Poor Russian President Vladimir Putin. All this talk here among the nation’s top legal authorities about how he influenced our country’s 2016 presidential election has insulted the Russian leader.
At least that’s how Donald Trump sees it, and he seems to stands with Putin on the issue because he brought up the insult issue in the first place. Together, Trump tweeted over the weekend, he and Putin can make a better world.
I extend the normal caveat when it comes to Trump’s dangerous gibberish: No, I’m not making this up.
During his Asian trip over the weekend, Trump had this to say about Putin to reporters on Air Force One after he talked to the Russian leader in Vietnam:
He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.
I think he is very insulted by it.
When he was asked later to expand on his comments later, Trump told reporters:
I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I am with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with the leadership.
Wrapped around this claim that Russia “did not meddle” and then its awkward “currently constituted” qualification—this is a classic Trump move of discombobulation and lying to have it both ways—was yet another big announcement on Twitter.
When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. There always playing politics – bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2017
Let’s set aside just for a moment that many of our national leaders and intelligence officials, including U.S. Sen. John McCain, strongly believe Putin, a former KGB officer, has ordered the assassination and arrests of his enemies and that any rational person understands the Russian government is an authoritarian dictatorship. The actual rhetoric and language stylistics of Trump’s brazen comments also deserve some attention.
(1) Note the repetition of “he didn’t meddle” and “I believe, I really believe,” in the initial comment. Whether Trump is just improvising or deploying a calculated move, the repetition is meant to reinforce an obvious lie. That Trump lies is nothing new, but this is obviously an attempt to cast doubt on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which is looking into the Trump’s regime collusion with Russia in order to sway the election, which is obvious at this point. Keep repeating a lie and eventually people will believe it.
(2) “He means it.” Trump doesn’t have any capability to form evidence-based arguments so he focuses on the visceral. That Putin, another liar, “means” anything in particular on any given issue is also steeped in ambiguity. Putin, just like Trump, means just the opposite of what he often says directly when he speaks on important issues. They are both calculated liars.
(3) Look how carefully Trump qualifies his next statement. “I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election.” So Trump believes that Putin FEELS he didn’t meddle in the election. Does this meanTrump believes that Putin actually did meddle but just doesn’t FEEL that he did? Expert and seasoned liars like Trump always leave themselves a way out. It goes something like this: All I said was that Putin feels like he didn’t meddle, not that he didn’t meddle.
(4) “I think he is very insulted by it.” This is nothing less than an appeal to Americans to feel sorry for a ruthless autocratic leader accused of ordering assassinations. In other words, the blowback from the Russian collusion into our election has hurt Putin’s feelings. But why should Americans care if Putin feels insulted? He’s the leader of a hostile, non-democratic country that has declared a cyberwar on our country and will continue to wage it as long as he’s in power.
(5) Then Trump comes back with a statement indicating it doesn’t matter what he believes, even though he believes that the insulted Putin believes he didn’t meddle. (Confusing, right?) Trump, see, is “with our agencies” but only “especially as currently constituted with the leadership.” In other words, Trump only believes his own lackeys. This is yet another strenuous qualification in a slithery use of rhetoric, and, of course, is subject to change given circumstances.
(6) The “haters and losers” tweet—Trump’s name calling is his preferred method of argumentation—means that only the haters and losers don’t want a “good relationship” with Russia, which is, as Trump emphasizes, “a good thing, not a bad thing.” It’s not just a “good thing” but also “not a bad thing.” It’s also wasted, say-nothing words that should make any rational person cringe at its schoolyard-level discourse.
Taken together the statements and tweet show us a president incapable of stating the truth directly on any important issue, which is horrific in its own right but not as bad as the larger, specific story here.
The larger story is that Trump is trying wiggle out of the fact he and his regime brazenly colluded with Russian in order to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He’s trying the reframe the narrative—see, folks, collusion with Russia is actually good—because people involved with his campaign with connections to Russian have been indicted, and one has even plead guilty to perjury in this regard.
What makes it much worse is that the supposedly insulted Putin is a “thug and murderer,” according to McCain.
McCain was highly critical of Trump’s weekend remarks about how the U.S. should collaborate with Russia and Putin to solve world problems.
“President Trump today stated that he believed Vladimir Putin is being sincere when he denies Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and reiterated that he hopes to cooperate with Russia in Syria. There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community. There’s no ‘principled realism’ in cooperating with Russia to prop up the murderous Assad regime, which remains the greatest obstacle to a political solution that would bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria. Vladimir Putin does not have America’s interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.”
Each moment of somewhat normalcy or a lull in Trump’s and his administration’s assault on democracy in this country is followed by Orwellian rhetoric or developments showing our country faces a real fascist threat. Our democratic institutions—especially the mainstream media—are beginning to show signs of weakness under the duress of the onslaught.
Meanwhile, despite some disparate protest movements in the country, no real united opposition party exists right now trying to thwart Trump and his regime from its immoral domestic agenda and its brazen corruption, which includes the obvious collusion with Russia and its despot. Maybe U.S. democracy ends “not with a bang but a whimper,” to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot.