A debate now rages within Progressive circles following last Monday’s Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki. The issue is this: How do we explain Trump’s weird behavior during the meeting? The two most prominent explanations are these:
A. Donald Trump is a narcissistic idiot.
B. Donald Trump is a narcissistic idiot who is in Putin’s pocket.
One of these is clearly true, but which one?
According to the first explanation (we can call it the Simple Idiocy Theory), Trump is so upset about people doubting his 2016 election victory that he lashes out at everyone who might reinforce those doubts. So, he fires Comey, rages against Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself instead of taking up the Trumpian cause, and dispatches his various minions out to the media to discredit the FBI and the Mueller investigation.
According to the Simple Idiocy Theory, Trump wanted to do two things in Helsinki: First, get Putin to say that he didn’t interfere in the election, and, Second, express admiration for someone that he, Trump, considers a “strong leader.”
The second theory, the Idiot in Putin’s Pocket Theory, sees the Helsinki meeting as primarily a Putin operation aimed at weakening NATO and humiliating Trump. Certainly, if these were Putin’s goals, he succeeded. Did you notice, for example, how Trump, in his post-Helsinki Tucker Carlson interview said, in effect, “If Russia invades you, Montenegro, tough toenails on you.”
Wow. What is up with that? Maybe Trump still resents Montenegro’s Prime Minister for interfering with his “Back off, Bitches!” swagger at the NATO meeting in Brussels last year.
Trump shoves Montenegro's Prime Minister, Duško Marković aside
Trump poses for the camera after shoving Duško Marković aside (Pictures from USA Today)
Of the two theories, I’m inclined to believe the Idiot in Putin’s Pocket one. My reasoning is this: if Trump were merely obsessed with the legitimacy of his election, why does he consistently praise Putin and act so gutless in his presence? We know that Trump likes to show the world how strong he believes himself to be, and facing down Putin would be a great way to demonstrate strength. So why does he never do it?
Also, why does Trump threaten to shut down the Mueller investigation? If there’s nothing there, a full and thorough reporting of this fact would be to his advantage.
Furthermore, how is it that so many Trump affiliated people have been shown to have Russian connections, and so many of them “forgot to mention” these connections in a timely manner?
Finally, what is Trump hiding in his tax returns? Is it, as the Simple Idiocy people say, just a matter of Trump not wanting everyone to know he’s not as rich as he claims to be? Or is it, as I believe, because he is so tangled up in Russian oligarch money that he can’t act against Russia on behalf of American interests?
When the Mueller investigation is complete, assuming Trump doesn’t shut it down, we will know which of these theories is true. But in the meantime, we have another major debate to consider, that concerning the Republican leadership in Congress. The question here is, “Are Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan spineless partisan hacks, or…”
Never mind. There’s no real debate on that point.