Trump and Russia

It will not be possible to tell, or even firmly conjecture, what is really going on with Trump and the Russians for months. Pieces of the puzzle are raining down, faster than any can be carefully examined, each one a shocker that would have triggered incredulity in a sane age, not to mention Republican self-preservation distancing.  It beggars belief that within six months of a historic electoral victory, the GOP’s “Si, se puede!” has already turned into “Sal si puedes!” with sharks circling the foundering ship.  But here’s what makes sense to me tonight.

Trump is Putin’s stooge, end of story. It’s the only way to understand the consistency and doggedness of his self-destructive behavior in all things Russian or Russian-tainted. He’s handcuffed on a long-term and a more recent chain that he cannot break.  He’s not an ideal stooge, because of his own ignorance and lack of self-control, but he’s what Putin has.

The first chain is a set of financial obligations going back to the time when no-one with a desk and a window would do business with him or lend him money because of his colossal business failures.  The Russians, in various assortments and, it now appears, using the very pliant Deutsche Bank among other pipelines, loansharked him to get back in the game; they own him through their ability to ruin him, and his complete inability to think of himself as anything but a great tycoon. His tax returns will go a long way to confirming or refuting this. Maybe he just owes them money he can’t pay, maybe the actual financing was criminal and he can’t reveal the details, maybe both. Remember Chili Palmer’s précis of the loan shark’s method: “in those cases, I’m the one inflicting the pain.”

The second leash on which Putin has Trump, snapped on over the last year, is that Trump knows that Putin knows everything the congressional investigators, Mueller, and the press want to know, and all of it is arrows aimed at Trump’s heart. If Trump doesn’t behave, Putin can save the gumshoes a lot of time by simply sharing some documents, memos, and audio, from the campaign and more recently, that will at least put Trump out of office and may well put him in jail. It is interesting to speculate how much of all this Trump has shared with his toadies, including his kids, and what nightmares they have about being disgraced and poor when it hits the fan; Madoff kept it all a secret from his family until the end.

It must be infuriating to Putin that when he has finally ensnared a conscience-free American president, his tool turns out to be such a tool. It’s not so easy to weaponize a loose cannon with radiantly incompetent lieutenants who can’t even fold their own parachutes,  the attention span of a gnat, and a memory that can’t retain anything but the odd slight–a lame Trojan horse with glanders and bloat, who believes himself to be Pegasus. But I guess you go to war with the stooge you can capture.

 

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

6 thoughts on “Trump and Russia”

  1. "….a lame Trojan horse with glanders and bloat, who believes himself to be Pegasus…"
    Gorgeous! Absolutely gorgeous!

  2. There's also the homoerotic strongman thing. Living in the US, Trump hasn't actually been able to shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue (or order them shot) and get away with it. So he appears to have some kind of complex where he wants to impress the big boys. Putin, Erdogan, Duterte…

  3. PS: The unsmiling Pope Francis gave Trump a leaving present of a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si'. Trump promised to read it. It has, depending on the edition, 190 pages or so of dense theological argument.
    " … radiantly incompetent lieutenants who can’t even fold their own parachutes ..". Grimly nice. Details here on how to do it right.

  4. I look at the situation as an opportunity for Congress to recover some of the power it has cravenly handed over to the executive branch over the years. It's a chance to make congressional elections matter again. Maybe even state level elections. Having one person be the locus of power in a country the size of the US has long been a catastrophe waiting to happen.

  5. I haven't seen this theory anywhere, which either means it's wrong for obvious reasons (as many of my theories turn out to be) or there's stuff I just haven't seen, but I wonder if Putin figured that messing with Trump would bring benefits regardless of whether Trump submitted to his blackmail. If the blackmail works, it works, but if it doesn't, just getting a chaotic, shambolic, choleric and idiotic administration, combined with Americans fighting among themselves, is a win for Russia. (The fact that Russia probably knows who the ISIS insider placed by the Israelis is, and also got some good info on the location of two of our nuclear subs, is probably more than Putin dared to dream, and every time Trump opens his mouth there's a chance for more goodies.)

    If the sole problem were a competent administration led by a childish dolt who thinks he has a "big brain" it would be bad enough. But the State Department isn't staffed to handle foreign policy. Trump was utterly unprepared to be president before he took office, yet he's receiving fewer, and less substantive, briefings than any president in my lifetime. Say what you will about her e-mail management atrocities against humanity, Clinton would have been prepared before she took office, and she still would have spent more time in one day getting briefed by specialists than Trump has spent in however many years (or is it decades?) he's been in office.

    Whatever happens from here on out, Russia has already won, unless congressional Repubs all the sudden decide that Russian interference in an election is as serious as Benghazi! or e-mail!, and deserves the scrutiny they devoted to those horrendous events.

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