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Bill Straub: Trump Derangement Syndrome aside, there are legitimate questions about Putin and Trump

To Sen. Rand Paul, it can all be chalked up to Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).

The Republican lawmaker from Bowling Green, famously referred to as a “wacko bird’’ by one-time presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona – a member of Paul’s own party, it should be noted – insists the vitriol that greeted President Trump’s (YIKES!) recent session with Russia strongman Vladimir Putin has everything to do with disdain for the current occupant of the White House and nothing to do with fears that he sold the farm, referring to TDS as “crazy hatred of the president.’’

“The hatred for the president is so intense, that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance,” Paul maintained during a speech on the Senate floor last week.

“I would like to see the Russians help more with North Korea with denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Paul said. “We’re not going to have it if we just simply heap more sanctions on and say we’re not going to talk to the Russians and anybody that talks to the Russians have committed treason.”

Forget for a moment that Russia wants nothing to do with North Korea and that Kim Jong-un is only interested in what China has to say anyway. Paul once again is firing blanks. Few if any individuals are opposed to engaging the traditional foes of the United States to maintain some sort of equilibrium in the world, something of a guarded peace. The problem revolves around dispatching Trump, a child, a loathsome child at that, to do an adult’s job. In this case, it’s rather like sending in the Human Torch to douse a house fire.

Rand Paul and Donald Trump (Washington Examiner photo)

Prior to his meeting with Putin, critics and friends alike were concerned that Humpty-Trumpty was ill-prepared to engage the ruthless Russian leader – apparently, aides didn’t have enough time to prepare a cartoon he could watch to get ready for the face-to-face. His diplomatic abilities, judging by the way he treats the nation’s allies, rest squarely in deficit range and to say this shady grifter is overconfident in his own abilities is like saying Einstein was pretty smart.

The meeting carried all the makings of a disaster and that was pretty much the result. In a press conference immediately thereafter, Trump appeared to side with Putin over his own intelligence agencies, who contend the Kremlin engaged in nefarious activities during the 2016 presidential campaign election to swing the election to Humpty-Trumpty. And he asserted the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into those shenanigans “is a disaster for our country,’’ resulting in keeping the U.S. and Russia apart.

Since that obviously awkward incident, Trump has been operating back-and-forth like a kid on a swing, asserting at one point that he trusts his intelligence people – his as if he owns them – and then hinting once again that he accepts Putin’s word that the Russian government wasn’t involved.

It’s enough to make one as dizzy as the president himself. There’s been substantial backing and filling, only to find the president digging new holes that then require additional backing and filling.

Other than that, little is known about what Trump and Putin discussed because the prez insisted on a one-on-one encounter with only a translator present. Just what Trump promised and what the U.S. might expect in return remains hush-hush – trading the stars and stripes for a hammer and sickle perhaps.

No, despite Paul’s whiny defense of Trump the issue is not about engaging Russia or any of this nation’s foes. It’s about the man doing the engaging. Neither Trump nor Putin is trustworthy. Complicating the matter is that Putin is infinitely smarter, more calculating, experienced and downright evil than his American counterpart.
It’s like me going up against Max Scherzer…without a bat.

American history is filled with the U.S. engaging, even confronting, its foes even without a hot war going on. Then-Vice President Richard Nixon took on and bettered Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during what was characterized as the Kitchen Debate in Moscow in 1959. In June 1961, President John F. Kennedy, in office less than five months, met with Khrushchev in a summit held in Vienna. History shows that Kennedy, smarter, more experienced and infinitely more dazzling than Trump, entered ill-prepared and got his clock cleaned by the Russian leader.

“Worst thing in my life,” Kennedy later told a New York Times reporter. “He savaged me.” It was a lesson later American leaders should have learned from. Apparently not.

Richard Reeves, a Kennedy biographer, told History.com that the young president “really didn’t listen closely to his own advisors. He had no real idea how tough it was going to be… He went in there unprepared and Khrushchev walked all over him.”
“This man is very inexperienced, even immature,’’ Khrushchev told his interpreter. “Compared to him, Eisenhower is a man of intelligence and vision.”

And then, of course, there was Nixon’s justifiably famous trip to China in 1972, a mission so significant it was formed into an opera. Nixon met with both Communist Party Leader Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai, establishing that, despite his obvious myriad of faults, the man knew his way around an international conference table.

Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon, at least in some ways. His experience seems to be more along the Kennedy lines. At least JFK made up for it during the Cuban missile crisis. There’s no reason to believe Humpty-Trumpty has that sort of intestinal fortitude.

Paul makes one good point about those, including former CIA Director John Brennan, who claim that Trump’s performance in Helsinki was “nothing short of treasonous.’’ Unfortunately, at least in this instance, the Constitution grants the president wide latitude in conducting the nation’s foreign affairs. That’s what he was, at least allegedly, doing here. Counterbalancing information may rise, but right now he’s just doing his job, albeit calamitously.

But that’s about it for Comrade Paul, who shares Humpty-Trumpty’s soft spot for the Russian bear and is planning on taking his own trip to the former Soviet Union in the near future. In disparaging those who he maintains have contracted Trump Derangement Syndrome, the good doctor fails to reckon with other activities undertaken by this president that have set people’s nerves decidedly on edge.

Like initiating an unnecessary trade war, which has hurt the economy generally and the agriculture community, in particular, forcing the formulation of a $12 billion farm bail-out.

Or championing a tax cut that will add about $1.3 trillion to the national deficit over the next 10 years but has done nothing to help American workers – take-home pay hasn’t increased at all over the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Or that he is intentionally ruining the environment, taking the nation back to unhealthy air and soiled water while simultaneously paying no heed to global climate change that threatens the planet.

Or threatening war with Iran for god knows what reason.

Or that his own words prove him to be, beyond any doubt, a bigot, a racist, a misogynist with a special distaste for Latin Americans and Muslims.

Or imposing a litmus test on Supreme Court nominees that eventually could lead to an overturning of Roe v. Wade.

And, of course, there’s the lies, all the lies, the Mt Everest of lies that keep piling incessantly one on top of the other.

There’s more but it should be obvious that there are more causes of TDS than his love affair with the Russian Bear.

There is a cure – the ballot box.

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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