Photo credit: NBC News
No president has successfully taken a country since the Second World War until Crimea. No president has been able to maintain an 80% approval rating among his own people while simultaneously carrying out assassinations all over the globe. How has Vladimir Putin been able to accomplish this? Through propaganda, control of the media, mind games and an iron fist. The Helsinki Summit between Trump and Putin proved that Putin’s KGB prowess has outmatched Trump’s “tough talk” and the world watched America’s president cower and bow at the feet of one of the most dangerous leaders in the world. This came shortly after Trump lambasted America’s allies in Europe on the world stage, after Trump’s repeated attacks on his own country’s media and FBI and after watching the social fabric of America strained to the edge of destruction under family separation at the border and the rise of white nationalism.
Although watching America take herself out of the running of moral leadership in the world gives Putin pleasure and watching America disrupt the NATO alliance is beneficial to his agenda, the most disturbing aspect of the summit came in watching America support and participate in Putin’s propaganda machine. Not only did Trump cast doubt on all of the seventeen intelligence agencies whose responsibility it is to arm the president of the United States with the information that he needs to accurately craft foreign policy, but Trump gave global credence to Putin’s ability to create false narratives. He claimed that Putin was “strong” in his denial and that should be enough to believe him over those who have bled and died in the process of intelligence gathering out of service to their country. We openly celebrate the military, but make no mistake that many of these agents are the no men of no man’s land who sacrifice just as much as those in uniform.
Trump signed on to the farce of an idea that Putin could actually support humanitarian efforts in Syria when he is the one who has caused the crisis. Bashar al-Assad may be the main culprit, but Republican Congressman Kinzinger points out that Assad would be dead right now were it not for Putin “riding to his rescue”. Putin supports this man by providing chemical weapons, he supports this regime not only bombing and maiming but starving his own people and Putin was given the ability to stand before the world and tell Europe that he would help them with the refugee crisis he created. Trump gave Putin a nod by calling him a “great competitor” and bragged repeatedly about how the two countries combined control 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. A murderer and a toddler control 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons and Republicans are still pretending that there is some way to turn this narrative around.
Putin stood before the world and claimed that he was willing to help Mueller interrogate the indicted Russians as though there is any sense in the idea that Russian intelligence could be trusted to investigate Russians in support of an American investigation into Russians who disrupted America. Call me when the snake devours itself, because it’s spinning like crazy trying to catch its own tail with that one. Putin stood before the whole world and said that he would help Mueller if we gave him Bill Browder, the man who risked his life to hold Russian oligarchs committing violent human rights abuses accountable for their actions. Did Trump scoff? Did he roll his eyes? Did he say that America does not betray their own for the benefit of her enemies? No. He said that it was a “great offer” by Putin yet again giving the sickle-wielding Russian Bear the chance to get another propaganda win by agreeing in a roundabout way that Browder had wronged Russia and should be questioned.
This narrative is not new, it is not some flip flop. It is consistent with Trump’s way of thinking on this issue for the last two years. He has access to the most classified and detailed information that every leader selected by him agrees proves that Russia is responsible for the hacks and acts of cyber warfare that occurred in 2016. I’ve heard Republicans say that he needs to reverse course, that Trump needs to retract his statements but why on God’s green earth would he? They have vehemently disagreed with his assessment of Russia’s acts of war and he still said what he said. They have encouraged him to pull back on this narrative and stop conflating his own legitimacy with the intelligence findings and yet he still did what he did. Is a tax cut worth knocking America out of the role of leader of the free world? Is a Supreme Court Justice really worth standing on the side of America’s enemies and making this country look like the weakest buffoon of the global order? America should be well past believing that the president will reverse course or is even capable of it, stop equating verbal diarrhea with being a “counter puncher” and acknowledge that Trump is not tough, he is not wise, he is a self-serving coward with an easily bruised ego and Putin is gathering up the spoils from his failures.