Joseph Stalin’s ghost took a look at Donald Trump yesterday and chuckled to himself: “I sure wish Truman and Eisenhower had dumped on NATO when I was still alive. But hey, the new guy is better late than never. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect American stooge.”
Who needs hard evidence about Trump-Russia collusion on the ’16 election? Trump’s behavior on his foreign tour, most notably yesterday with the members of NATO, reinforces what we’ve already long known- that he’s basically colluding with Vladimir Putin to weaken the western alliance that has kept the peace for 70 years, loosening the bonds of NATO for Russia’s benefit.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, Trump refused yesterday “to publicly back the security alliance’s core tenet, that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. Mr. Trump’s refusal to say he supports NATO’s common defense provision, known as Article 5, left European diplomats dismayed.” And he surely made Putin giddy, because weakening those western nations has long been tops on his hit parade. And that’s fine with Trump as well, because, as we saw this week, he’s far happier palling around with authoritarians in the Middle East than hobnobbing with democratic leaders in Europe.
Trump’s fans – 37 percent of the citizenry – couldn’t care less what faraway people with funny accents think about their Leader. They’re way too invested in the guy to give a hoot. They’re too busy waiting (in vain) for the factory and coal jobs to come back, waiting (in vain) for a terrific beautiful Obamacare replacement plan, to look beyond the nearest parochial horizon.
But rest assured, our traditional western allies see Trump for who and what he is – a manifest threat to international stability and peace.
Remember the wars of the previous century, when America defeated Germany, twice extinguishing the raging flame of German authoritarianism? What a role reversal we’re witnessing now. Now it’s Germany sounding the alarm about dangerously ignorant American authoritarianism. Trump’s 37 percent fan base would surely scoff at this new editorial in Der Spiegel (assuming they know what Der Spiegel is); the rest of us would be hard-pressed to find a word that doesn’t ring true:
“Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees…
“The U.S. elected a laughing stock to the presidency and has now made itself dependent on a joke of a man…The Trump administration has no foreign policy because Trump has consistently promised American withdrawal while invoking America’s strength. He has promised both no wars and more wars. He makes decisions according to his mood, with no strategic coherence or tactical logic. Moscow and Beijing are laughing at America. Elsewhere, people are worried.
“In the Pacific, warships – American and Chinese – circle each other in close proximity. The conflict with North Korea is escalating. Who can be certain that Donald Trump won’t risk nuclear war simply to save his own skin? Efforts to stop climate change are in trouble and many expect the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because Trump is wary of legally binding measures. Crises, including those in Syria and Libya, are escalating, but no longer being discussed. And who should they be discussed with? Phone calls and emails to the U.S. State Department go unanswered. Nothing is regulated, nothing is stable and the trans-Atlantic relationship hardly exists anymore. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Norbert Röttgen fly back and forth, but Germany and the U.S. no longer understand each other. Hardly any real communication takes place, there are no joint foreign policy goals and there is no strategy…
“In real life, an immature boy sits on the throne of the most important country in the world. He could, at any time, issue a catastrophic order that would immediately be carried out. That is why the parents cannot afford to take their eyes off him even for a second. They cannot succumb to exhaustion because he is so taxing. They ultimately have to send him to his room – and return power to the grownups.”
But that won’t happen unless a sufficient share of suckered Trumpkins experience a cognitive awakening and signal to the Republican leaders on Capitol Hill that enough is enough. For now, however, as ex-Bush senior aide Michael Gerson laments, “The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased….With the blessings of a president, they have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion. They have allowed political polarization to reach their hearts, and harden them. They have allowed polarization to dominate their minds, and empty them.”
In all likeihood, that hardened mindset helped push pro-Trump Republican Greg Gianforte over the finish line in yesterday’s special congressional election in Montana. As I said here yesterday, Montana’s red electorate wouldn’t spurn a guy who’s been charged with misdemeanor assault for pummelling a reporter; some of the Trumpkins who voted yesterday said the reporter probably got what he deserved.
Trump won red Montana by 20 points last November, and some Democrats claim that Gianforte’s modest six-point win is an early sign of waning Trump clout, even in cowboy country. They said the same thing last month when a Republican won a special congressional election by 6.8 points in red Kansas.
Fine. But one of these days, Democrats need to chalk up an actual victory, starting with the Georgia special congressional election on June 20 – because moral victories change nothing. Moral victories won’t re-stabilize our NATO alliance, or dispel the stink of home-grown authoritarianism. Moral victories are symbolic, nothing more. As a corrupt judge quipped with a wink of the eye, in one of David Mamet’s movies, “See the padre on your way out. He’ll punch your ticket.”