Monday, August 01, 2016

A Curious Relationship

There are lies and then there are lies.

If I claimed that the couple next door has asked me over for cake and coffee, you would not know that it was untrue and would shake it off if told it were because it's inconsequential.  If, however, I mentioned that I was once approached to be the Democratic nominee for the House of Representatives from my congressional district, you would  consider the boast to be a damning lie.

Donald Trump contended that the Republican National Convention took place in Cleveland because "I  wanted it to be here. And, we had lots of choices. I wanted it to be in Ohio. I recommended Ohio." That fell into the first category, significant only because it was uttered by a major party's presidential nominee.

The candidate's relationship with the Russian government is of the latter sort, however.  At a FOX News debate of 11/20/15, Grump bragged

China is a problem, both economically in what they’re doing in the South China Sea, I mean, they are becoming a very, very major force. So, we have more than just Russia. But, as far as the Ukraine is concerned, and you could Syria — as far as Syria, I like — if Putin wants to go in, and I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stablemates, and we did very well that night.

Given that Putin was interviewed from Russia and Grump from New York, it is not very likely that they were with each other that night.  However, infomercials cry "but wait" and last Wednesday, the nominee maintained

Right now, we don’t have a good relationship. Putin has said things over the last year that are really bad things, OK? He mentioned the N-word one time. I was shocked to hear him mention the N-word. You know what the N-word is, right? He mentioned it. I was shocked.

Given that there is no evidence of Putin using the term, Grump may have heard it during a private meeting with the Russian strongman. However, as illustrated by Robert Mackey, "this fantasy (of Putin using ni - - - -) does appear to be a common one in the far-right racist precincts of the internet where the candidate gets a lot of his inspiration."

And so it was that on This Week this week, George Stephanopoulos asked "if you have no relationship with Putin, then why did you say in 2013, I do have a relationship" and Trump responded

Because he has said nice things about me over the years. I remember years ago, he said something -- many years ago, he said something very nice about me. I said something good about him when Larry King was on. This was a long time ago. And I said he is a tough cookie or something to that effect.

He said something nice about me. This has been going on. We did "60 Minutes" together. By the way, not together-together, meaning he was probably shot in Moscow...

Trump a moment later asserted

Well, look, you know, I have my own ideas. He's not going into Ukraine, OK? Just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.

Possibly Grump does not consider that part of Ukraine known as Crimea, annexed by Russia, to be a part of Ukraine, perhaps because most of its residents are ethnic Russians, a legacy of Russia's 200+ year involvement in Crimea (map from the BBC). Nonetheless, Russia did appear to have "gone into Ukraine"- and Ukraine proper- when in December

Asked by a Ukrainian reporter an hour into the briefing about two Russian military intelligence officers captured by Kiev and currently on trial in Ukraine, Putin said: “We never said there were not people there who carried out certain tasks including in the military sphere.” He insisted this was not the same as regular Russian troops.

There was no opportunity for a follow-up question to examine how many military specialists Putin believes were in Ukraine and what exact tasks they were carrying out. At key moments in the conflict in east Ukraine there has been much evidence of regular Russian army involvement.

Putin also initially denied the “little green men” present during the annexation of Crimea were Russian soldiers but afterwards admitted they were.

Donald Trump's entire relationship with the Russian government is shrouded in mystery. He likely has some business interests with, or interest in, Russians and/or Moscow, and George Will believes it is a "reasonable surmise" the nominee hasn't released any income tax returns "because he is deeply involved in dealing with Russian oligarchs and others." Siignificantly, Trump did not impose his views upon the framers of the GOP platform- except for demanding (successfully) that the plank advocating supplying the Ukrainian government with lethal weapons be excised.

Whether Trump has met Putin or not, he has lied- with serious implications- at one time or another about his relationship with the Prime Minister, whose control over his country has extended to executing journalists. Yet, Trump has favorably compared Putin's leadership with that of President Obama, leading Joe Scarborough to remark "Hey- I didn't like the Affordable Care Act, either. But he didn't shoot reporters from the Washington Post and The New York Times."

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