Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: Trump sides with Putin, for reasons unknown and unexplained

My fellow Americans, we have committed ourselves to four years -- 1,461 days, including an extra day for leap year -- with Donald J. Trump in control of our national destiny, and the countdown to zero hasn't even started yet.

That would be this Donald J. Trump, @realDonaldTrump:

Yes, it is certainly strange. Very strange. Extraordinary, someone-must-have-put-LSD-in-your-morning-coffee levels of strange.

It is strange to see Trump claiming that the intelligence briefing that he has long avoided has been delayed, while intelligence officials claim that it is right on schedule.

It is strange to see a president-elect of the United States publicly mocking the competence and honesty of U.S. intelligence agencies. It is strange to see him refusing to attend or read intelligence briefings, and strange to see him treating longtime professionals with such open contempt. It is also strange to see conservative politicians and conservative media outlets that have long reviled Russia and long worshiped the intelligence agencies now suddenly reverse themselves on both counts so they can show total allegiance to Fearless Leader.

Whatever they have to believe, they are willing to believe.¹

I'm particularly struck by the sarcastic scare quotes that Trump puts around the words "intelligence" and "Russian hacking" in the tweet above, an antic that makes him look less like a 70-year-old statesman and more like a smart-aleck 10-year-old. He needs to be sent to his room without his Nintendo until he improves his attitude; instead, 16 days from now, he'll be given access to the nuclear codes.

Very strange.

And what have U.S. intelligence agencies done to deserve such ridicule from the man who will lead and rely upon them?

Well, they have dared to tell our president-elect and the rest of us an inconvenient truth. They have dared to conclude with a "high degree of confidence'" that Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking of computers in both the Democratic and Republican parties, and then ordered the release of stolen data from the Democrats as a way to interfere with the U.S. election on Trump's behalf.

Now "high confidence" doesn't mean that they're absolutely sure that they're right, but it's pretty close. And yes, intelligence agencies have been wrong in the past. But in this case, every U.S. intelligence agency, from the CIA to the FBI, is unanimous in that conclusion. Every expert that I've seen quoted from the private cyber-security industry has also come to that same conclusion. And so far, the only evidence that Trump offers to contradict those expert conclusions is the work of his own "very good brain."

As he told us last week, "I know a lot about hacking ... I know things that other people don't know." When asked what these things might be that only he knows, he became evasive.

“You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said.

Wednesday has now come; an explanation has not. Perhaps more "time" is needed to build a "case"?

Very strange.

The truth is. Trump doesn't use email, he doesn't use computers, he has no real concept of how they work and he marvels at the computer skills of his 10-year-old son. He doesn't know his ASCII from a hole in the ground, and if you put a laptop in front of him and ask him to turn it on, he wouldn't have the slightest idea where to place his stubby forefinger.

But Trump does know that he wants to be -- oddly needs to be -- friends with Putin. Over the years, and dating back long before his run for president, he has made a series of admiring, even sycophantic statements about the Russian dictator. Maybe it's something personal with him; maybe it's something business-related. Either way, he wants to curry favor with Putin by ending sanctions enacted against Russia for its military adventures into Crimea and Ukraine, and now for meddling in our elections. He wants Putin's admiration and validation. He wants these things, he wants them badly, and U.S. intelligence agencies are telling him that maybe, for the good of the country, he shouldn't have these things.

For our incoming child-president, that's not a good enough reason.

¹George Orwell had a term for this phenomenon, as of course he would. He called it "blackwhite," and defines it clearly in "1984":

"(Blackwhite) means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.'

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.