Republicans Love Their Russian Puppet President Trump
Republicans are in a pickle. Midterms are coming up and the party in the White House usually loses seats in those elections. It doesn't help their chances that their guy Donald Trump frolics through fields holding hands with self-made Russian dictator and coincidental poisoner Vladimir Putin, who our own justice department believes attacked our mostly free elections and our true national monument, the Internet.
If you're as old as I am, you'll recall that back in the 1980s, the whole Republican brand involved not trusting the Ruskies, and they were especially disappointed when Kevin Costner turned out to be one in No Way Out. Now, the current Republican president is talking like some kind of crazy commie lib, bashing the FBI and giving the benefit of the doubt to a former KGB agent. During an interview Sunday where he wore a hat with "USA" in big letters on it, presumably so someone could easily return him if he got lost on the field trip, Trump went so far as to call the European Union a "foe" of his country, which if you believe his hat is supposedly the United States not Russia.
"I think we have a lot of foes," Trump told CBS News in an interview segment that aired Sunday on "Face the Nation." "I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe."
The President added that "Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn't mean they're bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive. They want to do well and we want to do well."
Pressed as to why he first listed the EU as a foe, Trump responded, "No, I look at them all. Look, EU is very difficult. [...] In a trade sense, they've really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren't paying their bills(.)"
Trump is a businessman at heart, so maybe that's why he ranks "taking advantage" of the US in trade above attacking the very heart of our democracy. I don't know why he's so hacked off about countries in NATO not "paying their bills" when Trump's notorious for stiffing people.You'd think they'd bond over their mutual assured deadbeat-ness. This all leaves Trump's fellow Republicans scrambling to rationalize the president's soft spot for a major geopolitical opponent that did more to us recently than Britain ever did, even when it inflicted Hugh Grant upon us.
Republicans likely had no expectations of Trump behaving like a normal president from either party and expressing even mild annoyance that Russia, under Putin's direction, had hacked the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign -- as well as probing the election vendors and voter rolls of an unknown number of states. This was probably why Rand Paul, on CNN's "State of the Union," argued that all countries "meddle" in foreign elections. Yeah, it's not just the kleptocratic, authoritarian regime: We're all just a bunch of snoopy Gladys Kravitzes peeking into other country's windows, and Putin's never going to admit anything anyway so let's just end this whole "witch hunt." Republicans used to hate this type of moral relativism, but they hate being out of power more.
Trump, in fairness, did come out strongly to condemn the person he believed was truly responsible for the attacks on our elections (and presumably also the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman).
Obama did try to warn Americans about Russia's actions, but demon in the shape of a turtle Mitch McConnell blocked his efforts. Maybe Obama could've done more (yeah, maybe), but Trump is president now unfortunately so that's really his job. Instead, he viciously attacks actual Americans while on stage with Putin, whom he practically awards the Presidential Medal of Dreaminess. Worse, after Putin probably patiently explained to his Celebrity Apprentice Despot that the Helsinki summit was not actually in Russia, Trump later tweeted "Thank you, Helsinki!" with accompanying video like he thought the whole thing was some damn rock concert.
Republicans wish Obama was back in office because they at least have prepared "treasonous un-American weakling" remarks they could just recycle from, say, the time he went to a baseball game. Now they have to try to defend Trump or obliquely criticize him in way that doesn't get them Sanforded.
Lindsey Graham blisteringly called Obama a "stubborn-headed, delusional, detached president" because of the Iran nuclear deal, but now he placidly expresses disappointment with Trump as if he turned in a half-assed middle-school essay ("How I Spent My Treasonous Helsinki Vacation").
Oh, and LOL!, the president accepted a soccer ball as a gift from the guy who attacked us and he better be careful because it might be bugged! That is funny, as it implies that Putin has to actually bug the White House rather than just get state secrets directly from Trump on the direct line he had installed. Someone might've slipped Graham some quaaludes, but Jeff Flake was so infuriated by Trump's behavior that his hair almost moved.
This is a turning point: Flake might just hesitate for half a second before voting to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee, who was hand-picked to protect him from any eventual charges from the Russia investigation. Guess what, Senator, that kind of makes you an accomplice. Good night, Helsinki!
Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.