Donald Trump is not that normal, but he is human. He is a human who has lived essentially all of his life with a totally stacked hand, to bring in a gambling analogy. He has still managed to lose all of his or his companies’ cash several times, but then his connections in the benevolent and altruistic worlds of the mafia, luxury real estate, banking, and show business have bailed him out and let him start a fresh game with a new (again highly stacked) hand. As such, despite being human, The Donald has had a pretty abnormal life that has not fully warped his sense of reality by itself but which has warped his sense of what’s proper and normal for the rest of society. After all, his reality is indeed real, even if it’s not normal or proper.
One thing he has clearly learned is, “If someone has done a big financial favor for you, it’s logical to try to do them a big favor in return.” Yes, in certain context, that’s illegal. And perhaps Trump learned some bad lessons in the corrupt real estate world of NYC. The question we had in 2015 and 2016 was, “Can a 71 year old all of a sudden learn civic duty when he has been trained otherwise?” Many of us had a strong hunch that the answer was a powerful “No” in this case. Others thought it was “Yes.”
Back to Trump’s background, let’s acknowledge that while some people might have taken those circumstances and used them in other ways, Trump found his own specific calling decades ago. Some might label that calling “conning people.” Others might call it “promising whatever the audience wants to hear even if you can’t or won’t deliver.” (Of course, this is not the case 100% of the time, but you don’t have to spend much time learning about Trump’s business and “charity” history to learn what his MO has been — say what’s needed to get the money, but don’t worry too much about delivering the results if you can’t or don’t feel like it.)
To finish the preface, let’s just note a few well known, documented points:
- Eric Trump noted years ago that the Trump real estate business was able to keep rolling throughout the financial and real estate crisis in large part because of Russians, that the Trump family was getting a lot of their financing through Russians — “all the funding we need.”
- US banks and almost all European banks stopped opening their piggy banks to Trump and his company after several bankruptcies and a reputation for not paying lenders back (not to mention lawyers, builders, and other hired hands). (The European bank that did stay open to Trump is a whole other story I’m not going to go into right now.)
- Trump’s properties have been well known tools for Russian and other mobster money laundering for decades, knowingly or unknowingly to Trump — but it’s hard to see how he wouldn’t have learned this by now.
- Donald Trump in recent years was eager to get a property with his name on it built in Moscow.
- Donald Trump said things about Putin and Russia on the campaign trail and since that have repeatedly shocked both Democrats and Republicans well versed in international relations because of how completely unusual, illogical, and anti-American they’ve been. These are some of the top statements that have pushed prominent lifelong Republicans out of the party or to its far edges, prominent conservatives like Bill Kristol, Max Boot, Nicole Wallace, and Joe Scarborough.
- Despite a willingness to attack Meryl Streep, Arnold Schwarzenegger, LeBron James, the NFL, leaders in the Republican Party, and plenty of others, I think you can’t find Trump criticizing Putin once. That’s super strange, not least of all because Putin’s Russia is known to have attacked US democracy in multiple ways, is still doing so, and recently showed an animation of a Russian nuclear bomb hitting Florida — which is essentially where Trump lives! Given how The Donald normally operates, this is one of the most unusual and surprising aspects of the whole thing. Donald and the United States have been “punched” by Putin and his cronies several times in the past couple of years, and Trump hasn’t punched back once. This is totally abnormal for Trump.
Now, that all leads up to another big question: What would Russia want from a puppet in the US presidency? I’m going to give some props to a guy named Alec Quema for summarizing it better than any expert I’ve seen on CNN or MSNBC (both of which I follow closely for their superb reporting and commentary). Alec even added notes about what Trump’s administration has done in these regards. Here’s the comment he provided elsewhere (with minor edits):
1) Lift Russian sanctions — Trump wanted to lift sanctions, and still holds up implementation of new sanction law passed by Congress last year.
2) Breakup NATO — Trump was criticizing NATO as obsolete, until a strong backlash against him on this issue.
3) Breakup Euro — Trump and Putin supported Brexit, and Marion Le Pen (Frexit).
4) Disrupt US and EU economies — trade war tariff.
5) Destabilize US society — Trump’s hate speech encourages groups to hate each other.
6) Destroy US image and reputation around world — Trump does that everyday.
Seriously, Trump is doing everything Putin would want, and Putin basically admitted as much this past week. Anything else Putin would want from a puppet in the presidency? Well, he’d surely be happy with the US president not criticizing him or warning him about cyber warfare, he’d love repeated words of praise by the US president, he’d love for the president to say “I believe Putin, not the CIA and FBI” regarding Putin’s claims that Russia didn’t commit cyber warfare (even after the USA’s top national security officials have provided Trump with evidence that Putin’s team did it), and I’m sure he’d have no complaints if the US president didn’t comment or retaliate in response to Russian interference with US policy in the Middle East and North Korea. But, yes, the six-point list above is the base of the cake.
Now, let’s get to clean energy and dirty energy. The world has to move off of fossil fuels to not get totally f*cked by the climate. The Earth is going to eat us up and spit us out if we keep turning our comfy little home into a greenhouse. Russia’s economy is heavily reliant on oil & gas, and US sanctions hurt the growth of those industries (as well as the use of billions of dollars Russian oligarchs have stripped from those industries instead of providing the money to the Russian citizenry). Aside from the sanctions themselves, here’s a snapshot of why a cleantech economy and climate action are such a threat to the Russian economy and Russian billionaires, from a Wikipedia article on the economy of Russia:
“As of 2012 the oil-and-gas sector accounted for 16% of GDP, 52% of federal budget revenues and over 70% of total exports. Russia is considered an ‘energy superpower‘. It has the world’s largest proven natural gas reserves and the largest exporter of natural gas. It is also the second-largest exporter of petroleum.”
Trump’s decision (perhaps led by former Exxon CEO and Russian “Order of Friendship” awardee Rex Tillerson) to use a whopping $0 of the $120 million Congress has told the White House to spend on Russian sanctions allows Russia to keep capitalizing on its oil & gas business. Meanwhile, Trump’s decision to make the United States the only country to not support the Paris climate agreement is like a dream come true for Putin’s goal of slowing and disrupting cleantech progress and climate action. Add the attacks on the UN Paris climate agreement as point #7 on Alec’s list above.
If you’re a fan of cleantech or democracy, there’s nothing about the above that should make you happy.
Editorial note: If you want to see me write about politics more, drop me a note and I’ll write more. If you want to see me write about politics less, drop me a note and I’ll write more.
Telling me that we should not discuss politics in a democratic society except in very secluded political corners is certainly not a persuasive claim in my eyes. In fact, to me, it is a sign of how weak and disrupted our democracy has become.
Top image by Rob Beschizza