Defending the fraud

From the perspective of normal human psychology, everything about the Trump-Putin interaction seems off. As I remarked before, if Trump were really a Russian agent, you would expect Putin to advise him to be less conspicuous in advocating Russian interests, simply to preserve his usefulness.

On the other hand, imagine Trump as a naive businessman with generally russophile leanings. (I don’t know, maybe he read The Gambler at an impressionable age, and modeled his life on it.) He’s had no significant contact with the Russian leadership, but he once met Vladimir Putin at a beauty pageant, thinks he praised him (mistakenly), and thinks he could do some good for the world by relaxing tensions with the world’s second-largest nuclear power. He is convinced that he deserves to be president, but privately unsure the world will acknowledge his greatness. Now he receives intelligence briefings giving strong evidence that the Russians are attempting to interfere with the election in his favour. What would he do? Before the election maybe he keeps quiet and tries to suppress or discredit the claims. But you would expect him to be seething with fury, that the Russians threaten to taint his election. The help they’re giving is marginal, but the blowback is potentially enormous. It’s like a referee intentionally calling an unwarranted penalty in a football match. It probably won’t change the result, but it makes the favoured side look terrible. To do that without consent is an act of aggression against those you’re ostensibly helping.

And it doesn’t take a strategic genius to recognise that his interests after he’s won the election would be best served by a public show of outrage. The American public made a wise decision, and know better than to be fooled by irrelevant blah blah, but we will not stand for a foreign power attempting to manipulate our sacred election process.

There is one theory that makes sense of the Russian actions and Trump’s response: Trump is sufficiently compromised by the Russians — whether because of money, sexual blackmail, or just his prior entanglement in espionage — to be incapable of independent action. The Russians, on the other hand, are willing to burn him. Perhaps they realise that future direct manipulation of him will become impossible, given the constraints of presidential communication. They got as much out of him as they could (including, perhaps, the betrayal of a high-level US intelligence asset), given his intellectual limitations, and now it remains for them only to let him wreak as much chaos as possible in the US government until he is finally deposed.

Which may never happen, as long as Republicans see Russian espionage as a mere distraction from the important work of taking away Americans’ health insurance.

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