Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Yamchurian Candidate

At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.” - H.R. McMaster, National Security Advisor
"As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism." - Donald Trump today on Twitter
I’m sure Kislyak was able to fire off a good cable back to the Kremlin with all the details.” -A former US official
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein)
Thomas P. Bossert, the assistant to the President for homeland security and counterterrorism, had to do some quick thinking and make some fast phone calls to Langley, VA and Fort Meade, MD. We don't know the exact contents of those calls but three facts are clear- Donald Trump had just met with high level Russian officials in the Oval Office, had recklessly declassified previously code-word classified intelligence and gave it to them on a silver platter.
     Such phone calls are hastily made in the interests of damage control by stern, colorless, pragmatic bureaucrats who help every government on earth run on a more or less even keel. One can only imagine the looks on the faces of the people at the other end of those phone calls at CIA and NSA headquarters. And, in the short reign of Trump, one can easily imagine such fires frantically being tamped out on a regular basis.
     The horrible optics alone should have called for a Congressional probe. Trump's meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister and their Ambassador to the US came the day after James Comey was fired by Trump. The US news services were kicked out and supplanted by TASS, the official news apparatus of the Russian government. Then in a TV interview, Trump essentially admitted he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation he was heading up (even though his right wing supporters don't believe him).
     H.R. McMaster, Trump's National Security Advisor, was trotted out yesterday and again today to essentially fall on his own sword and it was difficult to hear him from under the bus wheels that were rolling over his chest. McMaster's story today was in stark contrast with his earlier press conference. Today he acknowledged that Trump did share classified intel with the Russians. But earlier, he'd claimed, "At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly."
     Yet today, he'd also said that what Trump shared was "open source reporting." Which explains why the American media weren't allowed to attend the meeting with the Russians but Tass was.

A Child's Crusade
Don't get me wrong or think I'm going soft. My colleague David Brooks has been been a blithering, pseudo-intellectual idiot since Tucker Carlson was in short pants. But in today's op-ed, Mr, Pink Tie nails Trump and puts his usually shaky finger on the pulse of what's truly wrong with this so-called administration. These are just some of the highlights of Brooks' piece:
At base, Trump is an infantalist... Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif... First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom... Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself... Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.
     You get the message. Most interestingly, Brooks talks about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is a familiar term to many of us. For those to whom it isn't, it's when a person's incompetence is such that they're not even aware of their incompetence. It goes back to the late John Updike's gentle jeremiad about success, in which he'd said the successful are often fooled into believing that "You get the idea that anything that you do is in some way marvelous." Brooks concludes with this lyrical observation that nonetheless has nightmarish implications, "We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar."
     And this gets to the crux of this reckless and dangerous disclosure to the Russians: That Trump isn't the usual case of a man suddenly drunk on his seemingly limitless power: He's a child or at best a teenager getting his first taste of some alcoholic ambrosia or what he believes was imparted straight to him by the gods. He's a man who can't keep a secret, a Quixotic quidnunc tilting at windmills that don't exist (fake voters, fake news, fake this and that) who simply can't keep a secret.
     And it may very well be that Trump honestly believes that giving code-word classified intelligence to the Russians about an ISIS plot and potentially exposing a very sensitive source of intelligence was an act of humanity. But if this is how Trump and his Russian buddies think this the way to go about it, especially as we ostensibly have opposing interests in Syria, then it's a foolish child's crusade.
     Among the many lessons Trump needs to learn in statecraft is that not exercising power is the true test of power, that just because you can wield power (such as declassifying classified information) doesn't mean that you should. Trump will never learn that. Because, after nearly 71 years on this planet, if Trump hasn't learned that simple lesson, he never will.


At May 16, 2017 at 4:41 PM, Blogger Stan B. said...

It's simple: Individuals who are ‘extremely careless’ w/ classified info should be denied further access to it. -Paul Ryan

It really is that simple- but all the president's hypocrites who were chanting, "Lock her up," for her emails, will quietly fall in line...

At May 16, 2017 at 5:24 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

People all over the place, typically Hillary Cling ons, are now using this as a political football. "Who's worried about the emails NOW?"

Me, for one. The woman's a venomous crook and she and Slick Willie not slithering back into the White House will always be to me the slim silver lining in Trump's "presidency."

I have no time for moral equivalence games. Hillary's never going to be President. Period.

But this... Other nations are telling news sources they're now hesitant to share any intel with US intelligence officials since Trump spilled to the Russians. Israel's hopping mad over this because the bulk if not the entirety of what Trump handed the Russians came from them.

At May 16, 2017 at 5:47 PM, Blogger Stan B. said...

I don't give one goddamn about Hillary- or Netanyahu. What I do care about is the continued hypocrisy, deceit and treachery that Republicans have gotten away with hand over fist (and yes, the Dems are the biggest enablers they could ever have hoped for).


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