The trouble with lying isn’t just that you have to have a good memory. You also have to be consistent. For Donald Trump to say on the one hand that he applauds Putin as a “genius” for invading Ukraine and on the other to say that Putin would have never invaded in the first place had he, Trump, still been in office, lacks cohesion. He wants to back Putin, of course, but he just can’t keep his ego out of the way. Or as Jimmy Kimmel so aptly put it, “It takes a special kind of son-of-a-bitch to see innocent people fleeing their homes and think ‘How can I make this all about me?’ — but nobody does that better than Donald Trump.”
I assume Trump still talks to Tucker Carlson on the phone and they still try to keep their mutual stories straight. Carlson came out and copped to the embarrassing admission that, in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, he’s on Russia’s side. That’s right, Trump and Carlson are backing a murderous dictator in a war against a peace-loving democracy. It’s a tale told by two idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
So how does either man square their stated and apparent allegiances with a hypothetical Trump stopping Putin’s invasion had he earned a second term? The same way they always do it, they just ignore the contradiction and hope it goes away. They hope no one notices. Meanwhile, Voldomir Zelenskyy is bravely fighting off Putin’s troops (unlike Ukraine’s president, Putin lacks the courage to be there personally) with the same Javelin missiles Donald Trump tried to deny him.
The point, of course, is that Trump and Carlson must back Putin because the current administration backs Zelenskyy. And since they are nothing more than loathsome political hacks, that’s the path they must choose. But even they must know by now that it’s the wrong path.
The Russian and Ukrainian conflict is not a football game where you can arbitrarily take sides. Stupid people like Trump and Carlson are slowly starting to realise that. Totalitarian Russia committed a naked act of aggression against a sovereign democratic nation at a time when the world is suffering through a global pandemic and global climate change, and they did it without a single justification apart from the real one: territorial greed. Just watch, comprehension will slowly come to Trump and Carlson as they painfully, embarrassingly come to the obvious conclusion the rest of us so easily made: that they backed the wrong side.
In war, the moral high ground can be just as important a tactical advantage as the physical high ground. Ukraine enjoys the overwhelming support of the rest of the world, including amongst the Russian people. Russians are turning out to protest the war in the streets of Saint Petersburg, despite it being a personally dangerous thing for them to do. Kazakhstan, a once staunch Putin ally, has refused to send him troops and materiel. Germany is sending weapons to Ukraine. Four to five thousand Russian troops have already lost their lives. In short, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a mess. It’s becoming an obvious mistake as palpable and as stupid as the one the Soviets made when they invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
It’s into this emphatically anti-Putin climate that Trump and Carlson have raised their respective Russian flags. They’re for the red, white and blue all right, just the wrong configuration. As the war progresses and the feeble excuse for making war becomes harder and harder for Russian ambassadors and defenders to justify on TV, Trump and Carlson — whom Joy Reid refers deliciously to as “Tuckems” — are looking more and more like the fools, traitors to democracy and evil liars they have always been. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.