Monday, April 3, 2017

In case you missed...

...Mark Cuban's famous tweet storm about President Trump last week, here it is in its entirety (lightly edited) and with my comments in italics:

1) Here is my take on Trump and Russia:

2) Russians have made him a lot of money buying condos and investing in his buildings and hosting his beauty pageant. That makes them his friends.

I've read that no respectable bank will touch Trump anymore so he's had to resort to doing business with Russians. And the Russian government, business community and organized crime are all intertwined. So it's messy. 

3) He ignored their backgrounds. But that's not unusual. Starbucks takes anyone's money and so do most businesses, including mine.

I've also read that Russian oligarchs who want to get some of their money out of Russia see Western real estate as a good asset. And Trump is happy to do business with them.

4) He spoke favorably about Putin to get his approval for Russians to get money out of Russia and into Trump deals. He saw it as easy money.

As for Trump's favorable comments about Putin, that's nothing new: some Republicans, including most famously Rudy Giuliani, have been saying things like that for years.

5) When Paul Manafort was recommended, he didn't vet him. He saw it as a win-win. Win the election, or open the door for more Russian business.

Trump was a political neophyte, of course, and was happy to have a veteran like Manafort come on board to take his campaign to the next level.

6) As people with Russian connections came into the campaign he had no clue that those connections were possibly being influenced by Russia.

I'll bet Trump didn't know or didn't care about anyone's connections with Russia. Like Al Davis, he was probably thinking, "Just win, baby." 

7) His lean campaign took direction from people he trusted and he followed those directions. He had no clue where the Russians fit.

He probably also thought -- like his friend Chris Christie with Bridgegate -- "What I don't know won't hurt me."

8) When Manafort got "hot" he got rid of him but the campaign approach had been established. Steve Bannon took it to the next level FTW (for the win).

9) No chance this is a DJT-led conspiracy. He isn't detail-oriented, organized or big picture enough to pull off any kind of conspiracy.

Agreed. This is something that "happened" to Trump, not something he engineered. One reason I think he's stonewalling is that he's embarrassed to have been used in such a way.

10) I think Putin recognized Trump's greed and took advantage by back-channeling coordinated misinformation in an attempt to influence voters.

Putin saw Trump as a "useful idiot."

11) Trump had no idea this was happening. He was doing what he was told to do. Stick to the script and read what was written for him.

Again, Trump was a political neophyte and listened to his "experts."

12) Because he didn't recognize or understand as it was happening he has no idea what to do now or how to respond. So he turns to Fox News.

I think Trump is covering up mostly to avoid embarrassment. Putin wanted the least qualified candidate to be president and that was clearly Trump. He's only finding that out now, with the rest of us.

13) That's what I think happened. Feel free to agree or disagree.

I can't find much to disagree with here. I would only add a comment or two.

First of all, I wish I could find where I originally read this (just days before the election), but it's a good question of which I don't have the answer: "It's hard to know what Donald Trump was trying to accomplish by running for president." (I think Ezra Klein wrote that, but I can't find it.)

What was Trump thinking when he descended that escalator?

Most people would answer something to the effect that the Donald was just trying to "bolster his brand" or improve his bargaining position for the next season of The Apprentice (that's what Howard Stern said). But one thing I think we can all agree on (including Trump, I'll bet) is that he never in a million years thought he would actually win the Republican nomination or the presidency. Maureen Dowd said it best when she wrote:

Trump shocked himself by shooting to the top of the Republican heap. It was like watching a bank robber sneak into a bank, only to find all the doors unlocked.

And it's true: the Republicans ran 16 -- count 'em, sixteen! -- Ronald Reagan lookalikes and the primary voters chose the one guy who promised them universal healthcare; that he would preserve, not "reform" Social Security and Medicare; that he would curb immigration and "build a wall"; renegotiate trade deals to benefit American workers; stop fighting wars of choice and start putting "America first" in foreign relations; and -- most important, I think -- "bring back your jobs." And the base of the party ate it up.

But being the competitive person he is (and probably contemptuous of everyone else in the race, including Hillary Clinton), Trump probably figured (after he was polling so well) something like, "Hey, I'm within striking distance of winning this thing. If everything continues to break my way I could find myself in the White House. And maybe I'd be good at it. After all, how hard can it be?"

Also, being the incredibly insecure person that he is (by nature, not nurture, I'll bet) Trump is highly sensitive to the suggestion that he got any help from James Comey or the Russians or anyone else. It's important to him to be seen as someone who jumped into the arena after a long and successful career in business and just plain beat the daylights out of all the professional politicians at their own game.

Like Mr. Cuban, I'll bet Trump had very little idea that the Russians were trying to help him win the presidency. It contradicts his narrative that I just laid out in the previous paragraph and points to something far, far worse: Putin didn't necessarily see Trump as a "friendly" president so much as one who was profoundly unqualified to perform the duties of the office. And that has to really sting the Donald's ego.

The bottom line for me: there are probably a ton of people associated with Trump's campaign that had untoward relationships with the Russians. And it will all come out in good time. (Some may even serve time in jail.) But Trump himself is probably more or less innocent; he was most likely a "useful idiot" for Putin. (Although he may be complicit in the cover-up.) The Russian leader wanted, above all else, to sow discord in the United States, his primary adversary. And the best thing he could do (and the worst thing for us) would be to help the least-qualified candidate in history get elected to the most powerful job on the planet. And I think that's probably what's motivating Trump the most to make this story go away.

So that's what I think happened. Feel free to agree or disagree.

P. S. I've been hearing reports on TV lately that Russia used literally "thousands" of internet trolls to plant fake stories about Trump's opponents and I'm beginning to believe they may have really swung the election for him, more so than even Comey. My wife, for example, watched some bogus piece on Hillary's health shortly before the election and was somewhat swayed by it. (And she's no dope.) And reports are that the vast majority of undecided voters broke late for Trump. So all these fake pieces had to take their toll over time. I mean, come on, how else do you explain that some people really thought Hillary should be "locked up"? (I saw a bumper sticker recently that said, HILLARY FOR PRISON.) That's crazy.

I really don't think it's too much to say that the Russians not only hacked our election but succeeded beyond their wildest dreams by installing the least-qualified candidate in the White House. And they're now laughing -- hard.

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