Monday, July 25, 2016

Politix Update: Trump's Deeply Troubling Ties With Putin & Russian Big Money

A Communist plot to influence a U.S. presidential election has long been the stuff of Hollywood fantasts and pulp-fiction writers, but there is evidence that Vladimir Putin's regime is working clandestinely to help elect Donald Trump, something that in this strangest of political years shouldn't necessarily surprise.  What should surprise and has the potential to blow the lid off of Trump's candidacy is the big reason behind Trump's bromance with Putin: His deep ties to Russia and dependence on money from the autocrat's corrupt buddies.  
What is known for sure, according to cyber experts, is that hackers backed by the Russian president -- mostly likely members of the state intelligence service -- broke into the Democratic National Committee's email system and stole 20,000 messages, some of them containing embarrassing confirmations of the DNC's thuggish infighting.  The data dump was then published through the obliging Wikileaks organization to try to legitimize and maximize the cyber theft in an effort to influence the election as the Democratic National Convention opened today in Philadelphia.   
Let's be real.  It's not likely that significant numbers of voters will fall into Trump's clammy embrace just because of the leaks; in fact, few if any will.  But let's stay real.  The larger question is less whether Trump, his beleaguered business empire and presidential campaign played any role in the email skullduggery than a rather amazing number of "coincidences" involving Trump and Moscow that may be indicative of a far darker aspect of his campaign and what a Trump presidency would portend.   
These "coincidences" seem less so when you consider that Trump has commingled his financial and personal affairs for years and has continued to do so with unapologetic recklessness as a candidate. When it comes to Russia, this has included Trump's undisguised admiration for Putin despite the former KGB operative's increasingly autocratic grip on the former Soviet Union and solicitousness toward Russian foreign policy interests, including an oft-repeated promise that as president he would not abide by the U.S.'s long-standing commitment to go to the aid of a NATO nation in the Baltics if it were attacked by Russia.
Continuing to stay real, let's also understand that Trump's love affair with Putin and Russia has less to do with ideology or a seemingly shared love of nationalism.   
Trump is many things, most of them exceedingly foul, but he is not about to throw over his beloved American capitalism for that strange Russian communist-capitalist hybrid.  What Trump has not hesitated to do is take money from anyone and anyplace regardless of who they are and what their values may be as American banks have, one by one, blackballed him because of his shady practices and enormous debt load, which stands at a mind boggling $630 million. 
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has aggregated several of these links between Trump and Russian interests:
* As Trump's debt load has grown, he has become increasingly reliant on no-questions-asked loans from sleazy characters close to Putin.   Typical is Trump's Soho development in Manhattan, which foundered because of  lawsuits over his all-too-common efforts to defraud investors until secret financing was arranged. 
The financiers were Salvatore Lauria, a twice-imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to Putin and the Russian criminal underworld, and Alexander Mashkevich, a Kazakh billionaire once charged with corruption.  
* Paul Manafort, who replaced the "disgraced" Corey Lewandowski as Trump's campaign manager and is his top advisor, spent most of the last 10 years as a communications advisor for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian prime minister whose ouster in 2014 led to the ongoing crisis in the former Soviet republic. 
The Trump campaign was indifferent to the platform at the Republican National Convention with one conspicuous and unnoticed exception: It strong armed the platform committee into striking a pledge to assist Ukraine against Russian military aggression.
* Carter Page, who is Trump's advisor on Russia and Europe, has devoted most of his career to sundry jobs with Gazprom, the Russian energy giant.   
Gazprom, which is like the entire U.S. energy industry rolled into one company, is a key source of revenue and patronage for Putin, and Page has been an unapologetic admirer of his policies. 
* Retired Army General Michael Flynn, who is one of Trump's national security advisors, sat with Putin at a dinner celebrating the Kremlin-backed media network RT and was paid to give a speech at the event.   
Flynn retweeted an anti-Semitic message blaming Jewish interests talk called into question A Putin-Trump link. 
* Putin has worked methodically and successfully to align all Russian state-controlled media behind Trump.   
This media, in turn, has helped sow discord in Western-alligned European countries.
As Josh Marshall puts it:
"There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.  Trump's financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarch and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That's simply not something that can be waved off or ignored."
This whole thing has echoes of Cold War propagandistic weirdness, although to suggest, as some people surely will, that Trump the master manipulator could be some sort of a Manchurian candidate is . . .  well, not credible. 
We'll put aside for the moment the fact that Wikileaks, founded by the sainted Julian Assange, is doing the bidding of Moscow.  
We'll also put aside the fact that the cyber bullies who hacked the DNC emails are said to be the same bunch who earlier hacked servers at the White House, State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
And we'll put aside the fact that as the Republican nominee, Trump will be getting high-level national security briefings on Russia, which is deeply worrying to the intelligence community.   
What matters now and matters most is the possibility -- no, make that probability -- that the man who will say and do anything to defeat Clinton also is doing the bidding of Moscow, intentionally or otherwise, a view that only a few days ago seemed bizarre but is now being taken seriously by the White House and FBI. And should be taken seriously by you.

POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968.  CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS. 
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN

IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR.  USED WITH PERMISSION.  

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Politix Update: GOP Is Left In The Gutter As Trump's Lemmings March To The Sea


Let us begin this jeremiad with a couple, three acknowledgements: Despite the innumerable pre-mortems, the Republican Party is not dead, and despite the extraordinary spectacle of fear and loathing that low-crawled to a merciful conclusion last night in Cleveland, there always will be a place -- and should always be a place -- for conservatism in the America.  Still, what we saw this week was nothing less than assault and battery on both true American values and a political ideology by gun-hugging merchants of intolerance carried out with nary a whimper of dissent from a cowardly party establishment that has been left bloodied in the gutter by a xenophobic horde marching toward an electoral cliff and into the sea behind Donald Trump. 
This makes shocking images like the one above not just appropriate, but necessary.  It matters not that the Republican nominee isn't really a Nazi, merely a neo-fascist who couldn't tell the difference between a swastika and a swizzle sticka, while the resemblance of the Trump-Pence campaign logo to a symbol so freighted with evil  surely is a coincidence.  Really.   
But as someone who was born a mere two years after fascism was defeated at the cost of upwards of 80 million lives, including relatives whom I never knew who perished on the beaches of Anzio and Iwo Jima and in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau, whose neighbors didn't let their kids play with me because my parents were civil rights activists who invited Negros to swim in our backyard pool, I kept experiencing flashes of nausea as I heard speaker after speaker declare that Trump would make America afraid again and saw talk radio hate merchant Laura Ingraham give what was easy to interpret as a Heil Hitler salute at the end of her valentine to the nominee.   
That special moment did have competition from another -- Ted Cruz being invited to speak at the big dance and then peeing all over the carpet -- which sadly relegated Melania Trump's clinic on plagiarism earlier in the week to a sloppy third.
History will less remember the 2016 Republican National Convention for the coronation of the man with the small hands and peculiar hair amidst a balloon drop of dystopian gloom.  It will less remember Donald Trump's blown opportunity to prove himself to be someone other than a cartoon caricature with a stupefyingly self-righteous acceptance speech that spoke volumes because of what he didn't say.  It will be even less remembered for the smorgasbord of inchoate threats and  subliminal savagery, the overwhelming whiteness of the delegates or whether more of them wanted to jail Hillary Clinton than kill her, let alone that Lucifer's name seemed to have been invoked more times than the nominee's.  But it will be remembered for who stood with Trump. 
The politicians who supported Red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s have been treated with a deserved harshness by historians.  Like Trump, McCarthy exploited fears through defamation and demagoguery.  He eventually was censured by the Senate and died a bitter and broken man, while Trump is assured a lifetime of celebrity even if he is crushed by She Who Wears Pants Suits in November.  Which he will be.   
The notables who flocked to shores of Lake Erie to kiss Trump's ring can look forward to the same sort of historic purgatory as McCarthy's sycophants.  These most conspicuously include Chris Christie, whose political career is forever poisoned, and Trump enthusiasts Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who stayed home but already have reservations for a special place in Hell.  Pat Buchanan booked their rooms.   
Then there are Scott Brown, Trent Lott, Rick Santorum, Bob Dole and Dan Quayle, among other testicle-free party faithful who endorsed Trump and showed up, as well as senators who stayed home like John McCain, Rob Portman and Pat Toomey, all of whom are not coincidentally fighting for their political lives in an election in which the standard bearer will have no coattails just as the emperor had no clothes.
But Paul Ryan, the House speaker, Republican Party head honcho and convention emcee, heads the list of the shameful.   
Rather unbelievably, Ryan is getting accolades for keeping the GOP together while never coming right out and endorsing Trump.  Which is like keeping Nero's fiddle in tune while not advocating the burning of Rome.   
Ryan had a dilemma which if addressed nobly would have salvaged his marginal reputation in the eyes of history and would have become the stuff of momentous decision-making that recalled great statesmen like Lincoln and Churchill: Ryan could reject Trump, keep the party together and lose the election, or he could embrace Trump, lose the party's soul and the election.   
Ryan made the worst possible -- which is to say most cowardly -- choice as principle got mugged on the path of least resistance.   
In the run-up to Cleveland, Ryan did not see Trump's racism as a character issue although he spoke out against racism in principle.  Nor did he see Trump's sordid history as an iron-fisted scam artist as a potent issue for the Democrats.  Or Trump's view of the GOP as just another piece of real estate to be bought and sold.  Or Trump's addiction to crisis as political propellant.  Or Trump's chronic inability to distinguish fact from fantasy, his isolationist bent and man crush on Vladimir Putin.  All of these profound shortcomings were viewed by Ryan as nothing more than "things I don't agree with."  That became one of his familiar go-to lines.  The others were a word from George Bush's rich vocabulary -- Ryan didn't want to "dis-unify" the party -- and when backed into a corner, the meek rejoinder that "No two people agree on everything."   
But Ryan surely must realize that Trump is the nominee today because rank-and-file Republicans channeled their anger at Barack Obama into a deep loathing for party leaders like himself who never had any intention of fulfilling their empty promises and created the leadership vacuum into which Trump bigfooted.    
And all the while social conservatives have taken advantage of Paul Ryan's timidity and Donald Trump's ignorance to drive the Republican Party even further to the right-wing wilderness and away from the ever growing number of voters who don't happen to be white.  Even Ted Cruz's Texas may be on the verge of turning blue.
Cruz, of course, is the guy who kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign by hijacking the convention with a speech in which he repeatedly baited the party faithful, seeming to come thisclose to endorsing Trump but never doing so, in what must nevertheless be characterized as a rare moment of political courage.  
The delegates who had not already left the hall booed Cruz lustily and encouraged by Trump himself as he pumped his fist in the backstage shadows like an evil apparition, booed louder still, drowning out Cruz's closing words.  When Cruz's stunt appeared to have backfired by the dawn's early light, and already being the most hated man in Washington, he boasted that the outrage over his party pooping merely proved he was not an establishment toady.  Ha!  
Major damage had been inflicted on Trump before Cruz strode to the podium.  The endless series of vapid and emotionless Z-list speakers talking to empty seats assured that would be so. (Where was Clint Eastwood when his party really needed him?)  If Ryan was Nero's fiddler tuner, Cruz played Brutus to Caesar. 
Cruz's antics deliciously reinforced the week's big takeaway: Trump has little control over himself, had little control over the convention, which was supposed to showcase party unity, and will have even less control over what transpires between now and Election Day. 

POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968.  CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS. 
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN

TOP IMAGE FROM LATHERLAND / OTHER IMAGES BY DONKEYHOTEY

From Soup To Nuts: An Index To 2016 'Politix Update' Posts


(July 17) The Republican Convention Promises To Be A Paean To Intolerance.  LINK.

(July 14) Has The Ellusive Hillary Clinton Been Hiding In Plain View All Along?  LINK.

(July 10) Speculation heats Up That Herr Donald Is Only In It For The Game.  LINK.

(July 5) Trump's Gonna Lose, But Is He Going to Take The GOP Down With Him?  LINK

(June 27) Thomas Jefferson's Vision Takes A Beating In This Election Year.  LINK.

(June 21) Trump Is The Ultimate Nowhere Man.  He's Everything & Nothing.  LINK.

(June 17) In Which We Discuss Womanizing, Snake Oil & Platinum Drool Cups.  LINK.

(June 13) Hillary Is Fundamentally Sound & Donald Is Fundamentally Clueless.  LINK.

(June 6) Why The Days Of Whine & Roses Are Over For Dangerous Donald.  LINK.  

(June 3) Grifter Extraordinaire Trump Proudly Steals From The Rich & Poor.  LINK.

(June 1) Is It Possible That Donald Trump Could Be The Next President?  LINK.

(May 23) Feeling' The Bern' Becomes Scorched Earth As Sanders Flips Out.  LINK.

(May 16) Trump Has More Positions Than A Porn Star & The Media Eats It Up.  LINK

(May 9) Why You Don't Need Rand McNally To Map A Clinton Landslide.  LINK


(May 4) Trump, The Ghost of Lee Harvey Oswald & Future Of the Republic.  LINK.

(May 3) 'Sometimes I've Believed In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast.'  LINK.

(April 25) Philly In The East, Pittsburgh In The West & Alabama In The Middle.  LINK

(April 20) Is Trump Pondering How To Quit?  And Feeling The Bull . . . Er, The Bern'.  LINK.

(April 15) Donald's Tent Party Runs Into Obstacles; Why We Mistrust Hillary.  LINK

(April 11) Dems Suppress The Vote, Too. And Why Paul Ryan Is No Unicorn.  LINK.

(April 8) The 2008 Election (Kind Of) Lived Up To Its Promise.  Will This One?  LINK.

(April 6) Ted Thinks He's The Big Cheese; Bernie Gets Comfortable In The Gutter.  LINK.

(April 4) When The Hunter Is Trump & He Gets Captured By The Game.  LINK.

(April 1) Fabtastic News For Bernie!  He Needs Only 988 More Delegates.  LINK.

(March 28) The GOP Will Lose, How Badly Depends On The Poison It Picks.  LINK

(March 24) The Media's Incredibly Craptastic & Trumpcentric Election Coverage.  LINK.

(March 21) A Political Party In Crisis -- Dysfunction, Datfunction & Malfunction.  LINK

(March 16) Do Republicans Betray Trump Supporter Or Betray Their Country?  LINK

(March 11) This Cold Shower Is Brought To You Courtesy Of Bernie Sanders.  LINK

(March 7) A Gadzillionaire, An Evangelical & Neo-Nazi Walk Into A Bar.  LINK.

(March 4) In Another New Low, Phallic Braggadocio Dominates GOP Debate.  LINK

(March 2) 'Strike Another Match, Go Start Anew, It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.'  LINK

(February 29) Repubs Filled Trump's Swamp, But Now They Don't Want To Drain It.  LINK.  

(February 27) The Breathtaking Cynicism of Chris Christie's Trump Endorsement.  LINK.

(February 24) Don't Mind That Iceberg, Captain Rubio, It's Full Speed Ahead.  LINK.

(February 21) GOP Establishment Bloodied As Trump Nomination Becomes Likely. LINK.

(February 19) Hillary Clinton, Feminists & The Great Battle Of The Pheromones.  LINK.

(February 17) Those Obdurate Republicans Keep Planting Ice & Harvesting Wind.  LINK.

(February 15) Why The Election Is Now A Battle For All 3 Government Branches.  LINK.

(February 11) Don't Let The Tollgate Hit You I The Ass On The Way Out, Christie.  LINK.

(February 10) Dear Jeb, It's Time To Say Goodbye To the Nice People.  LINK.

(February 7) Confronting The Dark Shadow Over The Bernie Sanders Campaign.  LINK. 

(February 4) The Union Of Ted Cruz & Evangelicals Is A Deal With The Devil.  LINK.

(February 2) Iowa Republican Caucus Results Are Shocking, But Not Surprising. LINK.

 (January 27) Ted Cruz Is On Thin Ice Constitutionally, But Will He Go Under?  LINK. 

(January 25) So It's Come Down To 'Merely Awful' Versus 'Truly Awful' For The GOP.  LINK.

(January 17) If Dr. King Looked Beyond The Grave, He'd Surely Be Disappointed.  LINK.  

(January 13) It's Official, The Republican Party Has Finally Screwed The Pooch.  LINK.

(January 10) They're Armed & Dangerous, But Puh-lease Don't Call Them Terrorists.  LINK.
 
(January 7) Why It's Time For Hillary To Finally Come Clean About Bill.  LINK.

(January 5) Why Gun Control Laws Work Elsewhere But Are DOA In The USA.  LINK 
  
(January 3) For Republican Candidates, So Many Apocalyses & So Little Time.  LINK.

CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX TO 2015 POSTS


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