. This will make both Watergate and Teapot Dome look like small scandals, The enormity of what we are seeing is an actual, real time, constitutional crisis. No, it is not going to be triggered when Robert Mueller issues his report. It is already a thing, and it is time that we recognize just how much trouble we are in.
It is also a very damaging scandal. This, Russia-gate, or however it will be called, is making the word of the American President near worthless. Trump leaving the stage, however he leaves it, will not change this fact. It does not matter who, or what party, takes over the White House. The deep damage to the institution of the presidency, and America’s role in the world is such a deep wound, that Putin won this stage of the game. His victory is generational. This is why Vladimir Putin was smiling this morning in Helsinki. He knows that the great enemy of mother Russia has been brought to heel. The victory must be sweet for a man who has wanted revenge for the collapse of the Soviet Union, which he called the greatest strategic mistake ever. He got his revenge, in spades.
So what happens to the greatly diminished United States? Like the former Soviet Union, we have nuclear weapons. Unlike the former USSR, we have a very large economy, one of the largest in the world. Mind you, a qualifier is needed, for the moment. This explains the other form of attack. This trade war that Trump is initiating is meant to take care of that problem. The truth is that if we are dealing with a deep mole in the White House, that trade war is another way to both discredit and diminish the United States.
This means that while the word of the United States will be worth less than the paper it is written on, we will be left as an angry, divided, deeply divided nation. One where I can guarantee plenty of finger pointing, And one where the party of Ronald Wilson Reagan, yes THAT Reagan, is handing over the country to an enemy of the United States. They are hanging victory, one where the Russians did not have to fire a single bullet. Oh they fired plenty of zeroes and ones, but many Americans are too unaware to understand what happened.
This is the upside down world we live in. One where the Alliance is seen as the enemy, and the actual enemy is seen as a friend, This can only happen if the Russians have the greatest intelligence coup in modern history. They have a Russian state asset inside the White House. Mister President, I hope you understand someday you were played.
As to Congress, it is time they put their country ahead of their judges, and confront what is going on, face on. It is either that, or they are also Russian assets, whether they know it or not, is completely besides the point. History will not be kind.
In the meantime, I know that the day we waited for the American president to speak, through translators, because his words mattered, are quite over.