Column: The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!
It’s time, if you please, just to get on with the Trump administration. Part the curtains and let’s see what happens, as possibly contrasted with the awfulness said to lie in wait for the world: government by military officers; environmental degradation; the bullyragging of American corporations; and not least, the referral of U.S. foreign policy aims to the judgment of the Kremlin.
In other words, the shock of Donald Trump’s electoral victory festers. It will be another five weeks before we can talk about what he’s done as president. So we talk, accordingly, about the horror show awaiting us.
The Trump-Putin nexus – marked by what The New York Times calls “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” of Vladimir Putin’s attempt to “put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump” – is the latest public diversion from the new realities Trump brings into play. Did Putin, or did he not, work to elect Trump by the release, as well as the non-release, of Democratic and Republican emails placed at his disposal by Russian hackers?
The question has obvious relevance insofar as it concerns the state of our relationships with a playfully malicious national leader resentful of U.S. power. Yet in the interval between election and inauguration, with anti-Trump news outlets beating the signal drums (bum-bubba-bum), what’s the topic good for but righteous declarations of uninformed opinion on all sides of the issue? Can we not wait to insert the topic and its urgency – of whatever dimension – into the post-Jan. 20 lineup?
Nor can we wait, it seems, to find out what the number of retired generals in Trump’s cabinet, starting with Defense Secretary-designate James “Mad Dog” Mattis, means for civilian control of the military. We have to wring our hands now. We must also wring them over questions of continuing U.S. commitment to controlling climate change. (“Controlling” is a curious word in this context. Who “controls” nature?)
Such are the anxieties that beset a country expecting change but not knowing what kind: “Are the Russians coming to get us?!” “Do we still know how to duck and cover?” “Is our incoming president a Manchurian candidate?”
We’ve got too much to talk about and too much time to talk about it. That is my own verdict on these burning, or merely smoldering, questions. Twitter and Facebook have us desiring instant answers, even to presently unanswerable questions.
The Trumpiness of Trump will not seem everyday to us for a long time. I will add, it was so with Obama – a president who quickly morphed from reconciler to Democratic drumbeater. What Trump’s cheering and jeering sections alike must come to terms with is the short-term nature of political moments. It has always been thus. Trump will discover that particular problems change shapes; he will lose interest in certain issues as altogether new challenges emerge.
The hiss-boo-and-holler faction over on the left will discover that normal, mainstream people have some good ideas – such as making energy supplies larger and cheaper rather than smaller and costlier. They may not appreciate such a discovery, but it could cause them to pipe down a little.
In the meantime, I would like to say a word about Trump’s cabinet choices. (I write without knowing whether or not he wants Rex Tillerson for secretary of state.) His cabinet choices seem, for the most part, splendiferous: for secretary of defense, a smart tough-guy general (how can you not love a warrior nicknamed “Mad Dog”?); a secretary of education who believes in choice for unsatisfied public-school customers (Betsy DeVos); and for attorney general, a man unvaccinated against trusting honorable folk at the state and local levels (Jeff Sessions).
I could easily go on. The point is, for all the transitional anxieties stretching from here to Inauguration Day, numerous signs are positive. Non-positive ones may not amount to much in the short or the long run. If, say, we find out in January that Vladimir Putin harbors unseemly affection for Trump, we can install Elizabeth Warren as ambassador to Moscow.
That ought to cool things off fast.