Monday, January 06, 2020


Reviewing Malcolm Nance's new book, The Plot to Betray America, Jeff Stein of The Washington Post summarizes Nance's theory about why people like Donald Trump become assets for hostile foreign powers such as Russia:
Why do once-loyal men go bad? Mole hunters have an acronym for it: MICE, which stands for money, ideology, coercion/compromise and ego/excitement. Trump qualifies for three out of four, in the telling of Nance (and many others who’ve long followed Trump’s career), that explain his attachment to Moscow. Ideology’s not one of them.... According to New York state records revealed by the Smoking Gun, he changed party registrations at least five times over the years.
So ideology wasn't a factor, according to Nance. As for the rest....
In Trump, [the Russians] found two [weaknesses], a hunger for money and a raging ego, not to mention a lust for beautiful women. They began dangling opportunities — the Miss Universe contest, Trump Tower Moscow. They treated him like a potentate, affording him the bedroom suite reserved for princes and presidents at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. Then, in the wake of Trump’s Atlantic City bankruptcies, Nance recounts, Trump found new sources of cash from Russian sources, including the Kremlin-connected Deutsche Bank, Russian oligarchs who bought luxury condos in Trump Tower and “New York City allies from the former Soviet Union” who partnered with him in real estate deals from SoHo to Baku. One of them, Felix Sater, would eventually be accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from a Kazakhstan bank “to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow,” according to a lawsuit reported by the Associated Press.

That Trump wanted the details of his financial sources kept secret (along with his tax returns) was all the better, Nance notes: It gave Putin a better hold on him, a tool for coercion.

From the beginning, Russia had used “the MICE strategy to bring him under its sway, as his interest in Russia clearly blinded him,” Nance theorizes. “He was a potential asset and an exploitable victim worth keeping.”
This makes sense. But did Trump really succumb despite having no ideological affinity for Russia?

Jonathan Chait knows what Trump's ideology is:
The unfolding Iran adventure seems to open once again the question of what principle, if any, defines this president’s foreign policy. Isolationism? Nationalism? Whatever Fox News is demanding at any given moment?

His real North Star is in fact an idea he has explicated many times, but — perhaps because it is so horrifying — even his critics seem hesitant to accept as a true motivation. Trump’s plan is to collapse the moral space between America and its enemies.

The president laid out his logic most recently on Sunday night, when he reiterated his threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites if that country retaliates in the wake of the targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani. “They’re allowed to kill our people,” Trump told the press pool. “They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

This is Trump’s deepest belief about foreign policy: The things that separate the United States from terrorists and dictatorships are not a source of strength, but of weakness. Our enemies are stronger and tougher, willing to do the hard things that must be done in order to win. To defeat them, we must become like them.
During the 2016, Trump pledged to use torture as president. In 2019, he pardoned several convicted or accused war criminals. And now the threat to bomb cultural sites.

Trump isn't a neocon or an isolationist -- or, more precisely, he's a neocon and an isolationist at the same time, depending on whatever mood strikes him.

But what he is consistently is a wannabe authoritarian thug. That's his ideology. He thinks America should be a lawless, thuggish nation.

That's the ideology he shares with Putin-era Russia. Malcolm, he meets all four MICE criteria.

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