The Honeymoon In Helsinki


Donald Trump reported to his Russian handler and was debriefed. Who was expecting anything else?

Oh, I kid. I don't think Donald Trump is an FSB or GRU operative. He's way too indiscreet and undisciplined to be a Kremlin spy. He's worse at keeping secrets than Tom Holland and Mark Ruffalo put together. Especially around actual Russian operatives. Though one still cannot help but wonder how close to that punchline what we just saw unfold in Finland on Monday really was. Ironically, playing the part of a shallow, bumbling, conceited buffoon who ego-tripped and lucked his way into the American presidency to run our country for Czar Vlad really would be 49-dimensional upside-down underwater interspacial Infinity Gauntlet chess. No, that couldn't happen. It isn't possible. No way.


The prelude to this entirely predictable debacle was, as it always is, a tweet with excessive CAPS and exclamation points:

Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!

Yes, how dare we object to an enemy power attempting to subvert our presidential election. We should have....what? "Laid back and enjoyed it"?

Really? "Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse"? What about the 1948-49 Berlin blockade? Or the Cuban Missile Crisis? Or the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan? Or the shooting down of KAL Flight 007 in 1983? Or did the president mean BESIDES all of those examples where actual war, even nuclear war, was a real possibility? And then there are Putin's own transgressions such as his wars in Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine, the shooting down of another civilian airliner, the poisoning of Russian defectors, and the concerted ongoing cyber attacks on the American electoral process, among other areas. Or was the president completely ignorant of those examples? 'cause I'm pretty sure he was, since none of them involved him personally, and anything that doesn't involve him personally never happened as far as he is concerned.

Actually, "our relationship with Russia" has never been better....from Moscow's point of view. Especially after this (latest) disastrous summit:

Putin laid out his version of their talks. Then Trump, in a jaw-dropping moment, dissed his own intelligence services and deferred to Putin’s denials on the critical question of Russia’s ongoing cyber attacks targeting American democratic institutions.

Of the many Trump remarks that will live in infamy, this one will stand out: “Dan Coats [the Trump appointed Director of National Intelligence] came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Suddenly, unmistakably, the humiliation of the United States government was obvious to everyone except, it seems, Trump himself.

And #Cult45, it goes without saying. But at least we don't have to wonder what was discussed between the strongman and the poodle behind closed doors for two-plus hours. I did say Trump would make a terrible spook, after all.

I should also add that this insistence on "getting along with Russia," coming on the heels of last month's Singapore caning that placed such emphasis on "getting along with North Korea," not that long after one of his oscillating turns toward "getting along with China", came only a day after having declared the European Union, our NATO allies, a "foe". Though, to be fair, he did also call Russia a foe "in certain respects," which, of course, he declined to identify, making it another of his trademark shifty, insincere toss-offs. We saw what he really thinks of the Russkies when he was standing right next to their jailer. It's difficult not to reach the same conclusion Michael Tomasky has:

Trump is aligning the United States with Putin and against democracy. Think about that. We’re the bad guys now. Since communism’s collapse in the 1990s, the world has seen a relative burst of freedom as ex-dictatorships became democracies. Today the trend is in the other direction, and here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write, and never would have under any other American president, no matter how strongly I disagreed with his ideological views: The United States of America is part of that anti-democratic trend. Trump’s America has joined Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China to lead the global anti-democracy movement.

I can only ask Redcaps defending this disgrace what they would have thought of it if Barack Obama had been the perpetrator. Or what their reaction was when he whispered to Putin's deputy, Dmitri Medvedev, in 2012 too close to a hot mic that, "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility [on scuttling U.S. missile defenses].” But then we already know the answer to that question, don't we? The appalling part is that Trump did the equivalent thing not sotto voce, but loudly and proudly into a microphone at a podium before the entire planet.

I could also ask Trumpies what their reaction would be if in 2020, Putin turns against Trump and sends his intel apparatus after that election to try and unseat him in favor of Kamala Harris or Corey Booker or Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. Man-love is a fickle thing, after all. But they never think that far ahead. Or at all, really.

So has Trump committed outright treason, as former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted? Sounds excessive. The Russian Federation is an enemy of the United States, but the two countries are not - technically - at war with one another. And helming foreign policy is within the purview of the president of the United States, no matter how disastrously and dangerously a POTUS botches that function.

I always resist these comparisons but Trump’s performance today will go down with Neville Chamberlain’s at Munich. He just gave aid and comfort to a despot who invaded our elections.

Of course, the only problem Axelrod, and any other Democrat, has with that "invasion" is that Putin's operatives were helping the wrong candidate. The sting of jealous betrayal they feel after all that Red Barry did for what they thought were their Kremlin friends is chronically palpable.

But the analogy still didn't quite capture the essence of Trump's Helsinki actions. David Frum ably supplied the adjustment:

The only way this analogy holds is if you imagine Chamberlain at Munich denouncing the Royal Air Force and personally leaking to Hitler the secret of radar.

Oh, and I almost forgot, Trump reported that Putin "suggested" that he send his own "investigators" over here to, in effect, check Robert Mueller's work on the twelve Russian intelligence operatives he just indicted last Friday, which, naturally, Trump thought was "an interesting idea".

Yeah, why would anybody think that The Donald is wearing one of Vlad's dog collars?

I suppose I do have to mea culpa a little bit. Elected Trumplicans tut-tutted and harumphed, complete with the usual furrowed brows and expressions of concern. Even some scattered Trumpidians experienced a hiccup of conscience and intellectual integrity. Newt Gingrich, for example, called the presser with Putin "the most serious mistake of his presidency," and said the president "must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin". Though his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin seemed crystal clear.

And then there was Anthony "Tough Tony" Scaramucci, aka "Da Mooch," the guy who was White House Communications Director for a week and a half last summer before a profane tirade at former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus got him literally bounced out of the West Wing by RP's successor, John Kelly. He went on CNN yesterday and attempted an outright intervention:

Former White House communications director — and longtime friend of Donald Trump — weighed in on Trump's dramatic press conference yesterday in Finland, suggesting that the president needs to "reverse course" on his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The "Mooch," as he prefers to be called, appeared on CNN Tuesday morning to implore Trump to rethink his foreign policy, and back off exonerating Putin in a series of hacking attempts designed to destabilize the American elections.

"If he doesn't switch course on this, what will happen is he will eventually lose people that want to support him," Scaramucci told host Alyson Camerota. "This is a major mistake."

Da Mooch didn't stop there. He also urged Trump to refrain from lashing out at Democrats claiming the Trump campaign actively colluded with Russian officials to tip the 2016 presidential election, and denying claims that Russia meddled and continues to meddle in American affairs. Or basically the very things he's been full-throatedly doing non-stop for a year and a half, right into that Helsinki crescendo, with no foreseeable end in sight.

But not without an also to-be-expected brief, phony interlude yesterday, when he feinted toward walking back his Putinphilic trashing of his own (NOT Barack Obama's) intelligence agencies by pretending to accept their unanimous, overwhelming conclusion that the Russians did, in fact, try to subvert the 2016 election. Pretending in the sense that he couldn't resist tacking on the "could be other people also; there's a lot of people out there" caveat. Or as Jack Holmes put it, "He was essentially walking back the walk-back as he walked it back." But don't worry, he didn't mean any of it - except the "could be other people" part - and nobody should have expected anything else.

So it comes back around to Trump's underlying personal motivation for throwing his own country under the bus of its greatest "geopolitical foe". It can't be ideological, as the man has no ideology beyond "Look out for #1". That leaves his brittle ego which cannot abide any hint or suggestion that he didn't win the 2016 presidential election all by - and because of - himself, and his three decades of shady Russian business entanglements, perhaps including election interference collusion, giving the Russian dictator such leverage over Cheeto Caesar that he's deathly afraid of crossing Putin in any way, shape, or form. I'm not sure which is the more alarming, but I don't see any reason why it can't be both.

Has Trump "effectively ended his presidency"? Hard to see it. As tribalistic as both parties have gotten, and as terrified as congressional Republicans are of the man they rolled over and allowed to hijack their party two years ago, I can't imagine any circumstance in which they would cooperate in his impeachment, much less actually remove him from office.

No, the Trumpidency will lurch and blither onward - or, rather, ever downward - never sobering up, avoiding humility and dignity and coherency at all costs, "a dopey man-child, an egomaniacal narcissist who wears his many tells on his sleeve....a catalog of blatantly obvious weaknesses — for flattery, money, sex, and status....a walking catalog of the seven deadly sins....a man with a history of failed negotiations, blown deals, serial bankruptcies, rampant infidelities, lousy business outcomes, and general stoogery". And a man totally under the control of Vladimir Putin, whether his ego will permit him to realize it or not.

Meanwhile, yet another Russian spy has been arrested for trying to infiltrate both the GOP and the NRA, and the Kremlin just announced the 2020 deployment of their newest nuclear-capable cruise missile, that Kinzhal, or "Dagger", doubtless constructed with cyber-stolen American technology, against which we have no defense. But I'm sure our "years of foolishness and stupidity" are responsible for those things as well, right, Mr. President?

UPDATE: Remember the rule of gangs that goes, "You put one of ours in the hospital, we put two of yours in the morgue"? I'm pretty sure the other gang's leader isn't supposed to offer up the two in question for offing - or as Putin euphemizes it, "questioning"..