Return of the Manchurian’s candidate

Putin Trump

It’s obviously my inferior Polish genes talking, but I have been consistently worried about Donald Trump’s history of playing footsy with Vladimir Putin and disregarding potential and actual threats that neo-Tsarist Russia poses to its neighbours (most of whom are America’s allies). Historically, I’ve been accustomed to the Democrat leaders being soft on Russkies and indifferent to America’s friends in other parts of the world, so it’s bit of a shock to see a Republican presidential candidate now occupy that space.

This morning comes the news that at the behest of Trump campaign, the Republican Party platform taken to the Cleveland Convention has been watered down in its pro-Ukrainian language:

Diana Denman, a platform committee member from Texas who was a Ted Cruz supporter, proposed a platform amendment that would call for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, increasing aid for Ukraine and “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military.

“Today, the post-Cold War ideal of a ‘Europe whole and free’ is being severely tested by Russia’s ongoing military aggression in Ukraine,” the amendment read. “The Ukrainian people deserve our admiration and support in their struggle.”

Trump staffers in the room, who are not delegates but are there to oversee the process, intervened. By working with pro-Trump delegates, they were able to get the issue tabled while they devised a method to roll back the language.

On the sideline, Denman tried to persuade the Trump staffers not to change the language, but failed. “I was troubled when they put aside my amendment and then watered it down,” Denman told me. “I said, ‘What is your problem with a country that wants to remain free?’ It seems like a simple thing.”

Finally, Trump staffers wrote an amendment to Denman’s amendment that stripped out the platform’s call for “providing lethal defensive weapons” and replaced it with softer language calling for “appropriate assistance.”

A few words’ change does not sound like a big deal, but it’s indicative of Trump’s overall attitude and policy direction.

In one of the first posts on The Daily Chrenk a few months ago I chronicled the love affair between Trump and Putin and asked “Is Donald Trump a Manchurian Candidate?” (the answer was “no”, but “yes” to “Is Donald Trump a Manchurian’s candidate”. There is no doubt that Putin would love to see Trump in the White House.) Yesterday Jonathan Chait echoed these sentiments:

Donald Trump is not a Russian agent in the sense that Philip and Elizabeth from The Americans are Russian agents. There’s no hidden radio in his laundry room where he transmits secrets to the Kremlin. But his relationship with Russia is disturbing and lends itself to frightening interpretations.

There are two factors at play:

Firstly, Trump admires macho alpha strongmen like himself. He thinks he’s got more in common with them than with traditional limp-wristed democratic politicians.

Secondly, Trump is an isolationist. He doesn’t really give a shit about what goes on elsewhere in the world, since all his energies are occupied with “making America great again”. In that regard, it’s nothing personal against Eastern Europe – it’s the entire globe that’s irrelevant. The only international issue that Trump does cares about – because it impacts in a direct way domestically – is terrorism. And in this case, Trump sees Putin as an ally in the struggle because Putin is one of those guys who “kills terrorists”, whether in Chechnya or Syria.

This is a cartoonish view of the world that speaks poorly of today’s Republican Party. There is nothing admirable about all the strongmen and dictators Trump had kind words to say about. There is more to the world than a place where terrorists, illegal immigrants and people who steal American jobs come from. And there are more threats to America than just jihadism.

I miss the time when the adults were in charge of the GOP.