Favorite

Putin's missteps 

A good title for the entire Trump-Putin saga might be "The Naive and Sentimental Dictator." Assuming, that is, that it all plays out as farce — certainly the direction events are trending in the White House.

What did Vladimir Putin think he was getting? Is it possible that he mistook an egotistical buffoon like Donald J. Trump for an apprentice strongman? If so, he badly misunderstands America. It's not simply Russia with better plumbing. Granted, Trump himself lacks the self-discipline for autocracy. But he also lacks the servile population.

Putin is known to regard Western ideals of liberty, freedom and democracy as sentimental illusions. Trump disdains all laws that impede him. But if Congress accomplished nothing else by imposing new sanctions against Russian meddling in our politics, it proved that Putin's best American friend has become the weakest president in living memory.

Not that Trump can't still do enormous damage. But sentimental illusion or not, he won't be able to undo the Constitution.

For all his bluster, Trump's increasingly becoming a figure of fun — almost as laughable as his comic opera (and now dethroned) mini-me, the Mooch. His falsehoods expire overnight, often due to his own foolish tweets.

Nobody fears Trump, not really. See, he can't have me thrown into prison for mocking him. Also unlike Putin, he can't have Sen. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican, shot dead in the street for denouncing his own party's "Faustian bargain" with Trump.

"Silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication," Flake writes in Politico, "and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility."

Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, he's talking to you.

OK, so that makes a total of four Republican senators with spines. A few others have also made noises. Ultimately, this country isn't going to be run like a World Wrestling Entertainment spectacle.

But back to Putin. No, we definitely don't need another Cold War with the Russians. Never did. But it's the Russian dictator that badly overplayed his hand — possibly why his diplomats are already hinting that mutual accommodation might still be possible.

Meanwhile, Trump might like to undo the sanctions, but he hasn't got the power. He'd also like to rid himself of Robert Mueller, the investigator systematically probing exactly what Putin's got on him. However, Trump can't make that happen.

Another Republican senator with at least a vestigial backbone, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, said: "Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong."

One theory is that Putin never really imagined that his efforts would bring about a Trump presidency — that his real motive was sowing confusion and Russian-style cynicism about democracy itself. Certainly, Russian operatives' approach to the amateurish schemers in Trump Tower last June was like something out of a Donald Westlake comic crime caper.

Writing in the New York Times, former CIA chief of station Daniel Hoffmann argues that what looks like incompetent Russian tradecraft indicates a baited mousetrap that Donald Trump Jr. clumsily jumped into. An email from an intermediary vowing Russian government support for the Trump candidacy and promising to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton?

An email? Permanent, ineradicable evidence?

So naturally Trump Jr. copied and forwarded the incriminating message with the helpful subject line "Russian — Clinton — private and confidential."

An email?

Not the sharpest tool in the shed, Junior.

Has anybody ever not read a message so marked? Except we're expected to believe that boy genius son-in-law Jared Kushner never did, although he attended the meeting with five Russian operatives anyway. A big bust, he claims, a real nothingburger.

Although two days later, candidate Trump promised a blockbuster speech detailing Hillary Clinton's many crimes — a speech he never did deliver.

So now The Washington Post reports that the president himself drafted a deceptive statement after word of the suspect meeting first materialized in the press. The meeting was about Russian orphans, see, not Clinton dirt.

Followed, as day follows night, by the appearance of the aforementioned "private and confidential" emails.

So which is more incompetent, Team Vladimir or Team Trump?

The CIA's Hoffman thinks he knows: "To me, the clearest evidence that this was a Russian influence operation is the trail of bread crumbs the Kremlin seemed to have deliberately left leading from Trump Tower to the Kremlin. This operation was meant to be discovered."

But why? The commonest use of kompromat, as the Russians call incriminating evidence, is blackmail.

Too late now. Russians commonly say that Putin's a cunning plotter, but a strategic dope. If he wanted Trump in his pocket, looks like he's got him.

But the end result is chaos.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (19)

Showing 1-19 of 19

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-19 of 19

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
    • Dec 14, 2017
  • Cats and dogs

    I've always been leery of people who dislike animals. To my wife and me, a house without dog hair in the corners and a cat perched on the windowsill is as barren as a highway rest stop. We're down to three dogs and two cats, the smallest menagerie we've had for years.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • GOP contempt

    Sometimes it's hard to be cynical enough about the current course of American politics. Astonishing, yet not at all surprising. That was my immediate reaction to the news — largely ignored by national print and broadcast media — that the Trump administration refused to ask Congress for one thin dime of disaster funding in the wake of Northern California's devastating wildfires.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
    • Dec 14, 2017
  • Cats and dogs

    I've always been leery of people who dislike animals. To my wife and me, a house without dog hair in the corners and a cat perched on the windowsill is as barren as a highway rest stop. We're down to three dogs and two cats, the smallest menagerie we've had for years.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • GOP contempt

    Sometimes it's hard to be cynical enough about the current course of American politics. Astonishing, yet not at all surprising. That was my immediate reaction to the news — largely ignored by national print and broadcast media — that the Trump administration refused to ask Congress for one thin dime of disaster funding in the wake of Northern California's devastating wildfires.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Viewed

  • Gratitude

    Now, more than ever, I find myself thankful for those who resist. Those who remind us of our higher common values. The fact-checkers and truth-tellers. Those who build bridges in communities instead of walls to segregate. The ones who stand up and speak out against injustice.
  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
  • Silly acts, good law

    It was unavoidable that the struggle by sexual minorities to gain the equal treatment that the Constitution promises them would devolve into silliness and that the majestic courts of the land would have to get their dignity sullied in order to resolve the issues.
  • Money talks

    Democratic candidates face a dilemma in Arkansas. To take on the GOP members who are firmly entrenched in the state Legislature and Congress, they will need lots of money and lots of votes. The easiest way to get more votes is to spend more money. Obscene amounts of money. And thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and President Trump's judicial appointments, this will be our reality for a long time. The six Republicans who make up our congressional delegation have stopped pretending to care about their constituents. They vote in line with the interests of big corporations and lobbyists. They know what side their bread is buttered on.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: A difference

    • History is likely to move with light speed in concluding that in late 2017 society…

    • on December 14, 2017
  • Re: A difference

    • Gillibrand is a tough chick, and she knows she is a political whore, like 95%…

    • on December 14, 2017
  • Re: Cats and dogs

    • I miss my wolves. It has been over five years since the last of my…

    • on December 12, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation