Our leadoff today is Jack Ohman‘s take, which is so stark, simple and provocative that it might — might — get through to some of the Deplorables.
It could, at least, pry a few more of the semi-faithful away from Dear Leader, as the news spreads that we knew about a Russian offer of bounties on dead Americans in Afghanistan and have done nothing about it.
There are explanations possible, beginning with the idea that some low-level Russian operatives promised payments to low-level Afghan rebels, such that nobody at the top of the chain either in Russia or among the Taliban knew it was happening.
Which is possible at the Taliban end, assuming “Taliban” is as vague a term as “IRA.”
Throughout the Troubles in Ulster, all sorts of outrages by splinter groups or just random psychopaths were pinned on “the IRA.”
There was, however, an actual IRA. Not a lot happened within the IRA without top knowledge and British Intelligence knew this, but was reluctant to stop people from blaming the IRA for various things.
Or, for that matter, linking their own outrages to the group, however tenuous the excuse.
So it’s possible that some Afghan tough guys took the bait without being accredited, card-carrying members of the Taliban.
It’s the other end of the bargain I find hard to credit, that the same cadre that engineered the attempted assassination of a Russian defector in London were just wandering around Afghanistan making deals without anyone up the ladder knowing about it.
Bill Bramhall offers a more credible explanation with his illustration of Trump’s claim that he didn’t know.
As Bramhall notes, it’s not the first time Trump has claimed ignorance of something he should have known about.
It’s an accusation his conservative base might find compelling, even if it has to be filtered, not through the dreaded Mainstream Media, but through the responses of veterans like this fellow.
At yesterday’s Five O’Clock Follies, someone asked Kayleigh MagaNinny how it could be that the President (A) wasn’t briefed yet (B) knew the reports were unreliable. She was more loyal than informational in her response, which is to say, she didn’t respond.
Now CNN reports that, indeed, the Russian bounty was included in the President’s daily briefing some months ago, which tells us what he should have known, but not whether or not he knew it.
Every book having come out of the Trump White House so far has confirmed that he doesn’t read the briefing or listen when he is updated.
There are multiple reports that, in order to capture his attention, they have to insert his name in the information, which, as I’ve said before, is reminiscent of Joe Gargery in “Great Expectations,” who, though illiterate, liked to look through the newspaper for places where the letters J and O came together.
“How do you spell Gargery, Joe?” I asked him, with a modest patronage.
“I don’t spell it at all,” said Joe.
“But supposing you did?”
“It can’t be supposed,” said Joe. “Tho’ I’m uncommon fond of reading, too.”
“Are you, Joe?”
“On-common. Give me,” said Joe, “a good book, or a good newspaper, and sit me down afore a good fire, and I ask no better. Lord!” he continued, after rubbing his knees a little, “when you do come to a J and a O, and says you, ‘Here, at last, is a J-O, Joe,’ how interesting reading is!”
It’s important to note that “Great Expectations” is basically about what a condescending, ungrateful, judgmental little prick Pip turns out to have been. That element in criticism of Dear Leader is what turns off a lot of Trump supporters.
Still, it’s not like we haven’t known we’re in the hands of a fool.
Three years ago, David Horsey illustrated reports that Xi Jinping had to explain Chinese history and culture to a president who hadn’t bothered to get up to date before meeting with the Chinese leader.
And, while Banx perhaps exaggerates a teensy bit, there is an odd confession of incompetence when the President excuses himself by claiming not to have known things he certainly should have known.
It’s possible, however, that he missed the warning about Russian bounties, if that day’s briefing paper had been particularly long, or if he had been very busy with other critical duties of his office or if someone on Fox & Friends had been wearing a low-cut blouse.
But Banx’s gag brings up the point that, whatever may have been reported or mentioned or confirmed or hinted at in terms of bounties, we’ve certainly had adequate warnings about Vladimir Putin.
Ann Telnaes scoffed at how the Russian leader fooled Bush the Lesser nearly 20 years ago, and, while W was hardly the most intellectually adept president in our history, he had adequate chances to regret his first, fatuous impression of Putin.
Telnaes had a second commentary just a few years later, when Putin celebrated his birthday by putting out a hit on a reporter who had become a prominent critic particularly of Russian policy in Chechnya.
And if her dark humor was too subtle, Jeff Danziger drove the point home in a way the biggest fool in the world could not misinterpret.
One would think.
Though, as Pat Bagley puts it, one would be wrong.
Not only does Trump refuse to acknowledge that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections, but this report from CNN about how his narcissism completely overwhelms US foreign policy ought to scare the living daylights out of any sensible American. If you click no other links today, click that.
It’s not to say that we can’t be sensibly civil to our opponents.
As Nixon was to Mao, in opening trade with China.
And as Rumsfeld was to Saddam Hussein back when we needed Iraq’s support in that region.
But there is a difference between being civil and playing the fool, and having a fool for a president barely worked when Rumsfeld and Cheney were pulling the strings.
It certainly doesn’t work with Vladimir Putin behind the curtain.