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Many of the progressive persuasion are praising a column by Pulitzer Prize-winning Tom Friedman published Sunday in the New York Times.

It contended that President Trump is now exposed as either "totally compromised by the Russians or ... a towering fool, or both."

The context is that we now know that the Russians cyber-invaded our presidential election to harm us. Yet Trump won't even begin to attend to his presidential responsibility to lead by responding forcefully against Russia in the nation's defense.

Friedman writes that Trump cowers either because he is compromised by something the Russians have on him--either finance-related or personally scandalous--or is incompetently oblivious to the dire urgency that a Russian invasion of our sovereignty poses.

Or, again, both.

Trump has generally responded only to argue (1) that he won the presidency on his own without Russian help and (2) the Russian meddling wasn't his fault because Barack Obama, president at the time, was the one who should have run the Russians and their Web-crawling robots back to wherever they came from.

First, a word about blaming Obama: The evidence of Russia's computer operation in St. Petersburg wasn't nearly as conclusive in 2016 as Special Counsel Robert Mueller made it the other day with the vivid detail and gripping narrative of his indictment.

Anyway, an aggressive stance by Obama against Russian meddling in the heat of the '16 race would have been decried effectively at the time by Trump and his allies as a bogus and scandalous injection of government resources to try to defeat Trump and elect Hillary Clinton.

That aside: While I respect Friedman's work as always, I believe he has erred in this case by his singular and/or--Trump's corruption and/or Trump's incompetence.

It could be neither. And it could be something else.

It is possible that Trump no more actively colluded with the Russians than did Bernie Sanders, who also received Facebook promotion from them. It is possible that Trump was candid when he said there was no way he ever would have behaved with prostitutes while in Russia in a way that had been described in a dossier, considering that he, famously, is a "germaphobe."

And it could be that Trump understands well enough the menace posed by Russia's meddling, but doesn't believe there's any point in essentially restarting the Cold War when the real job is to use the new awareness of what happened to try to limit its recurrence.

That one is counterintuitive, I admit. Trump does not typically hold his tongue strategically. He regularly runs it amok.

But limiting Russia's cyber-invasion is probably the best we can hope, at least for 2018. The digital world is the modern Wild West frontier. We couldn't stop all the outlaws in those days either. And the horses are much faster and sneakier now.

Or, yes ... Trump's subdued reaction could be something else entirely. That is where I seem inevitably to lean with Trump, perhaps, as some say, from naïvete.

I do not deem Trump intelligent enough or conspiratorially competent enough to commit high-level international financial conspiracy. The man has repeatedly demonstrated that he can think only short-term and in tweets, slogans and insults--in spasms.

Most of us are sufficiently certain by now of Trump's adultery, immorality and Clintonian sexual appetite that very little the Russians could show us in a secret video would shock or even interest us.

I suspect Trump's base would gather at watch parties to cheer the carnal power and precision of the great white leader. The rest of us would shrug or recoil or regurgitate.

Finally, there is this: It is possible that Trump is such a human distortion wrought of insecurity, self-absorption, ego and raging superficiality--such a monstrous eternal brat of a child--that what his Russian response reveals is merely the same old, same old.

It is that he can think of nothing other than himself.

It's conceivable that the only thing the new evidence of Russian meddling means to him is that he must exploit or deflect it to extol and defend himself. It's to insist he won the presidency fair and square in his singular glory. It's to apply the trusted grade-school playground refrain: I didn't do it, he did it (as he points to Obama).

I don't know that we need to impeach Trump as much as we need to consider removing him from office on the basis that he doesn't meet the Constitution's minimum age requirement.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 02/22/2018

Print Headline: He's either/or ... or both

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