View from Glen Hill: Which is it, Mr. President?

President Trump’s conduct towards Russia and Putin suggests three scenarios:

  1. Putin has something on him (e.g., blackmail resulting from presumably Russian-documented bad conduct of some sort by Trump, Russian loans to his companies, and/or actual overt acceptance of Russian help in undermining the 2016 election process).

  2. Putin was very helpful on his own to Trump (without Trump’s seeking, or acceptance of, his help) in the 2016 election process, and Trump wants to reward and encourage him “onward and upward.”

  3. Trump really thinks he can have better relations with Russia if he makes nice with Putin even if in doing so he appears to be craven and obsequious.

There is one really good measure for judging which one of these three is really driving Trump’s continuing attitude of great restraint in going hard on Putin and Russia. That measure arises from what we all know about Trump’s attitude and approach towards anyone who crosses him.

We saw it with Secretary of State Tillerson who was said to have called Trump an “[expletive deleted] moron” and has never denied saying it and then had the temerity to come down really hard on the Russian assassinations in England the day before his firing. From that moron-calling point on, his firing was just a matter of when, not if. And we’ve seen the same with Trump’s continual taunting of Attorney General Jeff Sessions over Sessions’ failure to carry out what Trump clearly sees as Sessions’ principal role: to protect Trump.

In fact, we’ve seen Trump’s “off-with-their-heads” approach consistently for years in his attacks on anyone whom he perceives as having turned against him. He is reported to have said repeatedly on the lecture circuit years ago in speeches on effective corporate management: hit back ten times harder when anyone disses you or is trying to take advantage of you.

So, if what Trump is doing really falls within category 3 above, we should be seeing Trump coming down hard now on Putin and Russia. We should see him doing so very openly in genuinely outraged words (and we all know what Trump sounds like when he is genuinely enraged) coupled with actions in the form of sanctions and even harsher countermeasures to what is now universally acknowledged (by everyone, at last grudgingly including Trump himself) to be Russian election meddling and assassination.

The need for action by way of sanctions and other measures has become additionally compelling because to election meddling and assassination is now being added the strikingly disturbing evidence of a long-term program of covert Russian hacked entry into the most sensitive elements of our nation’s electric grid and electronic infrastructure. We are reliably told that Russia is now a few well-aimed keystrokes away from what must by any measure be deemed war against our nation including by disabling, or even completely destroying, key elements of our national infrastructure.

If category 3 above applies, Trump should by now be truly enraged at what Putin and Russia are doing not only in these war-like actions but also in Russia and Putin’s taking advantage of his overtures for working together. In short, under category 3 it’s clear that Putin has knifed Trump in the back, with Putin all the while undoubtedly laughing mockingly at Trump’s gullibility for believing that Putin was ever aiming to accomplish anything else.

However, if categories 1 or 2 apply, one can expect Trump to continue to take a very conciliatory approach to Russia and Putin. We can fully expect him to say and do, as he has so far, only the minimum absolutely necessary by way of feeble response — even though under intense pressure for more, even from his fellow Republicans — despite initiation and now full-blown ramping up of a Putin-led Russian cyber war against us. We can likewise expect Trump to do things like his truly embarrassing sucking up to Putin in Moscow a few weeks ago, similar to his call to Putin to congratulate him on his win in Russia’s “sham election” (in Senator John McCain’s words) while not mentioning, let alone condemning, Russian-advanced nerve-agent poisonings in Britain and cyber attacks here.

So the best proof presently available to us of what is really motivating Trump — from his election campaign onwards — is right before our eyes. Will Trump, for example, support the now-pending bill garnering broad bipartisan support that will impose severe sanctions on Russia if it interferes in the 2018 or later elections?

Which is it, Mr. President?