During the 2016 Presidential campaign, as more and more information became available about Donald Trump's financial ties with Russian interests, and as Trump, while denying the existence of such ties, heaped words of praise upon Russian President Vladimir Putin, an unsettling question emerged in the minds of many (mine being among them): is Trump the real-life equivalent of "The Manchurian Candidate," the title character of the 1962 film (and the 2004 remake), a person who has been manipulated in becoming an agent of a foreign power, even though perceived by the public as an American hero?
Trump himself, unsurprisingly, was not particularly honest in addressing this question. He denied having any business dealings in Russia, even while evidence of such dealings slowly began to accumulate. Since his election and inauguration, that process of accumulation has only accelerated, to the point at which former FBI director Robert Muller is now acting as an independent prosecutor investigating Trump's Russian ties, among other related matters.
One of those related matters, of course, is the extent to which the Russians used cybertechnology to meddling with the votes and the outcome of last fall's election. At the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany earlier this month, in a private meeting that reportedly did not even include Trump's own translator, Putin allegedly assured Trump that no such meddling had taken place, and even offered to work with Trump to ensure that it would not take place in the future. In return for Putin's reassuring, unverifiable words, Trump gave Putin carte blanche to intervene in the Syrian civil war in any way that he wanted. Further, and perhaps even worse in some ways, he gave him carte blanche to continue to suppress and assassinate his one people, upending decades of American foreign policy dedicated to the advancement of human rights.
OK, you tell me, who got the better of the deal here? Only the most die-hard of Trump voters would say yes. As a matter of fact, some of the saner member of Trump's own party are saying no, and pushing him to act more like he's the President of this country, not Russia. But, instead of taking the advice of people whose self-interest (and the interests of the nation) depend on helping him, Trump chooses to sail even deeper into the limitless depths of his ignorance and arrogance.
Much more recently, Trump has gone so far as to not only hint at firing Muller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but also to inquire into the extent of his office's power to grant pardons. As in, can he pardon himself, if he has to? In particular, he hinted that Muller should not investigate any of Trump's businesses. If you think after hearing that hint that there's an innocent explanation for Trump's refusal all though last year to release his tax returns, feel free to inquire about this bridge I own.
But perhaps the most direct evidence of Russian attempts to interfere with last year's election came when it was revealed, and subsequently substantiated by direct evidence in the form of e-mail communications, that Donald Trump, Jr. took a meeting with a Russian lawyer under the pretext that the lawyer possessed damaging information about Hillary Clinton that the Trump campaign could put to good use. Trump's son, as it turns out, was being totally bamboozled; the lawyer had a different agenda altogether. The information about this meeting should have been turned over to the FBI; instead, it became just another one of numerous foreign contacts that Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law (who was also at the meeting) "forgot" to report.
Art of the deal, my foot--either one of them. Who falls for such an obvious attempt by a foreign power at gaining access to the American political process? And who honestly believes that, in the fishbowl of international politics and Web-based journalism, it would be possible to be part of such an attempt and yet expect never to be caught?
I believe that this article holds much of the explanation. Trump, his family, his closest followers and, to a degree, the people who voted for him, are all afflicted by that peculiar form of narcissism that Americans are prone to display, especially in dealings with foreign nations and nationals. Our perception of our "exceptionalism" leads us to believe that we have nothing to learn from the rest of the world, even though the principles behind our system of government had antecedents in European philosophy and history. Couple that with Trump's silver-spoon pedigree, and the sense of entitlement that it nurtured in him, and you have all of the ingredients you need for self-love to self-inflict a disaster for everyone in this country.
Sadly, in the process, our idealism about what America and the rest of the world should be like, which is very much linked to our narcissism, is sacrificed in the process because Trump regards our ideals as little more than words, empty vessels to be given away at will for the same of short-term gains. As the Vanity Fair author explains, it is those ideals that offer our best defense to the level of foreign corruption that Trump and his cronies have invited across our borders. Our borders! He's the last person who should be talking about weakening this countries borders; he may have already allowed the Russians to erase them. And they certainly aren't shy about letting him know--or us--know it.
Donald Trump, the Muscovite Candidate. It's not a movie. It's the reality that surrounds us. It's the reality that may devour us.