Friday, January 6, 2017

Trolling Trump on Russia

Well, you come here for unorthodox opinions, and here's something you won't hear amid the deafening chattering re: Trump and the Russian hacking.

Why is Trump being so weird about the Russian hacking? One might figure it's because the Russians have something on him. And they very well may. But even if Putin has a sex tape of the guy being impotent (nothing else would suffice), or if Putin's slipped him a couple of his alleged hundreds of billions of dollars, what Trump's doing now isn't helping Putin (who is definitely not afraid of a congressional investigation), And it's certainly not helping Trump. So why is he doing this - denying the undeniable, fighting the intelligence community, and allowing himself to look thoroughly squirmy?

Easy. This parses to Trump and his circle as an attempt to delegitimize the election. We're trying to take away his win, so he's doing what Trump does: fighting tooth and nail, against all logic and sanity. The reaction is entirely predictable. An eight year old could have seen this coming, yet I haven't heard anyone on the left or even the anti-Trump right concentrate on this.

If the anti-Trump forces were truly outraged at Russian behavior, above/beyond any issues with actual election results - if they actually want everyone to transcend partisan bickering and focus on Putin, they would tell Donald Trump this: Relax. Have your win. This isn't about you. Join us in getting to the bottom of this, and we pledge that even if Putin personally hacked voting machines, we will let the election results stand uncontested. And he'd go along even if Putin was his daddy, because appearances. 

But I've not heard anything like that out of Schumer or Pelosi, have you?

In the absence of such reassurance, Trump is doing what Trump does; pushing back as hard as he can. Which makes him look bad. Which is of course, the point. It's a trap. I don't mean the Russians didn't really interfere; they plainly did. But by not reassuring Trump, the main priority becomes apparent. If the Democrats really wanted to rise above politics, they'd address Trump's point of anxiety. They won't, because this is a trap; a trolling. 

I can't say I completely object. I think Trump's an existential threat. But I feel we need to be careful not to damage institutions in the effort to deflect and deflate a man whose chief peril is his disregard for institutions. I worry this trolling will create the same sort of destabilization we fear Trump generating. The medicine can be worse than the disease.

I will say this: it's a clever trap. And I'm happier to see Americans trapping and manipulating Trump than foreigners.


Richard Stanford said...

This whole situation has shed light on an interesting quirk of US politics though - unlike many countries where the People have the right to bring a vote of no confidence, or similar, even if we did prove that Russia had interfered with the election by hacking the vote itself (I don't believe that they did), there doesn't seem to be any mechanism in place to recall a President. If he wasn't complicit in the hack to the point of Treason there isn't even ground to impeach him.

Speaking generically, not just about Trump. Its a very odd loophole, similar in size to the conflict of interest carveout for the President.

Jim Leff said...

Annulment in lieu of divorce, huh? Problem is such a mechanism would innately require some higher-level authority to do the annulling, and we have none - that lack being a feature, not bug, of democracy. People and POTUS are chicken and egg, and we don't WANT an intervening layer. There's impeachment, but it's an awfully tough lift (intentionally so).

The one thing we do have is the Electoral College, which, in my understanding, was specifically intended as a stopgap against crazed authoritarian demagogues enthralling masses to take power. But even the most rabid anti-Trump forces opposed pushing that lever, worried it'd be a cheat that would damage institutions more than Trump himself otherwise might. I can't see clearly through that thinking; my governmental/political savvy isn't high enough to really parse what happened on that one.

You're talking generally, but, specifically, I'm not saying Trump fears annulment of this marriage via discovery of Russia's role (and, yes, the vote wasn't hacked, and Dem belief in that is akin to Rep belief that Saddam caused 9/11). "I won it fair and square" is something all childish bullies say when in some errant affair they actually do decline to cheat as flagrantly as usual. So this is pinging that indignation. And the glory aspect of all this is not only sufficient, but paramount. All this Russia stuff is potentially fucking with the dude's glory. That's making him make some extraordinarily self-defeating choices right now. Trap was well-set.

That's a lever with Trump. Every POTUS is concerned with legacy. Trump will be a thousand times more so. That's both temptation and restraint.

Richard Stanford said...

Agreed with all of your points - I just think its mildly crazy that Trump doesn't have to worry about an annulment. He won the electoral collage vote. Even if Russia comes out tomorrow and points out that it engaged in a substantial game of false news, hacking, and blackmail to help him win - he'll still be the president for the next four years. AFAIK you can't impeach anyone for things that they did when they weren't elected.

As for his legacy - that's a harder one. It depends a lot on who he feels will be writing about him 20 years from now.

Jim Leff said...

Well, to say there are no concrete consequences to Trump in this is, of course, true. But most of Trump's emotional self-indulgence is over non-concrete issues. A phenomenally petty man is not going to shrug this off. A phenomenally reactive man is not going to let the point be made without a fight. The Roy Cohn/L Ron Hubbard playbook only works up to a certain point of power (after that point you become a wag-able dog), but it's all he's got. And everyone knows it.

Again, I'm not suggesting anti-Trump forces brewed the Russian thing up just to troll him. But Schumer/Pelosi certainly understand how this pings him, and are doing nothing to reassure him so we can unite the country against Russia. They're opportunistically forcing him to appear like the ultimate bald-faced collaborator.

The problem with Trump isn't that his issues make him a Strong Man. It's that they make him a tragically weak man, easily manipulated. Hillary did a good job of trolling/manipulation in the debates (remember obese Miss America?). Now we're trolling him on this to make him look as "red" (irony quotes intended) as Julius Rosenberg.

I'm not sure it'll work. You could troll the bejesus out of Kim Jong-il (or any leader in this mold) to make them look ridiculous and extreme and unhinged and hypocritical, but their people have been preconditioned not just to accept such behavior but to enjoy it. We still seem to be playing the "make them see he's beyond the pale" game, but his base of support is having none of it. He's like pre-washed jeans.

Your legacy note is true but chilling.

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