Did Trump Just Make Himself A Lame Duck President?
As he was flying home from his treasonous summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, Donald Trump was watching Fox News and discovering that even his usual cheerleaders find his subservient performance on the world stage disgraceful.
Trump doesn't know it yet, but he just rendered himself a lame duck president. By siding with a murderous Russian dictator against the United States intelligence community on live international television – in the wake of 12 indictments of Russian Military Intelligence officers and a dire warning from Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats – Trump has not just isolated himself from our NATO allies, he has isolated himself from his own people.
What major legislative items can he accomplish without the confidence of his own party? Other than Rand Paul and few fringe House members, Republican lawmakers lined up to denounce Trump’s unpatriotic display. Even his own White House staff were dumbfounded after the press conference in Helsinki.
Normally, when a new revelation comes to light about the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, Trump creates a political firestorm – a ban against travel from primarily Muslim countries, saying neo-Nazis and those protesting against them were equally at fault, family separations at the border, countless administration firings, a ban on trans people serving in the military, attempting to rescind DACA – policies and rhetoric designed to gin up passion in his base and outrage his liberal opponents.
This time, it will be harder for him to dismiss credible allegations of collusion when he took to the global stage to disparage the United States and fawn over the man attacking our national security infrastructure. If Putin had paid him to divide America internally and estrange our allies externally, he could not have achieved an outcome more ideal to his ends.
No wonder celebrations have broken out across Russia, hailing Putin’s victory. As Putin himself said to the world on Monday, he came up in Russian intelligence, despite Trump’s protestations that Putin is “fine” and not part of the KGB.
During the joint press conference, Trump expressed a clear preference for KGB intelligence, as he did when he invited then-Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador Kislyak into the Oval Office and disclosed to them classified Israeli intelligence. If Trump was willing to betray our closest allies to the Kremlin, imagine what state secrets he spilled to Putin in their two-and-a-half-hour private coffee clutch (a possibility only his interpreter can confirm or deny).
California by itself has a bigger economy than Russia. The U.S. as a whole, for all its faults, has historically maintained a position as a global moral leader, while Putin’s infamous assassinations of journalists and dissidents, the ruthless poisoning of former spies on British soil, the invasion of Crimea, and threatening an American military plane, have ignited a strong American response in the form of sanctions and the removal of so-called “diplomats” from our country.
Adding insult to injury, Putin offered to help us “investigate” his hacking of our system, much in the same way that Trump will apparently pick the Supreme Court Justice who could decide his legal fate for committing treason in plain sight.
At this point, Putin is trolling the U.S. for falling for his plot to install a Manchurian Candidate as our President. The Russian leader took his victory lap in Helsinki, reveling in the fact that his intellect, or perhaps his kompromat, has disabled Trump’s purported powers as “leader of the free world.”
The Republican lawmakers and talking heads now expressing their shock and dismay are reaping what they have sown. They were willing to put up with baby jails and pandering to neo-Nazis to gain tax cuts that are being canceled out by Trump’s tariffs on foreign goods (except those that affect Trump family businesses).
Republican candidates have accepted millions of dollars in funds from Russian oligarchs in their own elections. This week’s indictment of Russian agent Maria Butina proves how deeply the Kremlin has infiltrated the NRA and thereby its minions in the congressional Republican majority, which may explain their desperation to quash the Mueller investigation.
Some Republicans, like Senator Rubio of Florida and Senator Portman of Ohio, have feigned gratitude that Trump “clarified” his position yesterday, in the wake of bipartisan criticism, saying he “misspoke” at the summit – a claim that insults the intelligence of the world.
Trump, of course, said exactly what he meant, standing next to Vladimir Putin, but Republican districts are so gerrymandered that, in order to maintain a fighting chance of holding on to their offices, the party’s lawmakers have to pander to the most fringe right-wing elements in the electorate – a demographic that would prefer apartheid to a majority-brown democracy.
However, if Republicans continue to back Trump in the face of overt treason, they risk becoming implicated as traitors themselves.
If you doubt it’s treason, look at Mueller’s indictments, which clearly show an act of cyberwar perpetrated by Russian Military Intelligence to help Trump and hurt Hillary, while the Butina indictment shows orders came directly from Vladimir Putin. In other words, by siding with Putin on the world stage, an American president has plainly aided and abetted the man ordering an unprecedented attack on our democracy.
After the Helsinki circus, Trump’s fear of whatever Putin has over him is so clear, there may be no coming back from it. Perhaps many of his supporters overlooked Trump’s open invitation to the Russians to hack Hillary’s emails, his fervent praise of Wikileaks, his admission to Lester Holt that he fired Comey over the Russia investigation, or his collaboration with congressional Republicans to obstruct that investigation.
However, their main man colluding in full view to advance the interests of our enemy, while harming America’s, will make it very hard for Republicans to work up the enthusiasm to continue screaming, “Witch Hunt!” The minority who persist in doing so are beyond hope and will be crying out about a conspiracy, even as the Trump cabal are carted off to prison.
TIP OF THE WEEK
"DIRECT ACTION," FROM MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY:
Action that seeks to achieve an end directly and by the most immediately effective means (as boycott or strike). First Known Use of direct action: 1912
QUICK HERSTORY: Direct Action was first used by women. Anarchists Voltairine DeCleyre and Emma Goldman organized “Direct Actions,” calling them “Propaganda by the deed” (marches, boycotts, strikes, demonstrations), in response to Chicago’s Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in which labor demonstrators clashed with police and both parties were bombed by an unknown assailant.
They continued to employ Direct Action to combat hegemony and fight for free speech, birth control, women's equality and independence, and union organization – many of the battles we continue to fight to this day.
Unfortunately, their definition of Direct Action also included acts of violence, even the use of explosives. I condemn violent Direct Action. The peaceful acts of marching, striking, boycotting, and protesting serve an invaluable purpose in igniting societal change. They always have and they always will.
The 5 Steps to Most Effectively Engage in Direct Action
From a chat I had with L.A. Kauffman, lifelong activist and author of Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Activism
1. Our number one goal is to create a crisis for the Trump administration and anyone who supports them. That can look like a lot of things. Record crowds in the streets for protests, rapid response teams responding to ruthless executive orders or firings, overwhelming the phone lines of every member of congress. Going by the hundreds to a town hall when you’re really angry – that counts as direct action. People can be using their voices to disrupt the smooth flow of the everyday right now. Destroy normalcy.
2. Shine a spotlight on injustice. The second goal is to make visible what is often invisible. Millions of deportations happened under President Obama. Small groups were shining a spotlight on that, but it was more like a flashlight. It was so small, making anything that makes the human toll of Trump’s policies visible and brings it out into the open helps the Resistance.
3. Bring more people into the Resistance. It comes third because when I look at the lessons of movements in the past, the movements that have achieved the most have often been the most unpopular when they started out. The civil rights movement. The lunch counter sit-ins were profoundly polarizing at the time. They were widely condemned. We look back at them now through the rosy glow of a societal consensus that they should have been done. But there was no consensus at the time, which is what gave them the power.
ACT UP literally saved millions of lives. You can’t come up with any civil rights movement in the last 40 years that had as swift and measurable results as ACT UP. It was not a mass movement. It was a very polarizing movement. They were rude, obnoxious, they were in your face. They were also dying. They chained themselves to offices. They threw the ashes of their loved ones onto the White House lawn. But when the noise got them to the table, they were able to say, “Drug-testing protocols should be designed. Here’s what treatment should be. Here are our recommendations for how the FDA should engage in drug testing.”
They had very clear demands and recommendations that were very clear and concrete, but at the same time, they would stand outside and scream, “Murderers.” The noise they made got them a seat at the table, but once at the table, they were clear with their demands. It’s important to note that, usually, the ones making the noise were not the ones sitting at the table.
We had a campaign here to save more than 100 community gardens in New York City. Those of us who disrupted the auctions when the city were selling off the community gardens. We even unleashed thousands of crickets at one auction and brought the whole thing to a grinding halt. We won a resounding victory and the gardens were bequeathed to a land trust instead. But when it came time to sit at the table and negotiate, we were not the ones at the table engaging in those conversations. The synergy of the different aspects and different skills is what creates those results.
Movements are like ecosystems. If you have an ecosystem that’s a monoculture, it’s not going to be very healthy. If you have street protests and nothing else, its impact is going to be limited. But if you go back to the airport protests with the Muslim Ban. There were the rapid response bodies in the airport protests, but at the same time there were the lawyers at the airports doing legal clinics to defend immigrants coming in, and then lawyers elsewhere fighting in the courts, and then others publicizing on social media. If there hadn’t been the challenges in the courts, the protests wouldn’t have gone anywhere. But we might not have gotten the rulings that we got without the massive protests. All of those aspects worked together.
Being willing to be unpopular is how you win. I’m always interested in movements that create opportunities for different levels of engagement depending on people’s level of availability and commitment. Meet people where they are. Don’t guilt them. Welcome those who are taking action now. Don’t set up a litmus test for participation. Welcome all who want to join together.
4. Use all the tools in the non-violent toolbox. The Politics of Non-Violent Action by Gene Sharp offers almost 200 different tactics of non-violent resistance, from writing letters to locking yourself into an office, from the most accessible to the ones that require the most training and commitment. There are many forms of mass non-compliance, like the Women’s Strike. It’s not obeying, taking to the streets and occupying the public sphere. Tactics are tools and it’s about really thinking carefully about what methods are going to have the biggest impact in a specific circumstance. Don’t always have a rally. Don’t always have a march. Make it specific to what is needed at the moment, like the disabled protestors getting arrested in retaliation to the Obamacare repeal..
5. Pace yourself. Everybody can’t go to every protest. If we’re going to sustain this over a long period of time. It requires everybody to do more. We need to be a little tougher, a little more resilient now. Make more phone calls and attend more protests than you ever have before. But don’t do it all the time. The movements that win are the ones that sustain a level engagement over a long period of time. If we’re going to change this country. It’s not just a four-year undertaking. It’s a much longer one. It won’t just be re-taking power, it will be repairing the damage that’s been done.
L.A. Kauffman concluded by saying:
The basic message I draw from history and the basic message of my work is that protest works. It doesn’t always work, but by and large the movements that use the stronger tactics of non-violent resistance achieve more or protect more than movements that rely on established channels of political participation.
Sometimes you can’t see the way the protest works right away. Sometimes it takes a long time to see. People will always be naysaying what you’re doing, but you have to look back at history and see how women won the vote, how people of color changed how they were treated, how LGBTQ people won new rights.
It always starts small, but those pioneers are always the ones who have helped create what we now consider American values in their deepest sense.
 pp. 11-12, Tongue of Fire: Emma Goldman, Public Womanhood, and the Sex Question, by Donna M. Kowal, SUNY Press, 2016.
“The Emma Goldman Papers,” Berkeley Library, University of California, 2016.