It’s no secret that Donald Trump loves dictators. He’s a Putin praisin’ motherfucker and yesterday he batted his beady, rat-like eyes at a dead dictator. You know, the guy that tried to have Poppy Bush whacked:
“Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. Right? He was a bad guy, really bad guy,” Trump offered as a disclaimer. “But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights—they didn’t talk, they were a terrorist, it was over.”
It’s a classic Insult Comedian formulation: a disclaimer followed by the crazy. I realize that he’s not a fan of due process under the law but the only possible good thing to say about Saddam Hussein is that, in between going to war with Iran and Kuwait, he was kinda sorta a force for regional stability. So sad to say that. So sad.
I’m not sure what audience Trump is trying to appeal to here. The neo-cons like torture but hate Saddam Hussein and the so-called Republican neo-doves aren’t crazy about either. It’s just the sort of dick waving that appeals to GOP primary voters but bombs in the general election. Repeat after me: so much for the Trump pivot.
In other Trump loves dictators news, there’s a fine piece by Franklin Foer at Slate about the Donald’s interactions with the Russians over the years. The title, Putin’s Puppet, is a bit hysterical but the content and analysis are rock solid. The Russians have been flattering Trump for years and Putin, as a good KGB man, has been doing likewise. It turns out that he’s supporting a bunch of right-wing nationalists throughout Europe. His goal is to undermine the EU and NATO as well as the US in order to increase Russian influence. During the Cold War, the KGB subsidized left-wingers but as we all know the line between far left and far right can be a thin and frayed one.
The most interesting section concerns the ties between Team Trump and Russian oligarchs:
While Putin hasn’t dirtied his hands in American elections, the Russians have cultivated Washington—hiring fancy firms to craft strategy, donating money to think tanks, building a small coterie of wonks sympathetic to their leader’s view of the world. The Trump campaign is the unlikely culmination of this effort. It has been a magnet for like-minded fans of Putin. Fans might not be quite the right term, since so many of these advisers have profited from proxies of the Russian state.
Let’s begin at the top. Trump’s campaign manager is a wizened operative named Paul Manafort. It’s true that Manafort is a mercenary by trade. His old Washington consulting firm pioneered the practice of representing the dictators of the world, no matter their grim record. (I profiled his authoritarian ambit earlier this year.) Late in his career, however, Manafort dedicated himself to working on behalf of clients close to the Kremlin. His grand achievement was reviving the doomed career of the anti-charismatic politician Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort’s image-crafting and shrewd strategy culminated in Yanukovych’s election to Ukraine’s presidency in 2010. Thanks to Manafort’s handiwork, Ukraine pulled into Putin’s sphere of influence. Unlike other American consultants who flitted in and out of Kiev, Manafort set up camp there. He became an essential adviser to the president—his tennis partner even.
If Manafort were the only Kremlin connection in the Trump campaign, his presence might signify nothing. But he’s hardly isolated. Many pundits have scoffed at the idea that Trump has a circle of foreign policy advisers given that his initial list of gurus emerged abruptly in March and included names unknown to most experts. Yet the list suggests certain tendencies. One of the supposed Trump whisperers was an investment banker named Carter Page. During a stint in Moscow in the 2000s, he advised the state-controlled natural gas giant, Gazprom and helped it attract Western investors. (In March, Page told Bloomberg that he continues to own shares in the company.) Page has defended Russia with relish. He wrote a column explicitly comparing the Obama administration’s Russia policy to chattel slavery in the American South. His reasoning: “Numerous quotes from the February 2015 National Security Strategy closely parallel an 1850 publication that offered guidance to slaveholders on how to produce the ‘ideal slave.’ ”
That’s some nice company the Insult Comedian keeps. Foer’s article rises above its click-baity headline to pose some serious questions. Check it out.
Speaking of people who moved from the far left to the far right, I watched a thing about Mussolini at Amazon the other day. It’s a British series called History’s Verdict that takes a historiological look at various participants in World War II. The episode about Il Duce featured some pictures that may have inspired Putin’s shirtless exploits. I give you the Vlad and Benito show:
I hope Trump has no plans for any beefcake shots. The mere thought could gag a maggot.
That is all.