Muddying the waters

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Donald Trump is nothing if not transparent. His motivations are almost always clear and almost always predictable — he takes the position that gives him the best chances, rather than what is best for the greater good. Not a good look for the United States President.

This last weekend, Trump did this once again, but this time it’s left me asking some questions.

Shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a statement that the massive federal government hack was almost certainly carried out by the Russians, Trump decided to muddy those waters and spout baselessly about how China might have actually been behind the hack. I will say that yes, this is the kind of thing that seems to be within China’s capabilities and that it’s far from impossible that China would do something like this. China does this kind of stuff with relative frequency.

But the evidence, apparently, doesn’t suggest that China had any part. The evidence suggests Russia did it. Yet Trump felt the need to go out of his way to muddy the waters in Russia’s favor. Trump’s persistent defense of Russia has given many of us a sense that he owes some sort of fealty to Russia. That seems like a pretty obvious thing to say these days, but maybe that’s why I think this specific defense merits closer scrutiny.

Trump, mercifully, is on his way out. Trump knows this and even Russian leader Vladimir Putin knows this considering he sent President-elect Joe Biden congratulations on his victory. My first question is this: Why would Trump go out of the way to defend Russia when he’s nearly out of office and has nothing to gain from Russia as president? Why not just ignore what Pompeo said and keep your head shoulder-deep in a KFC bucket?

Furthermore, why offer a half-assed defense of Russia rather than no defense at all? In other words if Trump really felt strongly about defending Russia or at least saying something like “We just don’t know who hacked us yet so let’s not throw names around,” why proffer a half-assed defense and throw China under the bus? It feels to me like Trump defended Russia out of obligation, out of transactional necessity, rather than because he truly felt otherwise.

Lastly, what does Trump really have to gain by continuing to curry favor with Russia? Is he really going to seek asylum there? I doubt it. I think it probably has at least something to do with a Trump Tower Moscow, like what he had planned back in 2016. Could it be more than that? Who knows. But regardless of whether Trump truly is trying to get anything out of this craven defense of Russia, he’s doing the nation a mighty disservice and making the US look weak at the feet of one of its longtime adversaries.

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