Plenty to work with
The Trumps have turned up again at that most dangerous of intersections where arrogance and ignorance meet.
Their arrogance is thinking they deserve by their magnificence to win by any means. It’s believing their victories are as celebrated by others as by themselves. It’s thinking their path to ego-gratification doesn’t matter if the building gets built and the taxes avoided or the White House won.
Their arrogance is believing they needn’t worry about their intersecting ignorance of traditional political and governmental standards of behavior. They believe that they exist for the very purpose of breaking those rules, whatever they are.
So, yes, sure, says the Prince of Arrogance, Donald Trump Jr., when a Russian musical agent known to the Trumps tells him by email that a woman Russian lawyer with ties to the Russian government wants to meet with him to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton. The agent says in the email that the Russian government to which the lawyer is tied wants Trump to win the presidency.
Junior sets up the meeting and rounds up the attendance of the husband of the Princess of Arrogance and a hired hand with close ties to Russia.
Arrogance says this could help us win. Arrogance is puffed up by Russian admiration.
Ignorance says the same thing, not knowing any better.
The powerful blend of arrogance and ignoration prevents even a fleeting thought that would occur almost instantly to anyone knowledgeable and experienced and objective, which is that the Russian overture is wholly inappropriate.
It keeps Trump Jr. from being aware that there might be factors at play even more important than the family’s megalomania. Those factors are integrity and the greater national interest.
Integrity is something you have or don’t. Concern for the greater national interest requires knowledge of the greater national interest.
Trump Jr.’s ultimate defense is that the lawyer’s information was nonsense and nothing came of the meeting.
But that’s no defense. It’s rotten luck.
It could be that this was a tactic by Russian operatives to find out how easily the Trumps could be had.
If so, the answer was that they could be had laughably easily — that they were soft marks on two accounts, one that they were blinded by ego and self-absorption, and the other that they had no clue as to their obligations to a greater national interest.
That obligation, at the least, was to dismiss out of hand the prospect of any such dalliance with a Russian lawyer, and, at the most, to convey the email overture directly to the FBI for whatever inquiry it saw fit.
Revelations of this dalliance with the Russian lawyer so rattled the White House that all President Trump could say initially was that his son was a good man and that he admired his son’s transparency in releasing the damning emails (only because he knew they were about to be released by others).
In a couple of hours, the Republican brain trust had come up with a counterpunch.
It turns out that Democratic political operatives had asked Ukrainian embassy sources last year for information about Trump’s business dealings in Russia as well as those of his temporary campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who, by the way, was the hired hand in the meeting with the Russian lawyer.
Republicans asked: What’s the difference? Why no media outrage?
The Democratic sin is, in this case, plainly much lesser.
First, Ukraine isn’t the dangerous rival that Russia is. Second, the Democratic operatives weren’t the Clintons themselves entertaining mysterious Ukrainian sources. Third, the Democrats knew what they were looking for and with whom they were working. Trump Jr. was open to anything this mystery lawyer might bring to him in Trump Tower.
Is this behavior by Trump Jr. a violation of the federal law that prohibits a campaign’s solicitation or acceptance of money or other matter of value from a foreign government?
That’s a question for Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
I am struck by the similarity of this matter to that of the senior Trump’s leaning on FBI director James Comey to drop an investigation of Michael Flynn.
In both cases, a legal transgression appears to have occurred. Daddy was trying to obstruct justice. Junior was trying to secure something of value from a foreign government.
But in neither case did the technical criminality amount to anything. The Flynn investigation continued. The Russian lawyer left Trump Jr. empty-handed.
She went home, perhaps to tell officials in the Russian government that what she had encountered in New York was plenty of arrogance and ignorance for the Russians to work with.
And speaking of arrogance and ignorance — or, more accurately, raging nonsense — the president, by the next morning, was tweeting to cite “fake news” … for emails his son released.
Daddy was suggesting Junior was the victim. I believe that’s right—of his genes, mostly.