Yesterday was another of those You Are There days. The kind that harkens back to the old TV series recreating history with the line, "What kind of a day was it? A day like any another, except...You Are There."
Here's the thing, though. The bizarre thing isn't that there are so many stories to write about, it's that there are two monumentally horrific stories...and I don't know where to begin. Actually, there is even a third story that's pretty horrific, as well. And none of this even takes into consideration all the other ongoing stories, like separating children from their parents -- with no plan to reunite them. Or Trump suggesting we shouldn't honor NATO treaties to come to the defense of others we're obligated to. Or calling the European Union are "foes." Or still calling the press "the enemy of the people," only weeks after five reporters were shot dead. Or a summit with Putin that many are calling treasonous, which Trump tried to explain away over the mere use of the word "wouldn't." Or...well, I'll stop there because this isn't about any of all that, which is near-endless and damning, but not at the horrific level of the new stories.
So, what do you begin with?
Do you begin with Russia wanting the United States to send them former Ambassador Michael McFaul for "questioning" over some non-existent, patched together, completely undocumented crimes, and Trump not only did not instantly shut them down with,"No way in hell," but instead said that he's gathering his advisers to discuss what to dot?? To be clear, I'm sure that the White House will say -- eventually, when they get around to it -- that they're not turning Mr. McFaul over to Russia, and then try use this as proof of how supposedly "tough" they are on Russia. But NO -- as emphatic a NO as can be mustered -- any answer of "No way in hell" that takes longer than eight seconds to get out into the world is horrifyingly disgraceful, and waiting a full day to respond (or longer, for all we know) is long enough to dishonor even a White House that doesn't appear to know the meaning of "honor." It should remove support from any Trump supporter with even a whiff of self-respect, leaving only the unthinking cultist.
By the way, this relates directly, as well, to Putin trashing Bill Browder at the summit press conference, while Trump stood there silently, all of which I wrote about the other day here, referencing Putin's hatred of the Magnitsky Act he hates for freezing his assets held in the U.S. and those of other Russian oligarchs accused in Sergei Magnitsky's murder, among other things. Putin wants Browder turned over to him, as well. Along with others, all based on his insistence alone. Trying to create a false-equivalency with the 12 Russian GRU military operatives who have been indicted by the U.S. Justice Department with lengthy, meticulously-detailed and specific crimes.
In any normal world, that is clearly the major-headline story you begin with. But this is Trump Land. So, do you begin with that, or instead another story? Do you begin with the New York Times report late yesterday that...well, let them explain:
"Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.
"The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.
"Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed."
To put this in focus, what this means is that two weeks before he was inaugurated, Trump was personally shown detailed evidence from the intelligence services (who he "says" he trusts, let us remember...) which established in texts and emails that Putin was directing attacks on the United States -- and from that day to now, Trump has been insisting that there was not only no attack, but that Putin was a "nice guy" who insists Russia did no such thing. All the while, he had evidence that what he was saying was a lie, and was involved in a cover-up, protecting the perpetrator of a crime, that being an ongoing attack against the United States?
So, which story is bigger? Which is worse? How on earth do you choose between them.
For that matter, the story with accused Russian spy Maria Butina being arrested and arraigned in court yesterday is a pretty horrific one, too. It shows the first public details of there there being an occasion of actual Russian conspiracy with Americans in an effort to influence a wide range of American politics and U.S. politicians. And her connections yesterday were reported by journalist David Corn to possibly go as high as her being funded by an oligarch next to Putin. And worse (or best of all, depending on your point of view), it involves complicity of the corporate gun-manufacturer owned NRA terrorist organization over their involvement in money-laundering, which in a very-possible world could help bring about the destruction of the NRA.
It's worth adding to this story that Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton -- before he took the White House job -- was convinced by Ms. Butina to make a pro-gun video for the spy to be shown in Russia. Just what you want in a National Security Adviser, eh? Further though, given that Trump's first National Security Adviser Mike Flynn resigned within days of his appointment and was officially (it was later revealed and admitted to) a foreign agent for Turkey and now has pleaded guilty in the Special Counsel's investigation, it lays bare the brutal emptiness of Trump's insistence that "I know all the best people," and puts great meaning on the phrase, "He actually put us all at risk."
So, which of these stories do you begin with???
I think that I went with the right order. But I don't know. I could make a case for any of them. But the larger point is that when you have these three stories -- forget even all the others -- in ONE day and two of them can't be the massive banner headline lead, you've got a monumentally sinking disaster. And the White House has no qualified people to help get him out of it.
I'm reminded of a great line by Mark Twain, from a totally different (of course) context. But it fits here for Trump -- "There you have it. She's a sinking ship with no ballast to throw overboard.
By the way, there's a sort of related addendum.
I've had a debate with a friend for a while. He gives Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) points for being a reasonable person who too often takes the party-line approach. I say that Graham has in the past shown himself occasionally willing to be critical when the issue is big and blatant enough and it serves him to do so, but he long-since has passed his Use By date, and the milk has spoiled
Well, he’s officially become a quisling.
There was yet another story yesterday, one that dealt with Trump being asked if he believed Russia was trying to meddle in the upcoming mid-term elections, and he said “No.” And Sarah Sanders tried to explain this away by insisting Trump was saying “No” to no more questions. Except, if you see the video, he’s clearly answering the question and then looks to take more questions.
Anyway, Lindsey Graham tweeted this later yesterday. Honest –
“I have just been reassured unequivocally by the White House legislative team that the President’s ‘no’ response today to shouted questions was not intended to suggest that President Trump doubts the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia is continuing to attack our critical infrastructure in the 2018 elections.”
As I said, if you watch the actual video, Trump is answering the question. And then turns to someone else for another question. Yet Lindsey Graham -- who could have and most certainly did see that video (and was committing malpractice if it didn't, especially before commenting) -- says instead that he takes the word of an White House under siege which only the day before tried to explain away what well may have been a treasonous summit with Putin by pointing to the use of a single word. And takes that word over his own eyes and judgement.
What kind of a day was it? A day like any other, except...You Are There.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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