Everyone owes it to themselves – if they value being wise – to question whether a strongly held view on a particular subject might just be wrong.
Not surprisingly, quite a number of commentators are doing that in the wake of the calamitous Helsinki summit.
While those commentators generally continue to deplore Trump, they are wondering if he may have simplistically, honestly and even naively been trying to improve US-Russian relationship, despite bumbling into what looks now to be improper collusion. This “incompetence” argument isn’t limited to Helsinki, though; instead, it’s being applied more broadly to the whole “Russia thing.”
That reading also helps to explain why Trump seemingly believes he never did anything wrong, and is incapable of grasping how he makes mistakes in going about his political life and what the repercussions of those errors might bring. Probably by his lights, this thinking goes, Trump thought he had a legitimate idea of how to improve the world.
The core problem with that explanation is that it flies in the face of abundant and growing evidence of both the connections between Trump World and Russia, and Trump’s own, specific behavior during and since his campaign.
If those contacts were as completely innocent as Trump insists, and if he had explained them in the terms he’s now trying to apply retroactively (and often in direct contradiction to his own previous statements), he might have avoided a lot of headaches for everyone—particularly himself.
Accordingly, what we are now watching play out may be less evil than many of us have thought, but instead it provides serious evidence of stupidity, gross incompetence and lack of knowledge and experience.
The Constitution says “High Crimes and misdemeanors.” It does NOT say “consciously and deliberately.” The consequences of naïve, and even unintended, treason can be just as bad for the country as treason conducted deliberately and consciously. In all events, either form of treason is much more a political issue than legal.
A valid and sound judgment today about Trump is that the best possible explanation he can offer is that he is guilty of gross incompetence and negligence in his narcissistic quest for grandeur and fame.
It didn’t have to be this way. If Trump had read more (he prefers pictures and charts, we’re told), listened to genuine experts more (“I know more than the generals”) and thought it through carefully (instead of relying exclusively on his “feel”), he might just have pulled off something worthwhile.
Instead we have been witness to a witless man trying again to be a great TV star cast in the role of a President turning the world on its head hoping to make that reeling, anxious and weary world recognize him as a GREAT President!
In the process he may have actually turned the whole world upside down – by starting trade wars with friend and foe alike, undermining NATO, accepting empty promises to “solve” the North Korea nuclear threat, insulting our closest allies and their leaders and now seeking to embrace Putin and Russia. If we’re lucky, all of that will cost many American jobs and jeopardize our national prosperity. If we’re not lucky, the consequences could be far worse.
This all adds up to clear and convincing evidence that Trump turns out to be even more incompetent than his strongest detractors and many supporters ever might have believed. But sadly, all that still may not be an impeachable offense, politically, even if were treasonous practically or legally.
The so-far insurmountable challenge is to convince the Republican leadership of this perspective (which news reports increasingly say many of them share privately), and hope that they will help to ‘contain’ Trump enough to prevent disaster so that we can all safely live through 2020. The recent Senate resolutions in support of NATO (97-2) and killing Trump’s “fantastic idea” of letting Russian agents question former U.S. diplomats (98-0) suggest that the Senate might, at last, be willing to establish limits to its public tolerance of Trump’s self-aggrandizing antics.
A dismal Republican showing in this November’s election hopefully will probably be enough to send Republicans scrambling in the opposite direction from Trump, and compel them to exercise the tough oversight and restraining powers afforded Congress. It will also raise red flags about 2020, when more Senate Republicans will be up for election and vulnerable than they are this year.
In 2020, both Parties should have a clean new chance to put forward sane, experienced and competent people with clear and convincing records, able to be a President who will truly be able to reclaim America’s greatness and leadership in the world.
It is getting late but it can never be too late!