What's Tony Thinking

Why Trump Prefers Putin


Sometimes the simplest explanations are the best. For a couple days now everyone has been wondering what in the world is up with Trump as he sides with Vladimir Putin against his own government.

The simple explanation for Trump’s indifference is that what Putin and the Russian hackers did benefited Trump. Did Trump win because of Russian interference? I don’t know that it is possible to give a definite answer to that question. Did the Russian hacks of the DNC and their various anti-Hillary machinations benefit Trump? Absolutely.

If that is the simple explanation for why Trump trusts Putin more than he trusts the CIA, FBI and various other assorted arms of the U.S. government, it does however point to a deeper issue, one that goes to the heart of the problem with the Trump presidency.

Trump seems unable to distinguish between himself and the United States, it’s laws and institutions. Recently, he spoke of “my government.” The government is not his. He might speak of “my administration” and be accurate. But he doesn’t. He speaks of “my government.”

American government, laws and institutions have an existence apart from Donald Trump. They existed before he did. And they will exist after he is gone from the White House and from this earth. They are not instruments of his advancement. As President he is supposed to be an instrument of American government, laws and institutions.

But he seems unable to make this distinction. So if Putin has done something that benefits him, while undermining American democracy, no problem. Putin’s a great guy.

Imagine if Russia, or any other nation, had intervened in the U.S. election on behalf of Hillary Clinton. But they didn’t, and so Trump really isn’t interested.

In the 17th century the French monarch (see right), Louis XIV, famously said, “L’etat, c’est moi.” The state is me. There is no distinction between the two. (By the way, what’s up with the legs?)

This is at the heart of the threat Trump poses. He is incapable, it seems, of distinguishing between himself and the American government. Would this lead him to try to change the constitution so that he could be perpetually in office? My guess is that he would think that a great idea if he thought he could get away with it.

I was remembering the other day when Linda and I lived for a year in Germany, 1970 – 71. Being quite young we didn’t really appreciate how recent World War II and the Nazi era were — not even a generation had passed. Sometimes when I had had a few beers with a German, some — not all — would say, “You know Hitler wasn’t so bad. He did some good things in the beginning.”

An argument could be made that Trump has achieved some things in his first two years — economic growth, market up, unemployment down. But there’s something fundamentally wrong, rotten, in the Trump world-view. It has led to Trump sucking up to Putin while being indifferent to attacks on the most fundamental aspect of democracy — voting.

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