Alas, I must defend President Trump once again. I continue to find him more suitable for diagnosis than condemnation.
I don't think he needs to be impeached for high crimes. I think he needs to be escorted discreetly to personality rehab, even though it would mean the atrocity of the unctuous Mike Pence as the acting president.
A garden-variety criminally colluding traitor does not make a speech calling on the foreign rival with which he is alleged to be colluding to hack into his opponent's emails.
Somebody not smart enough to collude does that. Somebody given by an ego disorder to cheering-spurred adrenaline does that. Someone prone by misguided personal celebration to unthinking rhetoric gets worked up at a political rally and does that.
Trump got predictably routed Monday in a brief pseudo-summit with a vastly more competent and self-assured Russian, Vladimir Putin, who probably sized up Trump's easily manipulated ego-neediness in about five minutes years ago.
This pitted the veteran Russian intelligence operative against the star of American reality television. It was like UALR starting football and scheduling itself in its first year as Alabama's opener.
That's why Putin, as he acknowledged Monday, wanted the American mound of clay to get elected president. He saw someone he could work with, or on. He knew Hillary Clinton was more formidable, or at least more irritable--that Trump fancied a shirtless horseback rider more than she did.
I never deemed Trump bright enough to collude or conspire. I deemed him instead vapid and self-absorbed enough to be used.
I don't think he means to be treasonous. I think he seeks at all times only to feed his ravenous ego. Everything he does comes down to the only thing he ever thinks about--himself, save a few moments apparently devoted to idolizing the man's man that is Vladimir.
I see Trump as the classic bully--full of big talk in front of a friendly unthinking crowd, or in an interview, or on Twitter, but conflict-averse and anti-confrontational--i.e., a wimp--when personally confronted by one against whom he might have delivered tough-sounding criticism moments before, be that Angela Merkel or Theresa May. Or anybody, save Putin.
Trump must also be sexist. He might not have been as hard in interviews or in detached pronouncements on a male leader of Germany or the United Kingdom, or as intimated by a female leader of Russia, not that Russia would have one.
If Trump turns out to be beholden to Russian oligarchs or compromised by information Russians have on him, then so be it. But I will be surprised. I will admit naïveté. Until then, I will continue to find Donald more utterly ridiculous than strictly corrupt.
What kind of world leader stands on the world stage next to an epic rival and finds the occasion appropriate for asserting once again that he won the presidency fair and square on his own because of his own brilliant campaign, and to utter the resoundingly bogus notion--and the narrow and self-obsessed provinciality--that he won in the electoral college despite the electoral college favoring Democrats?
A recent cover article in The Economist explains with statistical analysis what I've been screaming for months--that America's electoral system has created the tyranny of a minority of rural Republicanism. It does that by giving inordinate, distorted electoral strength to Republican-dominating desolate territory than to large concentrations of actual people, who mostly favor Democrats. Republicans control both the White House and the U.S. Senate despite getting fewer people's votes for both.
And therein lies Trump's obsession with the federal investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election: It raises the lingering specter that Russia helped him win a race he couldn't win on his own. It suggests his victory is thus not legitimate, much less reflective of his personal magnificence.
Nothing disturbs him and his disorder more than that.
A foreign threat to the integrity of our democracy certainly doesn't.
What transpired Monday in Helsinki--Trump's utter betrayal of his nation and acquiescence to Putin--was portended in this space a week ago.
I quoted the Business Insider as reporting that Putin was playing to Trump's ego in numerous conversations by treating him as an equal in terms of intellect and potency. The Russian intelligence operative was filling the head of the American reality television star with notions that only the American "deep state" stood in the way of their friendship, indeed an alliance that could dominate the world.
A man who would fall for that needs emergency personality surgery for the removal of delusion and naïveté, and for the injection of brain cells through a steady IV drip.
You should fear for your country and the world--certainly. You should be outraged at the declined state of decency and the lost American ideal.
But in the specific case of the poor preposterous second-place Russian-endorsed president, you should feel mostly sorry.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 07/18/2018
Print Headline: He just can't help it