That Helsinki ‘summit’

From Dave Pell’s newsletter:

Vladimir Putin could have inserted an ethernet cable into the base of Donald Trump’s brainstem, and still, the performance by the American president could not have been worse. In recent days and weeks, President Trump has heaped endless praise on Kim Jong Un, humiliated America in front of our NATO allies, called the European Union a key US foe, and fist-bumped Turkish president Recep Erdogan, saying, “He does things the right way.” And yet, none of these ominous markers on the ever-accelerating descent down a near-treasonous mountain of idiocy and lies could have fully prepared America and its allies for the disgrace we saw on the international stage today. Trump held Russia blameless for their election hacking, sided with Putin over America’s intelligence agencies, brought up Hillary’s emails, criticized Democrats and past administrations, and touted his own election victory. About the investigation that has led to indictments of dozens of Russian operatives, Trump said, “I think the probe has been a disaster for our country. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.” George W. Bush once said he saw into Putin’s soul. Donald Trump just stared into his colon.

It’s been clear for two years that Trump is at worst mentally ill and at best a sociopath. Why are we still surprised by his behaviour? (Answer, I suppose: because he’s President of the United States.)

And here’s James Fallows (who doesn’t seem to think that Trump is unwell):

There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.

Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.

Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.

Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions.

Still, all this sound and fury signifies nothing, unless the Republicans in Congress conclude that Trump has outlived his usefulness to them.

Fallows again:

For 18 months, members of this party have averted their eyes from Trump, rather than disturb the Trump elements among their constituency or disrupt the party’s agenda on tax cuts and the Supreme Court. They already bear responsibility for what Trump has done to his office.

But with every hour that elapses after this shocking performance in Helsinki without Republicans doing anything, the more deeply they are stained by this dark moment in American leadership.

My guess is that they’re not all that bothered — so long as they get re-elected.