GELFAND’S WORLD--The political assassination that Donald Trump carried out this weekend wasn't against a person, but against a whole way of life. His attack on the G7 alliance has brought a particularly painful form of realization to a head. As David Leonhardt pointed out in a New York Times op ed and Josh Marshall pointed out a day or two earlier in his own blog, one thing is abundantly clear:
Donald Trump is doing everything in his power to break up the western alliance.
It's the alliance that includes NATO and the G7, that carried us through the cold war, and currently struggles alongside the U.S. to fight terrorism. Yet the facts point us towards this conclusion: that the U.S. president seeks to ruin it.
Josh Marshall ("We've Got a Problem. A Big Problem") points out that for some things, it doesn't ultimately matter what the motive is. It is the action itself that counts. Whether or not Trump has some sort of corrupt bargain with Putin, or whether Putin has compromising material on Trump that works as blackmail, Trump's actions are exactly what you would have expected if one or the other happens to be the case.
Leonhardt ("Trump Tries to Destroy the West") lays out his case in simple, yet persuasive paragraphs:
"The alliance between the United States and Western Europe has accomplished great things. It won two world wars in the first half of the 20th century. Then it expanded to include its former enemies and went on to win the Cold War, help spread democracy and build the highest living standards the world has ever known.
"President Trump is trying to destroy that alliance.
"Is that how he thinks about it? Who knows. It’s impossible to get inside his head and divine his strategic goals, if he even has long-term goals. But put it this way: If a president of the United States were to sketch out a secret, detailed plan to break up the Atlantic alliance, that plan would bear a striking resemblance to Trump’s behavior."
Leonhardt mentions that Trump raised disagreements at the G7 meeting over "tariffs that Trump has imposed for false reasons." He quotes Paul Krugman's erudite take down of Trump's nonsense, which is both convincing and scary.
We might also consider an article by Kevin Drum, who responded to Trump's attack on Canadian tariffs on dairy products by graphing the level of protectionism the U.S. maintains for its own dairy industry. (The blue bars are domestic sales. The thin red lines are imports.) Drum's title tells it all: "U.S. trade policy on dairy is simple: We basically allow no imports at all." He summarizes, "Roughly speaking, this is the way every country works. Everybody protects their dairy industry, though the details vary considerably in how they do it. We're no different."
Yet Canadian tariffs were the excuse for Trump's bad behavior.
Josh Marshall, David Leonhardt, Paul Krugman, and an increasing number of Americans and Europeans are now pointing out with stark clarity that Trump's actions work to serve Russian interests.
Krugman puts the case directly: "Was there any strategy behind Trump’s behavior? Well, it was pretty much exactly what he would have done if he really is Putin’s puppet: yelling at friendly nations about sins they aren’t committing won’t bring back American jobs, but it’s exactly what someone who does want to break up the Western alliance would like to see."
In some sense, these learned gentlemen are being Captain Obvious here. We've known about Trump policies since the 2016 Republican National Convention, where Trump's group got the language on Ukraine and Crimea softened. Trump was carrying water for Putin even then -- the only surprising thing about it was how brazen it was, there in the full publicity of a national nominating convention.
A historical irony to beat all
In the 1950s until recently, the conservative Republicans made a lot of points by claiming to be the strongest anti-Communists. They criticized the Democrats for weakness, in spite of the cold war records (and in the case of LBJ, a hot war) that Democrats carried on against communist expansion. Nixon probably got the most mileage over the claim, but hundreds of Republican candidates at all levels pounded their chests over how tough they could be with Ivan.
The post-Soviet era has been one in which the Russian empire has shrunk, with some Warsaw Pact countries defecting to the west. But with that has come Putin's desire to regain Russian control over some of that territory -- Crimea being the most obvious victory.
American policy has been to bolster our NATO allies and, to the extent possible, support the interests of countries such as Ukraine that were once fully under Soviet control. It's no secret that a proxy war has been going on over Ukraine, with Putin's stooges supporting Russian influence and the west sympathizing with those in Ukraine who look towards our side.
If Trump were a Democrat but doing what he has been doing, the right wing in this country would have attacked him nonstop. There might already be an impeachment.
But where is that pro-America, anti-Russian chorus from the right wing? This is the deepest of historical ironies that in an era of Russian expansionism, the Republican Party and its Fox propaganda apparatus are acting like the Russian stooges they once would have attacked.
More and more, I see references to Trump as a toddler.It's not too far out, what with the tantrums, the lack of knowledge about even the simplest technical subjects, and most of all, the narcissism that is normal for a two year old but should have been grown out of after a few years.
This is not a normal person. But we all know that.
What's been missing is for loyal Republicans to admit openly that the country has a problem. It long since should have been country over party. We've seen a few careful remarks by congressmen who are retiring from service, but the bulk are maintaining their servile approach to the chief executive.
What's ultimately dangerous is how Trump's obvious debt to Russian interests is being paid through actions like the tariff shakeup that would otherwise lack credibility for a president trying to serve the interests of the United States. A side effect of the Trump era is that European leaders in Germany and France are, more and more, becoming the de facto leaders of the western alliance, working with their colleagues to try to contain the damage.
It was just a few days ago in otherwise ultra-conservative San Diego County. A total stranger looked up from his newspaper and said, "He's nuts."
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)