Before this week, after this week

>> Friday, July 20, 2018

Before this week, I believed that the Russians very probably have compromising material on Donald J. Trump that they could use to pressure him or influence his decision-making processes, or to rein in his policy options where Russian interests are concerned.

After what went down at the NATO summit and the Helsinki press conference, I think it is extremely possible that the President is actually so deeply and thoroughly compromised he's effectively a Russian agent.  Not in the sense of a Manchurian Candidate or in the sense of being directly on a payroll, nor in the sense that he's necessarily receiving explicit instructions from Moscow; but in the sense that the level of threat Moscow can direct at himself, his family, and his business is so extensive that Trump has accepted a general mission of sabotaging America's international alliances and agreed to promote policies that will politically restructure the North Atlantic and Middle East in ways that advantage Russia relative to other actors.

Before this week, I assumed that the Republicans in Congress, along with other prominent Republicans, were engaging in obfuscation and deception out of mere tribalism and perhaps a willingness to accept malfeasance and incompetence from Trump and his administration as the price to be paid for securing the Judiciary for a generation or more, and perhaps even having an opportunity to dismantle and privatize what's left of the social safety net.

After the allegations made this week in a Federal criminal complaint and related hearings that an alleged Russian honeypot named Mariia Butina infiltrated the NRA and other GOP circles, enticing or attempting to entice prominent Republicans with offers of money and sex, I now strongly suspect that a significant number of Republicans in (and out of) Congress are attempting to derail the Mueller investigation and other criminal and counterintelligence investigations because they have reason to believe that the Trumps are not the only ones at risk of being exposed; they are only incidentally benefiting Trump while trying to protect themselves personally and/or perhaps protect advisors and colleagues close to them.  They have reason to believe that a close scrutiny of Russian political meddling in 2016--and the years leading up to 2016--will expose, at a minimum, that the GOP has wittingly or semi-unwittingly accepted huge amounts of illegally laundered Russian money, and may well expose even worse transgressions.  ("Semi-unwittingly"?  It's certainly possible some of these Republicans lacked direct knowledge but had reasonable suspicions and didn't ask questions about why they were receiving various donations and perqs or who was ultimately behind them.)

(I think it's entirely possible there are guilty Democrats--if I were the Russians, I'd be playing every angle.  And there are some disappointing allegations being directed at Bernie Sanders' campaign, and it's been out for awhile that Jill Stein appears to have been compromised; neither being Democrats, but both being on the left.  But nobody on the Dems' side of the Congressional aisle has yet behaved in a way that I'd call eyebrow-raising.)

But it should be noted that if a significant number of Republicans were compromised by Russia, it's not just bad for the GOP.  It's bad for everybody.  It potentially means that the constitutional branch of government charged with oversight of a corrupted President has itself been corrupted by the same source.  It means the henhouse is guarded by foxes.

We're the hens.

I thought it was bad before this week.

After this week, I think it might be worse.

I don't know that I believe it's worse--unlike Fox Mulder, I don't want to believe.  I don't want to suspect.  Unlike many people, or perhaps most people, I don't find comfort in conspiracy theories.  Believe it or not, I actually do derive a certain amount of comfort from the idea that history is a kind of drunkard's walk where random outcomes are bounded by preexisting conditions--in much the way a drunk staggering down a sidewalk bounded on one side by a wall might go in any direction, but if he walks into the wall he's going to be bounced back onto his path and once he gets momentum in one direction he's unlikely (though it's possible) to reverse course (I'm torturing an evolutionary metaphor the late Stephen Jay Gould used many years ago, and somewhat giving it a slightly different conclusion).  I like the idea that there are possibilities, even if some of them can be frightening, and I'm more than okay with the idea that there's no purpose to any of it other than the purposes we give ourselves--existentialism is terrifying but it's also liberating and powerful.

I would much prefer it if what we had was a cancer on the Presidency: cancer can be cut out, burned out, targeted with poisons.  The body politic might get sick and suffer from the cure for awhile, but survive and come out with hope and the opportunity to grow strong and be well again.

I am worried now that we have isn't a cancer, it's a poisoning.  Homicide.  With malice aforethought.  Oh, and that would be apt, considering the source: the Russians do like their polonium and Novichok agents, don't they?  And those poisons stay in the body, and they contaminate the environment, and they hurt and kill beyond their intended targets.

I would like my fears to be hollow paranoia, I would like my suspicions debunked.

I would hate to have them proven justified.


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