18 May 2017
It makes me angry that a red herring like Russian interference in American politics continues to obscure the issues in the USA's current political crisis.
I have no doubt, as I've said before, that Russian political operatives have tried to influence American and Western European elections. But their methods are often laughably clunky. Russian operatives have made no persuasive case that Russia represents a vision for the future. Their opportunistic alliances with left wing and right wing groups in the West seem to have no loftier goal than simply to sow discord and confusion.
Discord and confusion are certainly features of the current political scene in the USA, but, in my mind, this situation can not be credited to Russian cleverness. In November 2016, for a variety of social and economic reasons that had almost nothing to do with Russia, the U.S. Electoral College awarded the presidency to a deeply flawed, self-obsessed entrepreneur for whom facts and expertise are entirely secondary to spectacle and power.
If Russian agents were indeed behind the e-mail hacks that supposedly weakened the Clinton campaign -- which remains to be proven but might well be true -- this was marginally effective only because it seemed to reinforce existing skepticism about the Clintons and about the political establishment generally. That skepticism and cynicism was distributed around the electoral map in just the right quantities to overcome Clinton's popular vote advantage of three million, and swing the results in Trump's favor.
We Americans need to ask ourselves (and each other!!) why Trump's voters were so deeply skeptical about the political elites but willing to suspend all that skepticism and place the top political post in the land in the hands of one Donald Trump: a boastful advocate for sexual harassment and public bullying, serial liar, libeler and slanderer, relentless self-promoter, and demonstrated con artist (Trump University!). All of this behavior was well-known and well-documented long before election day.
And: all of these disqualifying features of the Trump circus have absolutely nothing to do with Russia. Russia's e-mail hacking did little -- if anything -- to enhance Trump's chances of winning, just as his own alleged involvements with Russian business and entertainment seemed to have cost him very little in the election.
However, the Russia links are relevant in one specific way: they add to the evidence of sloppy incompetence on the part of the president and his motley team. For example, that team knew, or should have known, that their first choice as national security adviser, Mike Flynn, had problematic contacts with Russia. They were absurdly defensive about attempts to investigate Russian linkages. They were tone-deaf concerning the contrasts between Trump's reception of Sergei Lavrov vs his reception of Angela Merkel. In short, they took no competent steps at all to put the Russian issue in perspective. And, as a result, Russia gets credited, or blamed, for the chaos that some here in Russia might enjoy watching but nobody could have generated.
The actual reactions here in Russia range from honest bewilderment to open mocking, all thanks NOT to Russian scheming but to American ineptitude. And in the meantime, while we're diverted by that totally unnecessary coverup, the Trump team's dislike of expertise, experience, and humane policy is demonstrated daily in choices of Cabinet appointees and subordinates, and in policy choices. (See this alarming story, if true, about the USDA.) Education policy, Department of Justice prosecution guidelines, deportations and refugee restrictions, and the ongoing scandal around the attempted sabotage of health care financing ... all seem to point to an unprecedented level of extremist influence in D.C. policymaking. Again, none of this is attributable to Russia.
And all this is taking place under the supposed oversight of a man with a devastating combination of presidential flaws: he's disinterested, angry, sulky, intemperate, and inconsistent. Furthermore, he's assembled a team of staffers and allied legislators who knowingly kneeled down and accepted these attributes for purposes of their own. I pray daily for peaceful regime change, but there is no mechanism under the U.S. constitution for reversing an election and throwing out an entire administration, other than somehow managing the chaos and waiting for the next election. Short of that, there's impeachment, but impeachment is a blunt and messy instrument that would no doubt make Trump even more self-pitying and chaotic in the meantime. Even so, it might be the only instrument available to us.
There's another way out, of course -- for Trump to decide that the job just isn't what he expected it to be, that he's tired of being the object of unprecedented unfair treatment, and resign.
Please! Resign. End this carnage today.
Resign, and claim a wonderful prize: a lifetime supply of self-serving anecdotes about desserts, cruise missiles, witch-hunts, and fake news.
And the rest of us can begin to rebuild a more or less normal relationship between the USA and Russia. It probably won't be a perfect relationship, but at least it might be based on something approaching reality.
Related post: The Russian crowbar.
David A. Graham provides a good compact summary of the situation faced by the Trump administration at the moment.
Lawrence Douglas: Impeachment seemed impossible a few days ago.
The Durov brothers' legacy to Russian political conversation online. And Russian media outlets explain how to preserve access!
From the Pew Research Center: Religious belief and national belonging in Central and Eastern Europe.
Carol Kulluvilla: Bono has a message for young Christian artists.
There's a possibility that Newberg Friends Church could become two congregations.
Praying globally for evangelism.
Samantha Fish, "Either Way I Lose" (as far as I know it's not a political song)