According to this New York Times story, last June Donald Trump Jr., presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The key take-away from the article: “The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.”
A TANGLED WEB
The article and related reporting goes on to make matters murkier and potentially more incriminating. Trump Jr.’s inconsistent responses have flowed from first insisting that the meeting was mainly about adoptions to later, after the Times story appeared, asserting that he was fooled into seeing the lawyer because she claimed she had dirt on the Democrats and Hillary. According to Junior, that claim was a Russian ruse, for after briefly offering some nonsensical accusations against Clinton, she moved on to her real agenda: lobbying against a U.S. law that blacklists certain corrupt Russian officials implicated in human rights abuses, a law that has triggered Putin’s retaliation of barring Americans from adopting Russian kids.
A Lesson from a Tragedy
With so much nasty stuff dominating the headlines, it’s hard to find some solace in the news. But one very sad story has a sort of silver lining.
It’s this article, about the seven sailors who died Saturday when their Navy destroyer collided with a container ship off the shores of Japan. Amidst this tragedy, one salient aspect is how diverse and inspiring their backgrounds were, including “an immigrant from the Philippines whose father served in the Navy before him; a poor teenager whose Guatemalan family came north eager for opportunity; a native of Vietnam hoping to help his family; a firefighter’s son from a rural crossroads in the rolling green fields of Virginia.”
Here’s my Indian TV interview from Friday, on Trump’s first 100 days in office. This was not the first time the Gravitas program had interviewed me, but it was the first time I’d subsequently seen how I was framing both my skype video and remarks. So lots of room for improvement, I know. My part starts at 2:15.
I found the lead-in pretty illuminating, in terms of one Indian media outlet’s take on Trump. And check out the way the segment closes with a big bang, commencing at 7:40, via a video of a North Korean military/propaganda drill.
So, I talked Trump on Indian TV back on February 14th. It all started when a former student of mine arranged for me to give a presentation at a leading New Delhi think tank, the Observer Research Foundation. This led to what we thought would be a subsequent five-minute televised chat, which turned out to be a 30-minute interview on the Indian network WION.
Though the Observer audience and WION interviewer were all very sharp (no surprise there), their questions still struck me as uninformed about Trump in a crucial way that reflected not on them but on the nature of foreign news coverage of Trump. That is, they understandably focused on how the new administration would handle China or terrorism or H1B visas, by which many India tech workers come to the United States. What they didn’t seem to get, and what I tried to educate them about, was how this president differs from all others in terms of his personality, his views on democracy and what those might mean for the United States and the world.
Feeling pretty good about the defeat of Ryancare…or Trumpcare…or the Gut-Health-Care-Coverage-for-24-Million-People Act? Hoping this is the start of a long-term slide for the president?
Such hope is helpful and such a slide would be super. But there’s still a respect in which we should watch what we wish for. As Andrew Sullivan speculates, a Trump slump could lead us into a wag the dog scenario:
A president hobbled domestically by his own party’s divisions and the opposition’s new energy may be tempted — Putin-like — to change the subject in a way that vaults him back to popularity. A foreign altercation from which he will not back down? A trade war? A smidge likelier, I’d say, is an over-the-top response to an inevitable jihadist terror attack in a major American city. A demagogue loses much of his power when he tries to wrestle complicated legislation through various political factions, in the way our gloriously inefficient Constitution requires. He regains it with rank fear, polarization, and a raw show of force. Heaven knows what the Constitution will look like once he’s finished.