It is an unfathomable proposition that the day would ever come when America could rightly question the loyalties of its own president, but that is precisely where we have arrived.
Donald Trump’s “Surrender Summit” with President Vladimir Putin of Russia was such a disloyal, traitorous display that it boggles the mind.
Russia attacked our election in 2016. Russia. Moscow did it to help get Trump elected. Putin himself admitted that “patriotic” Russian hackers may have meddled in the election. These are not open questions. These are facts.
And yet, Trump chose to meet with the man who directed those attacks. He did so one on one behind closed doors, so we have no idea what they discussed, confessed, agreed to or even conspired.
At the news conference that followed the meeting, Trump undercut our own intelligence community, instead siding with Putin, saying:
“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
After which Trump said, “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Then he said: “What he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.”
That’s right, Trump thinks the criminal’s denial of the crime was “powerful” and thinks it’s an “incredible offer” that the criminal wants to help investigate the crime he committed.
Trump on Tuesday tried to backpedal one minor part of his comments, saying:
“In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative.”
No, the negatives are that there is now an open question as to whether this president is compromised by or somehow loyal to the Russians, and that he has conditioned and cowed an entire American political party into not only supporting his behaviour but defending it.
This is truly an American crisis moment.
Trump’s base of supporters has an undying loyalty to him because he has the same for them. He still has high approval among Republican voters because he has executed an unprecedented policy of defending only their concerns, which at their root are about racial insecurity and hostility, no matter how they try to dress it up.
Trump has no desire or intention to reach out to the rest of America or try to be the president of all of America. His mission is to lift this hostile minority over the horrified majority.
Trump’s supporters love this. Finally, someone is unapologetically fighting for white supremacy, white culture and white identity, for protectionism, xenophobia and Christian supremacy. No matter how much he lies, no matter how much he fumbles, no matter how much he betrays the greater America, Trump will remain the hero of white, Republican, racist America.
And, because these people were such a large portion of the Republican Party even before Trump emerged as their champion, traditional Republicans who at least talked the game of inclusion, of principles and of Christian, family values, are now tucking their tails to save their behinds.
Trump conducted himself as if he was hostage to Putin; Republican lawmakers conduct themselves as if they are hostage to Trump. Our country may well be hostage to it all.
That is a chilling thing to digest.
Maybe, barring calamity, this situation could exist for a while, until more Democrats are elected to Congress or until Trump is no longer president. But there is no safeguard against such a calamity. There is no way to fully judge our exposure and the danger we face because Trump has a thing for or with the Russians.
Trump likes to say that a country without borders is no longer a country. But a democracy in which the public ceases to have confidence that its elected leader is acting in the interest of his own country and not another is no longer a democracy.
That is the real question here: Is a Trump-led America still a democracy as we understand it? Is it still an independent country? Is he accountable to the American public or to a foreign republic?
© 2018 New York Times News Service