Here's Saturday's newspaper column:
We learned a lot from Robert Mueller’s indictments; more still from Trump’s reactions to them. Much of it we already knew: America is under attack by Russia; in social media, right-wing talkers, and the Foxified they found their weapons of choice; whatever their aim when it began, they decided they wanted Trump in the White House; using a multi-pronged effort and plenty of money to put him there, they turned the strengths of democracy into weaknesses.
What we hadn’t known was the extent to which our intelligence agencies had eyes on the perpetrators. That the indictments contained direct quotes from inside was more than just a basis for charges: it was a shot aimed straight into the basket of Trump’s enablers having connections to Russians and denying wrongdoing.
Though the indictments referred only to “unwitting” pawns who believed it was with fellow Americans they agreed to spread lies, the charges neither addressed nor exculpated Kushner, Manafort, Don Jr., et al. Nor, importantly, Trump. We know things, the indictments said. The opportunity to mitigate your punishment is finite. Gates and Van Der Zwaan are the first to catch Mueller’s drift.
Because Russian efforts began before his candidacy, Trump made the spurious claim he was off the hook. Nice try. When it began was shortly after Trump took his puerile pageantry to Moscow. It’s a reasonable conclusion that by blackmail, shakedown, or simply seeing Trump’s neediness and narcissism up close, Putin recognized tillable soil in which to plant his flag. Unknown, so far, is how deep it went.
There’s no denying Putin has gotten what he wanted. Trump continues to blame everyone but Russia; only grudgingly, then backpedaling, has he acknowledged their interference, much less enacted sanctions, including those he signed into law. It’s alleged Flynn promised Kislyak they’d undo President Obama’s, which, in yet another among his pathological lies, Trump claims never existed. Inconsistency and lies being Trump’s strong suit, he tried for a twofer: touting the 2014 starting date of Russian interventions while denying they happened. And he and Pence falsely claim it’s been concluded there was no impact on the election.
Floating another deflection, Trump says it wasn’t about electing him, it was about dividing us. Right. And how better to do it? To Trump, though, it’s lawful investigations into unlawful activities that create division.
“They’re laughing their asses off in Moscow,” tweeted Donald the Wordsmith, oblivious to the irony. Then, despicably exploiting the murders of children, he claimed the FBI’s mishandling of information about the Florida shooter was because they’re pursuing the “fake” Russia story. Will he go still lower? Of course. As will the execrable right-wing talkers and other deplorables slandering the Florida survivors, whose righteous eloquence they fear. You can’t scrape the bottom of a barrel that hasn’t one.
A president’s primary duty is to defend our country from its enemies, foreign and domestic. Trump’s dismissal, despite “incontrovertible” proof, as National Security Advisor McMaster put it, of an attack on America no less premeditated and destructive than Pearl Harbor or 9/11 is dereliction. Worse is his refusal to do anything about it, for which derelict is the mildest descriptor. How about appeasement, a Foxian favorite? Had it been President Obama, everyone still excusing Trump, every Congressional Republican, would be proclaiming treason and readying impeachment. In their hypocritical hearts, they know it’s true.
Direct observation supports the conclusions. In word, deed, and non-deed, Trump is aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin, and has been from the start of his campaign. We don’t yet know how deeply Trump is in Putin’s tank, but we can assume his inaction on the attack is, at least in part, because he and Congressional Republicans want more of it next election. It’s their best shot.
Our democratic institutions, we’re told, can withstand even a dangerous bedlamite like Trump. Are we sure? Congress turns a blind eye. Trump stacks the courts with right-wing ideologues, threatens judges already in place. He calls the press “enemies of America,” shuns expertise. Voters are stupefyingly susceptible to Russian and Foxolimjonesian propaganda. We’ve just learned Russia hacked into voter rolls: our complicit House Republicans responded by voting to end the only government agency responsible for safeguarding election security. “Laughing their asses off,” indeed. Pennsylvania Avenue is now Krasnaya Ploshad.
On Monday, Presidents’ Day passed without a president of the United States in office.[Image source. The post title is a reference to this, in case you haven't heard of it.]