Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January 10, 2017--Delegitimization

I love irony, especially when it lacerates the over-self-confident. None more so than Donald J. Trump. It is especially exquisite when it gets under the skin of the thin-skinned. Say, someone such as Donald J. Trump.

Etymologically, "irony's" literal meaning from the Latin is "simulated ignorance."

The ironist pretends to be ignorant but in truth is sly as a fox. The target, especially when literally ignorant about his own inner realities--once more one might cite Donald J. Trump--doesn't get it but the rest of us are in on the ironic joke. Considering Trump's living in a post-fact world of his own creation, it feels satisfying to see him skewered by simulated facts masquerading as ignorance and squirming to figure out why so much, so many seem to have turned against him. This is the best comeuppance for a bully who lacks self-insight.

Irony currently on display when it comes to the president-elect involves the intelligence community's report about the various ways the Russians attempted to interfere with our recent election.

The report concludes that, with the full endorsement of Vladimir Putin, Russian hackers intercepted and published through WikiLeaks thousands of emails from inside the Clinton campaign and via government sponsored disinformation activities tried to put their thumb on the scale to tip the electoral balance to Trump.

For days prior to the release of the report, Trump did all he could to mock and disparage the impending disclosures, claiming that the U.S. intelligence agencies are biased toward him, all the while trying to keep the finger of blame turned away from his new best friend, Vladimir Putin.

Most of Trump's Twitter raging was directed at any implication that he was elected because he received Russian assistance. He did not speak one word, and still hasn't, about how egregious it is that the Russians would try to influence and thereby undermine one of our most-cherished freedoms--the right to vote and to have every vote counted.

Trump is blind to this critical issue since he is so obsessed with trying to cling to the legitimacy of the election, the legitimacy of his election.

As long as he won he appeared not to care at all about what the Russians were up to. The total narcissist, Trump saw the matter to be all about himself.

But what a wonderful irony his behavior evokes--this man who rose to political prominence by calling into question Barack Obama's legitimacy, spending three years leading the birther movement that claimed Obama was ineligible to be president because he was not born in America, Trump is now worried that his presidency will be viewed the same way. That he too will be seen to be illegitimate.

Also, Trump's attack-dog response to the Russian meddling, the kind of take-no-prisioners politics that worked so well for him during the nomination process as he dismissed one opponent after another mainly through taunts and insults, is not working so well when it comes to the push-back reaction of the leaders of the intelligence community and senior members of Congress.

Senators in particular have brushed off Trump's lack of seriousness when it comes to what the Russians have been up to. They rightly see it as an assault on our democracy, not on Trump, and thus they have been holding hearings to get to the bottom of what transpired. They see this in bipartisan terms--when our basic institutions are attacked, we should come together in response, not give it the dismissive back of our hand. To anyone worried that a potential crypto-fascist Trump will not be held accountable, restrained by our system of checks and balances, this is an encouraging case. It's not all about an untouchable Trump.

And, in this context, it is not a bad thing that most Republicans in Congress did not support Trump and in all likelihood intensely dislike him. I'm being kind.

Now here's the tricky part--

Trump's one early geo-political opportunity is to establish a working relationship with Vladimir Putin that is mutually beneficial. In Trumpian terms--striking a deal that would involve Ukraine, Syria, ISIS, the Baltics and the rest of Eastern Europe, and perhaps even resumed nuclear weapons agreements.

I suspect that Trump is holding back on his criticism of Russia and Putin so as not to undermine this possibility. If there is any hope for a working relationship between our two countries how much should he call out and sanction Russia? Just enough to show them there is a real price to be paid for such behavior but not too severe a one as to preclude a resumption of detente.

Russia's economy is near collapse, ours is so debt-ridden as to be functionally bankrupt and so conditions are ripe for such a deal. How someone as flawed as Trump can get us there is anyone's guess.

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