From Russia with scorn

7. He is being outmaneuvered by America’s number-one adversary

Some people make the mistake of underestimating the man currently occupying the White House. His obvious ignorance of complex issues, combined with the striking tone-deafness caused by his narcissism and inability to feel empathy, sometimes make him seem less intelligent than he is. He’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier by a long shot, but he’s shrewd and crafty and has been very good at getting what he wants. One of the ways he has done this is by cultivating relationships with people he has thought would be useful. As a two-bit developer and petty con-man, he did that a lot, and he generally came out ahead. Or at least bankruptcy never led to his complete insolvency. As president, he has utilized the same tactics with foreign countries but with less impressive results. They have a tendency to outmaneuver him.

Russia is America’s greatest adversary. Along with its immediate predecessor, the USSR, Russia has been at odds with the U.S. for the better part of the last century. As the two largest, most powerful countries in the world, both have a strong interest in holding the top position. For all the decades of the Cold War, the two nations employed rhetoric and espionage to undercut each other while building up military arsenals, including nuclear weapons, on a scale that vastly outstripped that of all other nations. When the USSR collapsed, a brief interval of relative amity occurred. Then Vladimir Putin became dictator, Russia started flexing its muscles again, and another Cold War began.

It was in that context that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. The full extent of their interference is unknown, but interfere they did, and they did so with one aim: to get DT elected. Why? The full answer to that is unknown as well, but it unquestionably has something to do with Russia’s not wanting the U.S. to have savvy, effective leadership. They know DT is willfully ignorant on matters of history and diplomacy, they know he is susceptible to friendly overtures from authoritarian leaders such as Putin, and it is to their advantage to have someone like him in the White House. Indeed, DT has been a pushover, openly rejecting the consensus of his own intelligence experts while deciding to trust Putin.

It can hard to overstate how pathetic that is. For almost 100 years, through several wars and innumerable foreign and domestic crises, presidents from both parties have taken a strong stand in favor of American sovereignty and predominance on the global stage. They stared down Soviet dictators, one by one, never giving an inch. Republican presidents tended to be ostensibly tougher in that respect, and their rank-and-file voters approved, dismissing Democratic presidents’ diplomacy efforts as futile and dangerous. One wonders what those Republicans, many of whom are presumably still alive and well, think of a president who talks trash about NATO but places his trust in the former head of the KGB.

The sorry truth is that DT is in way over his head. Whatever skills he brought to the negotiating table as a third-rate businessman have utterly failed to prepare him for negotiations with foreign statesmen who do not have America’s best interest at heart. He is naïve to the point of cluelessness, and he is gullible, susceptible to flattery, and so enamored with his own image of himself that he can’t accept that they’re laughing at him behind his back. The American people deserve better. In fact, our national security may depend on it.

Dark secrets?

We don’t know whether DT’s connections with Russia go deeper than his bromance with Putin. We know he was in negotiations with the mayor of Moscow to develop properties there, and he may have other financial connections in Russia of which we remain in the dark. It is far from impossible that he owes a considerable amount of money to Russian interests, and that may be one of the reasons behind his refusal to make public his tax returns. If that’s true, then Russia has the sort of hold over him that would be unhealthy and unsafe for any American politician. For a U.S. president, it is unthinkable. Since there is no valid reason for him not to release his tax returns, it is reasonable to assume the worst.