Donald and Vladimir

November 30, 2018

Today, speaking for President Donald Trump, Sarah Sanders said, “The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax … probably undermine[s] our relationship with Russia.” After all the outrageous things she’s said on his behalf, that’s a pretty amazing statement. I can’t even characterize it. It’s obviously incorrect, a deliberate distortion of reality. On the other hand I wouldn’t classify it as something as routine as a Trump lie.

Like many people, I’ve paid close attention to the intricacies and nuances of Trump’s behavior, and I wonder if something more sinister and scary is going on. I fear Trump may be suffering from a case of circular Doublethink. I know it sounds funny, but I’m serious. “Doublethink” means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously and accepting both as true (http://www.orwelltoday.com/doublethink.shtml).

Doublethink isn’t just a literary device invented by George Orwell. It’s an insidious form of delusional thinking. When delusions lead directly back to a starting point in an alternate reality that is a direct contradiction of everyone else’s perception of reality, and the sufferer cannot distinguish the difference, we have circular Doublethink. If the sufferer is the president, we have a serious problem.

The rest of us, even among Trump’s base can clearly see the reasons our relationship with Russia is on the rocks. There are three threads that we know about. First, the Russians attempted to hack our election in 2016 and use social media to intensify anger and division among Americans. Every intelligence gathering agency in our government agrees and describes the situation as a critical threat to our security.

A second thread is the well-documented attempts made by the President to extend his real estate empire to Moscow. For three decades, Trump attempted make a deal with Putin and other Russian oligarchs to build a trademark hotel there. According to today’s news, they intended to offer a gift of a $50 million dollar penthouse to the big man himself to sweeten the deal. What makes this thread so interesting is that former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen revealed in court that previous statements claiming those efforts ended in 2014 or 2015 were lies. Trump was still attempting to close a deal with Putin in June 2016, smack in the middle of the primary election season.

The third thread is the attempt by members of Trump’s team to get Russian assistance in hacking the Clinton campaign and their meeting with Russians who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. It is this thread that resulted in  bipartisan support for the Mueller Investigation into Russian interference in our election and any possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s team.

To add another critical piece to this picture (which by no means completes it) back in 2014 when Russia engineered the Annexation of Crimea away from Ukraine, Donald Trump accused President Obama of weakening us by allowing Putin to get away without consequences. Trump promised repeatedly in 2016 that he would never let Putin into the Ukraine. Yet, in 2017, when the latter decided to grab another piece of eastern Ukraine and cut Kiev off from two critical ports on the Sea of Azov, Trump did nothing. And he has taken no action in response to Russia’s naval engagement with Ukraine forces last week, except to cancel a meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Trump now wants Americans to believe that the Mueller probe is hurting our relationship with Russia. He wants us to forget that Russia has been a very bad actor on the international stage during Putin’s tenure as President, and that it was in fact Russia’s aggressive, illegal actions that resulted in Congressional approval of the Special Counsel’s charter.

So I have to ask, is Sarah Sanders’ statement a lie or is it something Trump actually believes? We’re used to his lies and distortions, his alternate facts. But what if this is something different? What if Trump is incapable of recognizing the difference between blaming Mueller and blaming Russia’s actions?

If your neighbor kills someone and he’s convicted of murder and sent to prison, is the prosecutor or the court responsible for leaving his family fatherless? Or is your neighbor responsible? If Putin and Russia are guilty as charged, is it Mueller’s fault that relations with Russia are at a post-Cold War low? I think I can actually see how that works out in Trumpthink. But the logic is so twisted and tortured, it can’t possibly be the product of a sound mind.

So tough guy Trump, who was going to confront our enemies wherever he met them has canceled his summit with Putin, while Putin high fives with the Saudi Crown Prince. It looks to me like what always happens when a puffed-up bully meets a real strongman. I can’t wait until Trump’s meeting with Xi.

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