John Colson: Trump ‘believes’ Putin, so everything is fine
Hit & Run
Just what kind of blinders does President Donald Trump use when he peers at Russian President Vladimir Putin?
Or is it just that he can’t see well through the haze of his own miasma of self-regard, stunning ignorance about nearly everything important to our democracy, and a need to undermine and destroy every vestige of policy-making by his predecessor, Barack Obama, no matter what the cost to our nation’s norms and governance?
Anyway, I nearly spit out my drink when I heard that Trump concluded last week, after being told by Putin that Russian hackers did not meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, that Putin must be telling the truth because he (Putin, that is) said so in a way that Trump felt was sincere.
Of course, Trump’s willingness to be played by Putin has nothing to do with the fact that he (Trump, that is) could not say much other than “I believe him” without adding fuel to the fire of an ongoing investigation that threatens to consume Trump and his cadre of government haters, racial bigots and climate-change deniers over the issue of Russia’s meddling.
If he were a normal elected leader, he might have followed up with a rejoinder about how U.S. intelligence experts have almost all come to the opposite conclusion — that Putin’s government-sponsored hackers did do their best to throw a monkey wrench into the 2016 presidential electoral process, and may well have done enough damage to give Trump the wiggle room he needed to squeak into the White House.
But that would have run counter to his well-established fascination with, and good feelings toward, the various “strongmen” who dictatorially run countries around the world, from Putin to Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, whose vicious crackdown on drug dealers reportedly has killed thousands, many of them innocent of any involvement in the drug scene.
Duterte, of course, drew warm, congratulatory comments from Trump during last week’s Asian tour, and no censure for the crackdown that has even Duterte’s own government officials a little worried about its effectiveness and its fairness.
But, back to the bromance between Trump and Putin. There are disturbing parallels between what’s going on between these two autocratic leaders and another odd pairing that is believed to have intensified and protracted a world war — the rapprochement between German Chancellor Adolph Hitler and Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin.
I’ve been reading up on Stalin, most notably through the analysis provided in historian Stephen Kotkin’s monumental, multi-volume examination of the life of the one-time seminarian (yes, Stalin at one point studied theology).
According to a review of Kotkin’s work, Stalin was looking for ways to keep the Soviet Union out of World War II when he forged the infamous nonaggression agreement in the late 1930s that gave Germany a free hand to invade Poland without worries about Soviet opposition.
At the time, Stalin had been waging war on his own peasantry for most of a decade, in his zeal to collectivize the agricultural sector while at the same time industrializing the Soviet economy in order to compete with Europe and the U.S.
Stalin, like Trump today, was a paranoid, delusional madman by this time in history, so much so that when Hitler decided to renege on the agreement and invade Russia in 1941, Stalin ignored reports of the impending invasion from his own intelligence agencies and chose instead to keep on with his internal, brutal purges and mass killings all over the Soviet Union.
When the invasion occurred, Stalin was caught off guard. As part of the purges of governmental agencies, he had decimated his army’s officer class and basically was ignoring them, even as the Germans started their invasion, and millions died at the hands of German soldiers as a consequence.
Does this ring any bells? Does the phrase “fake news” seem to have any relevance here?
It’s not that difficult to summon up images of our president ignoring reports from his own intelligence agencies about threats to our democracy, with possibly dire results.
Now, I’m not saying Trump is risking anything like what Stalin was faced with, at least not at this point.
But the plain fact is that, in rejecting intelligence reports that Putin did what most of this country agrees was done (tampering with our election), Trump is doing just what Stalin did in 1940-41. Trump, acting out of sheer hubris and delusional paranoia, is putting his own flawed understanding of how the world actually works above the conclusions and suspicions of people who know much more than he does.
And I’m not saying that the U.S. will suffer anything like what happened in the Soviet Union in 1941.
But we do have another election coming up in 2018. The midterm election could be a very important national plebiscite that determines how we, as a country, respond to the environmental and social depredations, not to mention governmental destruction that Trump is undertaking.
And all indications are that Putin, while laughing at Trump behind his back, is getting set to conduct the exact same kind of disinformation campaign that helped Trump win in 2016. Only this time, the effort will be to undermine and warp elections at the lower levels of government — federal legislators, state legislators and governors, county and municipal contests, all the way down the line.
Having perfected some techniques already, it is very likely that Russian hackers are busy right how, setting up algorithms and programs to disrupt the 2018 election in order to ensure that, wherever they can, they will help elect supporters of what is now known as Trumpism, which appears to be the very antithesis of democracy as we have known it, as well as just what Dr. Vladimir ordered.
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