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“Putin’s Mouthpiece” (not my words!)

January 16, 2017


With so many frightening things happening right now, it’s almost impossible to focus attention on any one of them.  But here’s something that even conservatives should be scared about: Trump’s renewed trash talking over the weekend about NATO and the European Union.

Trump’s interview with two major European newspapers shocked leaders throughout Europe, who had already been rattled by his cavalier remarks during the campaign.  He expressed indifference to the fate of the European Union, which he called a vehicle for German interests. He put both Angela Merkel (a strong US ally) and Vladimir Putin (a despotic US adversary) in the same category. He said Brexit was a “great thing” and called NATO “obsolete” while doubling down on his previous remarks that European countries weren’t paying their share.  Asked about sanctions on Russia, he hinted in his usual incoherent way that perhaps they might be lifted as part of a “good deal” with Putin.

A conservative columnist for The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, was freaked out enough to write an op-ed headlined:  “Trump is Putin’s Mouthpiece”.  Here’s a bit of what she had to say:

Had the Russians never hacked the Democratic National Committee or John Podesta, had WikiLeaks not strategically released Democrats’ emails to damage Hillary Clinton, had President-elect Donald Trump not surrounded himself with a host of Russophiles (e.g. Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Boris Epshteyn), had Trump not complimented Russian President Vladimir Putin during the campaign and defended him from charges that he murders journalists, had his campaign team not changed (then denied changing) the GOP platform on Ukraine and had Trump uttered a syllable of criticism of Putin, his interview with the Times of London would have been a surprise rather than a reaffirmation of Trump’s creepy favoritism toward America’s most formidable foe. Surely, had President Obama rather than Trump made the remarks, Republicans would be calling for him to resign, or at the very least, questioning his sanity and patriotism.

Noting that Trump is attacking the foundation of the international order that has been in existence for 70 years, Rubin concludes, “Republicans in Congress have a clear choice: Putin/Trump or loyalty to their once strongly held principle that the United States must lead in the world to act as a check on malevolent forces.

And what have we heard from other Republicans so far?  Anyone?  Anyone?  [crickets]

While some of Trump’s cabinet nominees have made traditional reassurances about support for Europe and our international alliances, it is the president that sets both the tone and the agenda for foreign policy.  Once he is in office, cabinet heads are not going to be able to contain Trump’s aggressive recklessness.

So is there an actual strategy here, or is this merely Trump mindlessly riffing on his vast ignorance?  Does he seriously not realize that casual remarks by the President of the United States can set off shock waves around the globe?  Does he actually think that’s a good thing?

If there is a plan here, then one really does have to ask whose plan it is. Because the clearest beneficiary sits in the Kremlin.

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