16 February 2017

The wretched miasma of politics

People keep presuming diversely on the net that Putin has compromising pictures of Trump.

I think this is unlikely.

Trump is reputed to have done this -- surreptitiously take compromising pictures of guests -- in Trump's own hotels, Trump has never lacked for low cunning, and it's about impossible to make pictures or video really stick these days. Any state actor can fake just about anything, and that possibility makes any kind of blackmail image doubtfully effective. It might work, but it might not.  It probably won't, given the GOP unwillingness to stop going La La La so long as they stay in power and get their tax breaks.

Really tight proof of Trump's economic misdeeds -- it's not like Putin needs to be especially concerned for being prosecuted for any financial misdeeds on his own part -- is a possibility, but that can be disclaimed, too.  "State actor" calls into a great deal of question just what can be false-flagged about financial fraud claims.

What Putin can have on Trump relies on it being something Trump's staff wouldn't think of guarding against, which generally means something that requires a state actor; either the capability before it would have been generally known as a risk or to get away with doing it.  (Or both.) To be useful, it has to be an inescapable demonstrable material fact that's nigh-guaranteed to revolt Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell beyond any question of political calculation.  (Plus a sufficient fraction of the right-wing media.)

So either Putin's kiting Trump with no actual kompromat -- not impossible, by any means; that appears to be what Bannon's doing -- or it's something that fits those two criteria.  It has to be a demonstrable material fact and it has to revolt Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.   It also has to be something Putin could get, that Trump would believe Putin had, and that Trump can't correct, obscure, or dispose of once Trump knows Putin has it.

There really isn't much in that category.  The only obvious candidate is the paternity of Trump's grandchildren, which is a horrible thought to think.


6 comments:

Zeborah said...

The more I think about this the more blackmail doesn't seem to fit.

Trump's a bluffer. It's always worked for him. He's probably started to believe a lot of his own bluffs. He certainly believes he can get away with anything - even shoot a guy in Time Square - and the fact is he's right. Even if Putin stood up on live TV and said "Actually we did hack the voting machines, here's the code we used, here's the original data, here's..." the GOP would shrug and carry on dismantling civilisation bill by bill. [To be clear, I'm agnostic about whether Russia got that far and definitely don't think that's the blackmail material, because Putin couldn't possibly admit it without compromising his attempts to do the same thing in the rest of the world.] So if Putin had kompromat, I don't think it matters *how* demonstrable it was. Trump would still believe (and could still be right) that he could get away with it anyway.

Moreover, if Putin in any way attempted to control him through explicit or implicit threats, then Trump would be *mad*. And when Trump's mad, people know about it.

I suppose he *might* on a sufficiently important enough occasion be able to hold his temper. But even if he could, Putin would be a fool to count on it. Especially when it's so much easier to control Trump simply by appealing to his ego.

Graydon said...

+Zeborah the GOP doesn't care about the voting machines or some random person in Times Square, but that doesn't mean there's nothing they care about.

Similarly with Trump; there might well be something about which Trump feels shame. Heaven only knows what it is, or if the expectation of shame would be general.

I think your analysis is a good one, and it more or less matches mine, except that Trump has been very consistent for a long time about wanting to advance specific Russian interests. It's one of the few things Trump has been consistent about. So there's clearly something involved. Perhaps we'll find out; perhaps we'll find out when current events have turned into history. Dunno.

heron61 said...

Graydon, I see 2 issues here, there's, as you mention, Trump consistently want to advance specific Russian interests, and the fact that he has no problem saying terrible things about pretty much anyone, including allies (I'm uncertain that he even has a conception of allies as anything other than dupes, or people he's working with until he can dupe them). However, he's never said anything negative about Putin, even when there have been clear reasons to do so - it's not like most of his base love Putin (although some of the most horrifying white supremacists do: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/world/americas/alt-right-vladimir-putin.html?_r=0), and yet Trump continues to praise him.

That's dramatically atypical behavior for him, and this I assume Putin owns him in some fashion. Also, Trump is the sort of extreme authoritarian who typically knuckles under to someone who's better at being an extreme authoritarian, so while I'm certain he'd love to be Zeus to Putin's Cronos, I'm betting he's also pretty good at sitting when Putin says "sit!"

Of course, the wild card in all of this is whether or not Trump is fully in command of his faculties. Sometimes the difference between wildly rambling speeches that lack anything other than emotional notes designed to stir up his base, and some form of dementia is unclear.

Graydon said...

+heron61 Consistency implies faculties. (I don't think Trump is a well man, but I also don't think there's anything obviously different between Trump now and Trump in the 80s. There has literally never been any sufficient negative consequences (for Trump) to Trump being Trump; an entire life spent surrounded by people trying to make you happy and do what you want can do that. Lots of Early Modern kings, for example. Trump would fit right in to the Ancien Regime.)

That's not a group of people noted for the consistency of their loyalty. Even if Putin can pauperize Trump (by calling in the loans from Russian banks/oligarchs that keep Trump Inc. solvent) it's a really surprising degree of loyalty.

What on earth can you expect to stick to the President of the United States and be something certain to revolt Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell enough that they'll give up being able to abolish Social Security to impeach Trump? I suspect we may find out, but the possibilities seem scant.

heron61 said...

Unless someone can prove Pence was somehow involved (presumably in covering it up), Ryan and McConnell don't need to give up anything other than an erratic maybe-ally, since President Pence will happily work with them.

As for what Putin has on Trump, I agree that watersports wouldn't end his career - he's likely the only US politician (a term I use quite loosely wrt him) that this would be true of. My guess is either money or something heinous. If Putin could bankrupt Trump and cause him to lose most of his hotels with the big gold letters on them, he might well dance to Putin's tune. Also, if the exceedingly vague rumors I've heard of videos of Trump having sex with a young teen were true, that would end his career. OTOH, other than unlikely stuff like Trump killing people in snuff films, I can't think of much else that he could be blackmailed about, other than perhaps (shudder) the paternity of one or more of Ivanka's children - I'd be horrified if this was true, but not shocked.

Graydon said...

+heron61 Pence is not a substitute for Trump, though.

Trump is the real deal; an actual unapologetic aristocrat out of another time. Pence is a strong advocate for conversion therapy -- which amounts to torturing gay kids to death -- but has always felt compelled to weasel-word it because Pence is aware on some level that it's wrong. Trump is a gleeful advocate of torture because it would make Trump feel better to know that anyone scary is being hurt a lot for a long time, and that -- making Trump feel better -- is all the reason anything needs.

Impeaching Trump would involve a big political cost in legitimacy -- Trump really did win the GOP primary -- and dealing with Trump's enraged base, which is certain to batten on a conspiracy theory to explain why Trump was really removed. There's no telling which conspiracy theory, though, and whether the base would be most determined to have Ryan's, McConnell's, or Pence's heads on stakes.

It's much better for them if they can keep Trump giving everyone else "worst fencer" problems -- there's not much telling what Trump is going to do -- while the machinery of making American White Again -- through deportation initially but eventually death camps -- gets set up behind that political cover. None of them have any agenda but a domestic agenda; they really don't care what Trump does to the United States' international standing, trade treaties, etc. They care about creating a domestic order that matches their preferences.

They're effectively taking a bet that they can get this done before someone manages to replace the Democratic party with something pushing an active progressive agenda. (The Democrats have functioned since Carter as the not-scared-of-math nominal alternative. The combination of white nativism, climate change, and the Carbon Bubble demand something else; the thing the GOP needs is for there not be time to create that, because it will win any political contest.)