Character, not collusion, best explains the president’s bizarre deference to Vladimir Putin.
Last week, I wrote that the best way to think about a Trump Doctrine is as nothing more than Trumpism on the international stage. By Trumpism, I do not mean a coherent ideological program, but a psychological phenomenon, or simply the manifestation of his character.
.. During a joint news appearance with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump demonstrated that, when put to the test, he cannot see any issue through a prism other than his grievances and ego... Trump made it clear that he can only understand the investigation into Russian interference as an attempt to rob him of credit for his electoral victory, and thus to delegitimize his presidency.’.. For most people with a grasp of the facts — supporters and critics alike — the question of Russian interference and the question of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign are separate. Russia did interfere in the election, full stop. Whether there was collusion is still an open question, even if many Trump supporters have made up their minds about it. Whether Russian interference, or collusion, got Trump over the finish line is ultimately unknowable, though I think it’s very unlikely... Among the self-styled “resistance,” the answer takes several sometimes overlapping, sometimes contradictory forms.
- One theory is that the Russians have “kompromat” — that is, embarrassing or incriminating intelligence on Trump. Another is that
- he is a willing asset of the Russians — “Agent Orange” — with whom he colluded to win the presidency.
.. their real shortcoming is that they are less plausible than the Aesopian explanation: This is who Trump is. Even if Russia hadn’t meddled in the election at all, Trump would still admire Putin because Trump admires men like Putin — which is why he’s praised numerous other dictators and strongmen.
.. The president’s steadfast commitment to a number of policies —
- animosity toward NATO,
- infatuation with protectionism,
- an Obama-esque obsession with eliminating nuclear weapons, and
- his determination that a “good relationship” with Russia should be a policy goal rather than a means to one
— may have some ideological underpinning. (These policies all seem to be rooted in intellectual fads of the 1980s.)