Putin's mission is already accomplished: Jill Lawrence – USA TODAY
He got the president he wanted. It’s working out better for Russia and China than for us.
President Trump might have disappointed Vladimir Putin in Syria, but don’t be fooled. Putin and Russia have gotten what they paid for — and the deal is good for China as well.
The payoff is Trump himself. He is an appalling symbol of American values and his policies are putting the U.S. on a glide path to the past, one that more closely resembles a starkly unequal Gilded Age than a robust 21st-century country where everyone’s on the rise. The upshot is multiple openings for Russia and China.
China gained an immediate advantage with Trump’s prompt abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. It would have cemented America’s position as the economic linchpin of Asia, but now leaves a vacuum for China to fill. The U.S. attack on a Syrian government airbase is the most recent potential return on Russia’s election investment. It’s a sign that Trump — America First campaign rhetoric and anti-interventionist 2013 tweets notwithstanding — may lead us into very expensive quagmire territory. Right alongside Russia.
Trump has moved to reverse clean water protections and restrictions on gun access for mentally ill people, increasing the odds of a public health crisis or shooting rampage. The Republican health “reform” bill as it stands would threaten coverage of millions, including people trying to kick opioid habits. The Trump budget would make life harder for low income Americans, many of whom voted for him. His tax reform plans would enrich the wealthy. These are all policies that play into the hands of countries that want to make us look bad, tear us down and chip off portions of our leadership role for themselves.
Proposed cuts in U.S. environmental programs alone would make it easier for China of all nations to commandeer the high ground on climate change. Trump’s dismissive attitude toward renewable energy — now a thriving sector in America — can only be good for Chinese companies. As for his cynical pledge to restore coal mining jobs, I’m sure Russia and China hope we waste a lot of time and money aiming for that, and good luck to us.
The Trump family lifestyle is another easy target. The Chinese media emphasized rolling green lawns and ornate rooms during Trump’s Mar-a-Lago summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the New York Times reported. The visuals reinforce every obnoxious stereotype of rich and famous Americans, and the contrast with the nation’s have-nots.
Then there’s Trump himself, who is all that Putin and his election-year army of trolls and hackers could have dreamed of. There has been no “pivot” to presidential discipline and gravity, no demonstration of management competence, no tributes to freedom of the press, no wholesale repudiation of the white-supremacist “alt-right” and its representatives in his administration. This is a chaotic, leaky, back-stabbing administration riven by divisions, overseeing a federal bureaucracy that’s leaderless in hundreds of top positions and demoralized from top to bottom.
And its ethics challenges are myriad and unprecedented, from Trump on down. He has offered no transparency on taxes (and therefore no exposure of possible investments and loans involving Russia and China). He has made no real attempt to separate himself from his businesses and his brand. In fact, he can access money from the business any time, and he’s doing more to promote the Trump brand than the American brand. The backdrop to nearly every weekend of his tenure to date, including the summit with Xi, is not the presidential seal. It’s a “TRUMP” sign.
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Money is pouring into Trump’s coffers, from foreign governments and everyone else, the hot brand only getting hotter each time his Florida, Virginia, New Jersey and New York properties are in the spotlight. He’s “forcing the federal government and states to produce a Trump Organization infomercial almost every weekend,” as former White House ethics lawyer Norman Eisen put it to USA TODAY.
The darkest clouds, the ones that have some Democrats wondering why Congress should even be considering Trump policies and personnel appointments right now, are the multiple investigations of Team Trump’s contacts and possible collusion with Russia in a successful attempt to take down Hillary Clinton and put Trump in the White House.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heading to Moscow on Wednesday for a visit that will be awkward, at the least. The attack on our election process has turned Congress hostile to Russia, making it hard for Trump to cozy up as much as he seems to want. The attack on the Syrian airbase, even with a forewarning to Russians to evacuate, was a setback for the Trump-Putin bromance and a U.S.-Russia reset.
But Putin got the president he wanted. The rest is just noise.
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