Of Alan Dershowitz, Sophistry, and a Certain Russian Intelligence Asset

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I took criminal law from Alan Dershowitz back in 1972, and I well remember his ridiculing a criminal defense argument of the following type:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you can plainly see that my client is innocent, because if he were truly guilty, surely he would not have been stupid enough to leave such abundant evidence of his guilt lying around for everyone to see!

The good professor pointed out that this bogus argument went all the way back to the sophists—history’s first professional lawyers. And it was wrong in ancient Greece. And it was wrong in 1972.

And so it was. And it’s still wrong in 2018.

With that thought in mind, let us, along with Jonathan Chait, pose this question: if Trump is not a Russian intelligence asset, why is he acting so much like a Russian intelligence asset?

Chait writes,

One cannot rule out the possibility that Trump lacks the mental capacity to understand the basic form of America’s most important alliance. But it is at least as likely that Trump is choosing not to understand this, so that he can precipitate a fissure within the alliance.

Last week, Trump’s national security advisers, who have traditional Republican views toward NATO (good) and Russia (bad), and the allies both expressed their hope that Trump would use the NATO summit to declare victory. …

Oddly for Trump, he is not taking the opportunity to claim a win. Instead he appears to be defining the terms of the disagreement such that it cannot be resolved. NATO’s allies can always try to spend even more on defense, but asking them to pay the United States back dues that they never promised and do not owe is an impossible demand.

Where Trump’s intent has grown abundantly clear is the manner in which he is speaking to his supporters. At his rally in North Dakota two weeks ago, he said, “Sometimes our worst enemies are our so-called friends or allies, right?” At a subsequent rally in Montana last week, the president declared, “Our allies in many cases were worse than our enemies.” Trump understands the power of repetition, and it is notable to see this allies, they’re the worst, amirite formulation becoming a staple of his rhetoric.

More noticable still was a comment he made at the latter rally. Adopting his mocking pundit voice, he ridiculed the notion that “Putin is KGB.” (Putin did in fact work in the KGB.) “You know what,” he said, “Putin’s fine. He’s fine. We are all fine, we’re all people.”

Needless to say, “we’re all fine, we’re all people” is not Trump’s customary approach to the question of locating the shared humanity of all God’s creatures. But his efforts to train the Republican base to reverse its long-standing views on the relative merits of NATO and Russia have borne fruit. According to a recent poll, just 40 percent of Republicans think the U.S. should should stay in NATO, while 56 percent of Republicans consider Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin good for the United States. …

By the time this is over, he may well have reoriented American foreign policy completely. It may seem bizarre that one man could do this, especially given that almost nobody in Trump’s administration or the ranks of the party’s political professionals share his goal of jettisoning NATO or closely courting Russia. Yet Trump has shown the ability to lead his base wherever he wants to take it. And where the base has gone, the party has eventually followed.

A Bow-Tied Nimrod

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Yes, he is that—much of the time.

But today the Word of the Lord came unto His prophet Nimrod, and Nimrod spake thusly. .

Trump’s summit with Kim could foretell catastrophe with Putin

“There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

— President Trump, June 13

“North Korea is upgrading its nuclear research center at a rapid pace, new satellite imagery analysis suggests.”
— The Wall Street Journal, June 27

As the president prepares, if this time he does prepare, for his second summit, note all that went wrong at the first. If he does as badly in his July 16 meeting with Vladimir Putin in Finland as he did with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, the consequences could be catastrophic.

An exceptionally knowledgeable student of North Korea, the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt, writing in National Review (“Kim Wins in Singapore”), says the one-day meeting was for the United States “a World Series of unforced errors.” The result was that North Korea “walked away with a joint communique that read almost as if it had been drafted by the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] ministry of foreign affairs.”

Kim, says Eberstadt, is “the boss of a state-run crime cartel that a U.N. Commission of Inquiry wants to charge with crimes against humanity.” Au contraire, said America’s president, who slathered Kim with praise: Kim, with whom Trump has “a very special bond,” is a “talented man” who “loves his country,” which reciprocates with “a great fervor.” Trump called Kim a “very worthy negotiator,” which might actually have made sense if Kim had been forced to negotiate for the concessions that Trump dispensed gratis. …

The most dangerous moment of the Trump presidency will arrive when he, who is constantly gnawed by insecurities and the fear of not seeming what he is not (“strong”), realizes how weak and childish he seems to all who cast a cool eye on Singapore’s aftermath. The danger is of him lashing out in wounded vanity. Meanwhile, this innocent abroad is strutting toward a meeting with the cold-eyed Russian who is continuing to dismantle one of Europe’s largest nations, Ukraine. He is probably looking ahead to ratcheting up pressure on one of three small nations, Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia, each a member of the NATO alliance that, for the first time in its 69 years, is dealing with a U.S. president who evinces no admiration for what it has accomplished or any understanding of its revived importance as the hard man in Moscow, who can sniff softness, relishes what Singapore revealed.

Aardvark’s Addendum:

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear the words of the prophet.

To Wee or Not to Wee, That is the …

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… Question for Putin

Trump called on the Russkies to expose Clinton’s email. Let the record reflect that Aardvark is not calling on Putin to engage in any act or omission.

I’m just making an observation, OK?

My observation is that Trump has just about outlived his usefulness as a Russian puppet. His goose is almost cooked. His jig is almost up. He’s unpredictable and getting unpredictableer by the day. There’s a big danger that he will lash out at Russia just to try to prove he isn’t a Russian lackey.

President Pence, by contrast, will have no special need to show he isn’t a Russian stooge. He would be far more predictable and far more manageable.

Logically, whatever Putin has on Trump—peepee tapes, Russian mafia connections, whatever it is—this would be a mighty opportune time for Putin to let it all hang out.

Just an observation, folks.

Meantime, Jonathan Chait gives us five reasons to conclude that the peepee tapes are probably real. Pathetic. Hilarious. Highly persuasive.

And, lastly, I had to look up “rusty trombone.” I have absolutely no intention of telling you what it means. But if you can’t help yourself, there is a Wikipedia entry, accompanied by a suitable illustration.

 

I’m Afraid the Question Answers Itself

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Jonathan Chait asks, Why Does Trump Talk About Putin Like Putin’s His Boss?

Speaking of Putin, and expressing his fear that continued investigation into Russian election interference would upset relations between the two countries, Trump said, “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”

Consider how unusual a statement this is, especially coming from Trump. Trump is assuming that Putin is a sensitive soul who might be personally wounded by unflattering portrayals in the American media. He is further asserting that Putin’s emotional distress might cause him to lash out at the United States or harm its foreign-policy interests in some way. Trump is speaking to his country like a cowering mother warning her children not to upset their father.

Needless to say, this is the opposite of the imagery Trump uses to discuss almost everybody else. He is famously obsessed with dominance. …

The prevailing theory used to explain Trump’s Russophilia is that he gravitates toward figures who praise him and lashes out at those who criticize him. That would account for Trump’s general friendliness toward Putin, which is in keeping with his cozy relations with all sorts of erstwhile allies. It does not explain his very unusual submissiveness.

No, it does not. What explains his “unusual submissiveness” is that old Vladimir has him by the short and curlies.