By Sid Schwab / Herald columnist
Notwithstanding Truthless Trump’s hypo-inspiring, politicized news conference, which left investors unconvinced, the fawning of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Trump’s previous firing of President Obama’s pandemic response team, Covid-19 is less worrisome long-term (so far) than firing his director of national intelligence. So let’s talk about that, instead.
In perhaps the most prescient prediction from any world leader, ever, Nikita Khrushchev famously said: “We do not have to invade the United States, we will destroy you from within.” If details were scant, Vladimir Putin has filled in the blanks, and it’s working beyond his most vodka-suffused dreams. That firing is the latest proof.
Theories abound as to how he glommed onto Trump, whether he turned him or saw him as the proverbial useful idiot. Doesn’t really matter. Putin understands American politics better than most Americans. Trump, he realized, was Khrushchev’s perfect pathogen.
Completing much of President Putin’s agenda, Trump removed sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama, has weakened NATO and the EU, handed the Middle East to him, gotten Japan and South Korea at each other’s throats, got rolled by Putin’s protégé Kim Jong-Un. Climate change denial, too; oil is Russia’s main export, and Putin runs the company.
But that’s just frosting on the borscht. Putin’s overarching intent is helping the U.S. descend into political chaos, to distrust its own institutions, to see fellow citizens as enemies. To self-destruct. In Trump, he saw the means. Throughout his career, Donald has all but announced it; whether he’s consciously in on it is immaterial. A former KGB interrogator and, one assumes, a bolshoi judge of character, Comrade Putin recognized Trump’s weaknesses; narcissism, looseness with the truth, uninformed and incurious, his history so littered with illegal, incompetent and mob-like behavior that Putin knew exactly what he’d get if he managed to help Trump through the door. Which, denials notwithstanding, he did. Three years into a “presidency,” he’s gotten his rubles’ worth.
Trump hates the public knowing what President Putin was up to. Which is why he fired acting DNI Joseph Maguire for telling the truth about Russia’s help; truth being an unwelcome commodity in Trump’s reign. His replacement is someone wholly inexperienced in intelligence matters, but whose loyalty to Trump was confirmed by his prior nasty online presence, shady associations (which ought to disqualify him from security clearance), and pro-Trump trolling. The message is unmistakable: intelligence agencies work only for Trump. Those who disagree, who believe in protecting America and not just Trump are “deep state traitors.” (By contrast, when told of Russian intentions to push his candidacy — no mystery why — Bernie Sanders denounced Putin, not the messenger.)
We needn’t translate Cyrillic to know what’s in President Putin’s playbook: hoped-for Trump activities, beside which are checked boxes; in addition to the aforementioned, there’s attacking journalists as “enemies of the people,” saying Democrats “want to destroy you,” (he blamed Monday’s market crash on Tuesday’s Democratic debate), calling honorable public servants “scum,” undermining fair elections and, by appointing unqualified ideologues and attacking decent judges and jurors, destroying faith in our courts. As Trump’s supporters venerate his demagoguery and shout down anyone who disagrees, President Putin, grinning in the Kremlin, toasts his way through another round of blini and beluga.
We’ve been this divided before. Back then, though, there were huge issues separating us: slavery, Vietnam. Now, it’s one person acting deliberately, fear-mongering, prevaricating, fomenting hate of “the other” and distrust in institutions, in order to use his office for vendettas and personal enrichment. We’ve never had a “president” who systematically attacked every governing principle that could protect us from him gaining unlimited power. We’ve never seen people working to protect democracy dismissed as unjustified haters. We’ve never had a “president” who so perfectly fulfills the wishes of enemies who seek our failure, and who squelches Americans pushing back and exposing it.
Trump denies and hides Russia’s manipulations of our self-destruction. Trumpists do, too, obediently, despite the unanimity of our and international intelligence services, and digital footprints online and in voting machines. And now, aided by Mrs. Justice Thomas, Trump is undertaking a Soviet-style purge of people throughout our government deemed “disloyal,” by which is meant anyone who has or might speak up against him.
If foreign interference in our elections is insignificant and hasn’t helped Trump and Republicans, why has that party become a serial killer of Democratic bills aimed at preventing it? And why is Trump firing those who are conscientiously warning us about it? Isn’t it obvious?
Email Sid Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org.