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


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


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 …

7 signs

… 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


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.

Jim Comey and the Bird of Paradise

One of my interlocutors has suggested that comment is required from Aardvark on Putin’s sarcastic “offer” of asylum to Jim Comey.

My comment is that, coming as it does from someone who regularly orders people murdered, the joke is not funny.

In any event, I understand that Comey has sent this response to Vladimir:

This Headline is Not from The Onion

Kremlin says it wants apology from Fox News over Putin comments

The Kremlin said on Monday it wanted an apology from Fox News over what it said were “unacceptable” comments one of the channel’s presenters made about Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview with U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly described Putin as “a killer” in the interview with Trump as he tried to press the U.S. president to explain more fully why he respected his Russian counterpart. O’Reilly did not say who he thought Putin had killed.

“We consider such words from the Fox TV company to be unacceptable and insulting, and honestly speaking, we would prefer to get an apology from such a respected TV company,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.


The Rational Fascist Test, or, WWMD?


Aardvark senses that the commentariat is slowly giving up its struggle to find “the method in Trump’s madness.” That’s like sending out a posse to round up all the unicorns in Texas.

Meanwhile, there is a brouhaha about Trump’s Superbowl interview comments on Putin. To go straight to the source—the Faux News Network:

In a special preview, Trump revealed his plans for dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin

O’Reilly asked Trump whether he “respects” the former KGB agent:

“I do respect him, but I respect a lot of people,” Trump said, “That doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him.”

Trump said he would appreciate any assistance from Russia in the fight against ISIS terrorists, adding that he would rather get along with the former Cold War-era foe than otherwise.

“But, [Putin] is a killer,” O’Reilly said.

“There are a lot of killers,” Trump responded, “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

In response, leading Republican invertebrates denounced the comments as a denigration of American exceptionalism.

“He’s a thug,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of Putin on Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections. No, I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does.”

Well, there is that, But putting the sacredness of American exceptionalism to one side, here is what Aardvark thinks. He thinks that Trump is delusional, and that he is remarkably candid about his delusions.

I believe that Trump would love nothing better than to kill some journalists and political opponents. Whether he will try to do it, I cannot say. I certainly hope not. But I think that in his delusional mind, Trump sincerely believes has moral justification to assassinate some people who, in his way of thinking, need killing.

Now I am neither a mind reader nor a clinical psychologist. Lacking those skills, I substitute the application of the Rational Fascist Test, or, What Would Mussolini Do? (You may, if you wish, substitute Machiavelli for Mussolini.)

Would a rational fascist be so candid about his hopes and intentions? No, he would not. In the present circumstances, the rational fascist would be much more subtle about his plans.

Or at least that is what I think. As we proceed day by day, let us continue to apply the Rational Fascist Test to try to learn whether there is a method in the madness, or just madness.


Did Vladimir Get Trumped?, or, Putin’s Faustian Bargain

Having shaved with Occam’s razor once again this morning, Aardvark concludes that the explanation that best fits the information below is that Trump successfully bamboozled Putin into intervening in our election.

Hey, Vladimir, let this be a lesson to you. Trump never delivers what he promised, whether you are his plumbing contractor or you are the president of the Russian Federation.

From a July 27 report, Trump to look at recognizing Crimea as Russian territory, lifting sanctions:

Donald Trump said Wednesday that, if he is elected president, he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory and lifting the sanctions against Russia.

At a wide-ranging news conference, Trump said he “would be looking into that” when asked about his stance on Crimea and Russia. The Crimean Peninsula has been part of Ukraine for decades, but Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the territory in March 2014 after a popular revolt toppled Kiev’s pro-Russian government.

The United States, along with the European Union, has refused to recognize the annexation or the referendum legitimizing it and has enforced sanctions on Russian state banks and corporations.

Crimea, historically a popular tourist destination for Russians seeking out its subtropical climate, formally became part of Ukraine, in 1956, while it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, and remained part of Ukraine after it the USSR broke up in 1991.

Trump’s comments on Crimea came during the same news conference that he suggested Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s email server to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” The remark has been harshly criticized, and the Clinton campaign said it has now become a national security issue.

Why is Trump Publicly Infatuated with Putin?


Many are wondering. I don’t know the answer. But I did take a shave with Occam’s razor this morning and determined that the explanation that best fits the known facts is that old Vladimir has Trump by the short and curlies.

Whether the blackmail involves golden showers in a Moscow hotel is another matter. Probably it’s something else.

And here’s another puzzlement: if Trump doesn’t want to be perceived as Putin’s bitch, why does he go to so much trouble to act like Putin’s bitch?