Putin’s useful idiot soils Veterans Day

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin, (left), and U.S. President Donald Trump talk as they arrive for the family photo session during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Danang, Vietnam, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Hau Dinh/AP Photo)

Seriously, how hard is it for a president to ace Veterans Day? Praise the troops, hail the fallen … it’s a patriotic no-brainer. Or it was, until now.

Did you ever imagine that a purported president would blaspheme the holiday by sliming the U.S. intelligence community, siding with a hostile adversary, and declaring Kremlin First?

Vladimir Putin met this weekend with his useful idiot, and insisted that he didn’t meddle and manipulate the ’16 election. Naturally that was good enough for the useful idiot, who later told reporters: “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. He says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ I think he is very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth. Don’t forget. All he said was he never did that, he didn’t do that. I think he is very insulted by it.”

Yes, it’s a new kind of Veterans Day when the guy who’s supposedly in charge takes the word of a trained KGB liar over the consensus conclusion of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Granted, it’s not easy to serve Putin at a time when special counsel Robert Mueller is breathing down his neck, but this weak American president is still doing his darnedest anyway, declaring this weekend that the investigation of the Trump-Russia link is just an “artificial Democratic hit job,” that some of the ex-intelligence leaders are “partisan hacks,” and that anyone who believes them are “haters and fools.”

It’s barely worth my time to point out that Mueller, a Republican, was brought into the FBI by George W. Bush; that Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, has endorsed the 17-agency conclusion that Putin and the Russians invaded our election; that all the Republican-led congressional committees probing the scandal have endorsed the intel conclusion; that former House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican, says the Russians invaded and plan to do so again — “a clear and present danger to our democracy”; and that the evidence thus far shows at least 30 meetings between Trump apparatchiks and the Russians. All told, refuting Trump’s lies on something so basic is worth just one paragraph, because his credibility is a figment of Sean Hannity’s imagination.

It’s far more productive to explain the term “useful idiot” and why it applies to Trump.

Most historians say the term was coined in the late 1940s, to derisively describe non-communists (duped businessmen, naive or compromised politicians) who were susceptible to communist manipulation. Clinton Watts, a former FBI special agent and terrorism expert, says that Trump fits the term to a T:

“Russian influence of Trump most likely falls into the category of what [former Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright called a ‘useful idiot’ — a ‘useful fool’ — an enthusiast for Putin supportive of any issue or stance that feeds his ego and brings victory. Russian intelligence for decades identified and promoted key individuals around the world ripe for manipulation and serving their interests. Trump, similar to emerging alternative right European politicians, spouts populist themes of xenophobia, anti-immigration, and white nationalist pride that naturally bring about a retrenchment of U.S. global influence. By spotting this early, Russia could encourage Trump’s ascension and shape his views … Russia led a never before seen hacking and influence campaign to degrade support for Hillary Clinton and promote Trump among a disenfranchised American populace. As a ‘useful idiot,’ Trump not only benefited from this influence effort, but he urged Russia to find Hilary Clinton’s missing emails …”

Watts has a lot more, but that’s the gist. Only a useful idiot would take the word of Putin (who, according to Trump, “very strongly, vehemently” denies meddling) over the well-argued conclusion of “political hacks” like former national intelligence director James Clapper. Only a useful idiot would use Veterans Day to slime a veteran like Clapper, who, instead of pleading bone spurs, flew more than 70 combat missions in EC-47s.

Yesterday, Trump did make a weak attempt to walk back his holiday perfidy, claiming that he was only trying to describe what Putin believes, not what he, Trump, believes. Whatever. The ongoing mystery, of course, is why Trump is so consistently subservient, why he was so willing to betray our security interests on Veterans Day. Maybe Putin has something on him, maybe Putin’s oligarchs kept his businesses afloat and now it’s payback time — but at this point it almost doesn’t matter. What matters, going forward, is what an empowered electorate is willing to do about it.

Because, at least for those of us with functioning intellects, it seems self-evident that siding with a hostile power, deriding U.S. intel agencies, and refusing to take steps to prevent future Russian info warfare, is the very definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

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