The 2016 election takes a turn for the surreal

This would be a noteworthy and historic election in any circumstances because of the selection of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the first woman to be nominated for President of the United States by a major political party.  And as much as I have problems with many of Clinton’s policy choices over the years, generally speaking I would consider her to be a highly experienced politician and quite well qualified.

Then there’s the other party and their nominee.  If someone had written this story ten years ago as fiction, people would have thought it was totally over-the top.  An egomaniacal reality TV star has gained the party’s nomination for President, and in the meantime, has also pretty much wrenched control of the party away from the establishment.  And to top it all off, there are now questions as to the exact nature of the relationship between Trump and Russia, for God’s sake.

This is not a joke.  It’s not funny.  I am not laughing.  Yeah, people mock Donald Trump’s hair and his swollen ego and his orange tint and the creepy way he acts towards his daughter Ivanka.  But on a fundamental level, something is horribly wrong with this man.  I think people have spent so much time thinking about what a misogynist and racist he is that no one has really delved too deeply into other things about him.  I cannot believe that no one has really hammered him on his tax returns.  I can’t believe that more people have not pointed out that he has virtually no sense of intellectual curiosity and seems to think that he actually knows everything he needs to know, when clearly he knows very little.  Hell, even George W. Bush had a need to read books, and he wasn’t exactly a towering intellectual.  But Trump acts like he needs to learn nothing, and that there is nothing that anyone can teach him.  It isn’t just me that thinks this.  Check out some of the people commenting in this video.  Lots of people with an “R” after their name.

I know that at least two of Trump’s senior advisers have been heavily influenced by Russian political and economic interests.  His campaign manager is Paul Manafort, a guy who worked for over a decade with Viktor Yanukovych, the former President of Ukraine who was ousted for being too pro-Russian.  From an article in The Guardian from a few months ago, long before any of this was widely discussed here in the U.S.:

“Advising Yanukovych is like putting lipstick on a pig,” said David Kramer, who was a top state department official handling Ukrainian and Russian issues in the second half of the George W Bush administration. Yanukovych, who was ousted in early 2014 and now lives in Russia, was “someone who was involved in massive corruption and had blood on his hands”, he added.

Likewise, some foreign analysts who track the Ukraine and Russia voice strong concerns about Manafort’s work and question Trump’s judgment in bringing him on. “Any presidential candidate should properly vet the backgrounds of and moral decisions of the people he picks to advise him,” said Atlantic Council deputy director Alina Polyakova, adding that Manafort’s past work in Ukraine “absolutely should cast a shadow on Trump’s campaign”.

Trump’s major foreign policy advisor is also troubling.  Carter Page has spent a lot of time in Russia and has been, well, quite cozy with Gazprom.  He has made a lot of money working with and for them.  And as Josh Marshall pointed out so succinctly, “It is no exaggeration to say that you cannot be involved with Gazprom at the very high level which Page has been without being wholly in alignment with Putin’s policies. Those ties also allow Putin to put Page out of business at any time.”

Now,  I don’t know just how much influence these two pro-Russian people have on Trump.  But I know this: Trump has just happened to say a lot of nice things about Vladimir Putin.  And Putin says lots of nice things about Trump.  And so does the Putin-controlled Russian media.  So it’s no surprise that in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania and one of the Baltic countries in NATO that is worried about Russia and so horrified by Trump and his brainless comments about NATO, a mural appeared that showed just how close the Lithuanians imagine the two men to be.

They are totally gay for each other.
They are totally gay for each other.

Honestly, I can’t believe that no one has really looked into Trump’s relationship with Russian oligarchs and, at least indirectly, Putin, until pretty recently when all this crap about the DNC hack started.   Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a conspiracy theorist.   I don’t buy the idiots who are all about the “secret knowledge” that no one else knows.  But there is a lot of smoke around Trump’s finances, and there is clearly some sort of relationship between Russian money and Trump’s businesses.  And the fact that Trump and his son are both freaking out in interviews when asked about Russia would seem to indicate that something is going on there.  As Kevin Drum put it:

It’s one thing when a campaign manager or some campaign surrogates say that Vladimir Putin is working to help elect Trump. It’s quite another when the president says it. That automatically makes it news. And Trump himself is making things worse.  Asked by Newsweek, “Do you, or any of your business units have outstanding loans with Russian banks or individuals?” his spox said “Mr. Trump does not have any business dealings in/with Russia.” Then Trump tweeted this: “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.”

The evasiveness of this answer is pretty obvious. Nobody cares all that much if Trump has business in Russia, they care whether Russian money funds his business here—which might explain why he’s so friendly to Russian interests. He has very carefully avoided answering that question. That’s a bad sign since he would normally just lie about it. He must know that evidence of his reliance on Russian money is out there.

Trump’s tax returns would tell us the answer, of course, but Trump has declined to release them, unlike every other presidential candidate of the past few decades. Maybe now we know why.

I am reading enough about all this that I am beginning to wonder where the hell all of this is going.  I don’t think there has ever been an instance in the history of the U.S. where a candidate for President has said and done some of the insane things that Trump has.  I mean, it’s one thing for Joe Schmoe to say (maybe over a few beers) that he wants the Russians to hack into Hillary’s server and find her missing emails, and quite another for Trump to do it.

I hate reality TV.  I have no interest in it.  And yet somehow our Presidential election has been turned into some hopelessly screwed-up parody of itself by this reality TV idiot.

It’s probably going to get worse.  I have no idea how much.

-Geoff

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