I grew up in the Cold War era. While I came of political age long after the worst abuses of Joe McCarthy’s congressional witch hunt of those suspected to have communist ties or sympathies, I remember very well the widespread paranoia and distrust of the former Soviet Union under Presidents Nixon and Reagan. It was considered a matter of basic American patriotism to oppose the authoritarian regimes of the U.S.S.R. and its former eastern European satellite states. Containment of communist dictatorship as a form of government, and promotion of functional democracies, comprised the central cornerstone of American foreign policy from the end of the Second World War through the self-destruction of the European communist states in the late 1980s and the breakup of the Soviet Union itself in 1991.
America cheered loudly when the Berlin Wall literally fell in 1989.
Ronald Reagan’s principal legacy was his insistence on an American build-up of its already-dominant armed forces, with which the U.S.S.R. could not keep up. Many historians argue that the Soviet Union fell apart at least in part because its efforts to keep up with American military might were unsustainable by a Soviet economy crippled by decades of inept economic policies enacted in the name of communist ideology and state control of the means of production.
America looked on in astonishment as the only other superpower fell, leaving behind Russia, a mere regional power (with nukes) with less global importance than China. The United States became, and remains, the only true military and economic superpower on the planet.
That was in 1991, not so long ago. Your editor became a lawyer that year.
Russia now is governed by a strongman dictator named Vladimir Putin, who brutally silences dissent, seeks to undermine American global dominance, and now that he has finished stealing everything in Russia that is not hard-wired to an IED, wants to increase Russia’s global position at the expense of America and NATO.
That’s a whole lotta context just to ask this simple question: what in the literal fuck are Trump and his Russia-loving henchmen doing? Democrats and Republicans are equally astonished that Trump, his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, and the now-fired whacko national security advisor Mike Flynn (and God knows who else in the Trump camp) have been communicating with top Russian officials, both before and after the election, and now appear to anyone who is paying attention to be Putin’s puppets.
The phrase “this ain’t normal” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Donald Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns, as every other modern president has. We cannot determine what his financial ties may be to Putin’s Russia, and obviously we cannot rely on his word that he has no Russian entanglements because the man is a pathological liar. But we do know that even now Trump refuses to say anything critical of Russia or Putin. Trump is filling his administration with people with questionable ties to the dictatorship. His statements undermining America’s commitment to NATO sent shockwaves reverberating around the globe. He denies that Russia intentionally hacked America’s presidential election when every single American intelligence agency agrees that Russia interfered with the election in order to benefit Putin’s preferred candidate — Donald Trump.
Trump’s decision to throw Flynn under the bus seems an obvious attempt to pin the whole Russia “issue” on a disposable fall guy, but we don’t think that is going to stop the mainstream press from pushing the issue and writing stories based on leaks from an administration that is full of dedicated public servants aghast at the monstrosity that has taken up residence in the White House. Those public servants will continue to leak newsworthy information and the press is finally doing the job it should have done during the campaign.
Congress is not going to sit idly by, either. It is becoming apparent on the Hill that Democrats are sharpening knives and many Republicans, including influential Senator John McCain, also want to get to the bottom of why Trump and his team are so in bed with the Russians.
We do not think the ultimate answer is going to be benign.
All signs are pointing to an administration that could end in impeachment or even criminal convictions. If Trump is in fact beholden to the Russians, whether through financial ties or compromising information subjecting him to the threat of blackmail, and he changes American policy towards Russia as a result, that revelation would make Watergate look like Pizzagate. He would deserve to be tossed from his position straight into prison.
Democrats may think that would be a result to cheer about, but progressives need to seriously think about that. If Mike Pence has demonstrated one thing it is that he is as adept as Trump is inept at keeping himself out of the shitshow going on in the West Wing. He is unlikely to be caught in the fallout if damning information surfaces about the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Pence, unlike Trump, is a true Tea Party believer who has unfortunately shown himself to be effective at implementing far right-wing policies to the detriment of women, minorities, and the LGBT community.
So far, Donald Trump has proven to be incompetent at the hard job of pushing actual policy initiatives. His one order of substance was so badly executed that the courts struck it down inside a week. Like former Alabama governor George Wallace, Trump is impatient with policy details and lacks the focus necessary to make important decisions. Other than his Muslim ban, all of Trump’s other executive actions have been nothing more than statements of general intent without any plan on how those intentions are to be realized and without congressional approval. We wonder if Trump even knows that Congress controls the federal government’s purse strings?
So you have to ask yourself — is a right-wing true believer President Pence a better choice than a bumbling, ineffectual President Trump?