FILE – In this Oct. 13, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech in Columbus, Ohio. The state’s role this year shapes up to be potential spoiler for Trump’s chances of reaching 270 electoral votes. While Hillary Clinton appears to have paths to the total needed for election without Ohio, the state’s 20 votes are considered crucial for Trump. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump is a narcissist consumed by an unhealthy defense of his public persona and his brand. Of all the candidates who stood before the Republican electorate at the beginning of the primary season, he was the least qualified for the Presidency. Perhaps the fact that he not only overcame that fact in the primaries and then in the general election only further inflated an already huge ego.
So many times during the campaign, people listened to the words coming from the mouth of Trump and believed those words were his death knell. Yet, they weren’t. And maybe the fact that he overcame these overwhelming odds is the reason people are left scratching their heads over how he captured the nomination and the Presidency. Maybe that is why people to this day insist that there just had to be some reason like collusion with Russia despite many analyses to the contrary which make incredibly more sense.
While Trump can rail about the ongoing investigation, some of the reason for it has to lay at the feet of Trump himself. Through his own statements from the time before he even considered a run for the Presidency in 2015-2016, Trump had, given his dire financial situation at the time, to turn to some shady figures who just happened to have ties to Russia. This includes the well-documented Bayrock situation, his affiliation with Felix Sater, and receiving financing for some real estate ventures using Russian-sourced money.
However, his sleaziness in earlier business dealings does not make a good case for collusion. These have been well-investigated incidents that are in the past. Instead, one has to move forward to realize that Trump had apparently fallen under the Svengali gaze of Putin’s Russia. Trump had praised Putin as early as 2013 in regards to Russia’s stance over the ongoing civil war in Syria. Later that year, he holds the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. Even here, although simply a beauty pageant, Trump over-emphasizes its importance to the world. The pageant and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are a potent 1-2 public relations punch for Putin and Russia. So what does Russia do?
They lavish praise on Trump for his organizational skills. They introduce his over-priced vodka to the Russian market. He meets with Vladimir Khozin, a top aide to Putin who is responsible for development and construction projects in Moscow. In short, they stoke Trump’s ego.
Hence, we have the birth of what I call the bromance theory of Trump’s geopolitical thinking. This asserts that because someone lavishes praise on Trump, he responds in kind with favorable treatment and statements towards that foreign leader. Whether that leads to a real foreign policy, or even enlisting the help of that foreign leader/power to achieve an end- that is, collusion- is a whole other story.
The fact is, you can cross Pol Pot with Hitler and if that person said something positive about Trump, he would probably think they were great also. Trump seemed to have fallen under the approving words of Putin and Russia after the lavish praise heaped upon him after the Miss Universe pageant being held in Moscow. Twice in 2014- once to the American Spectator and once with Fox News- Trump fawned over Putin and Russia. The former interview is of particular interest and illustrates my point [The emphasis is mine]:
Well, I think it’s a very dangerous term in one way, because I heard Putin saying, “Who do they think they are, saying they’re exceptional?” You can feel you’re exceptional, but when you start throwing it in other countries’ faces or other people’s faces, I actually think it’s a very dangerous term to use. Well, I heard that Putin was saying to somebody—you know I had the Miss Universe contest over in Moscow recently, six months ago, and Putin, by the way, treated us unbelievably well.
Treat Donald Trump “unbelievably well” and you unfortunately have the basis for a foreign policy. This is naivete taken to the extreme.
The problem for Trump himself comes about when, amid allegations of Russian interference in the election, he refuses to call out Putin and Russia for that interference. On June 18, 2015- just two days after announcing his candidacy- Trump boasts about his relationship with Russia based, again, on his interactions involving the Miss Universe pageant. Less than two weeks later, he again boasts of good relationships between Russia and him at the City Club in Chicago. On three occasions in September, 2015, he does so again. Even after revelations of the DNC hacking, he continues to say good things about Putin and Russia.
To some, probably the most damaging Trump comment comes on July 27, 2016 when he exhorts Russia to come up with Clinton’s infamous missing 33,000 emails from her unsecured server. To the naive, this has the appearance that perhaps the Trump campaign knew something the intelligence community and law enforcement did not know when, in fact, it was just Trump’s off-script, ad lib big mouth causing him an unforeseen problem.
To state that the Trump campaign was a chaotic event that did not follow the usual script would be an understatement. While there was rotation of leadership from Stone to Lewandowski to Manafort to Bannon/Conway, it is apparent that underlings were working to set up some kind of meeting between the campaign and Russia. Whether this was motivated by obtaining information on Clinton or just talking about relationships between a potential Trump presidency and Russia, or (most likely) trying to position oneself for personal or career gain remains the big question.
Trump did not help the situation himself with his kind words about Russia for whatever reason. It is understandable given the words from above that underlings would get the wrong message and in their zeal to ingratiate themselves to the boss undertook actions that appeared to be “colluding” with a foreign government to meddle in an American election.
Trump is not a politician who knows how to parse his words. Nor is or was he an expert on foreign policy or Russia. As far as Russia goes, it extended to how nice they treated him over his pageant in Moscow and the possibility of real estate deals in Moscow (none of which come to fruition). In that atmosphere, one can understand how some people can come to misread the tea leaves. Unfortunately, their 2-3 year obsession makes them more naive and stupid than Trump.