Contempt And Trump And Russia

Contempt And Trump And Russia


Leonard Zwelling

Two opinion pieces in Sunday’s New York Times (March 3) reveal a major problem thread running through the American psyche and how it affects our national politics.

In the first piece, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute think tank, notes the awful toll that contempt is taking on us as a country.

He defines contempt as a “noxious brew of anger and disgust,” what Schopenhauer called “the sullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.” For anyone who has been the victim of another’s contempt, those words ring true. As an administrator, it was not infrequently that I felt the contempt of both faculty members and my superiors. I am sure I was just as guilty of being contemptuous myself. There is no excuse for this on anyone’s part. And this is more than incivility, as Brooks points out. It is a wall between people that precludes negotiations and healthy disagreement and will never lead to constructive solutions to any problems. As Brooks says, it “makes political compromise and progress impossible.”

Brooks’ solution to the problem of contempt is not to disagree less, but to disagree better.

I have considered this after the many years of this blog agreeing and disagreeing with the leadership of the country, of American medicine, and of MD Anderson on a regular basis and hope that my disagreement was more constructive than contemptuous, yet realizing I have undoubtedly fallen short on many occasions.

This led me to an accompanying piece by Ross Douthat on whether or not the Trump Administration, and Donald Trump in particular, really colluded with the Russians or were they merely duped by them. Douthat leans toward the latter and explains why. Underneath his logic is that fact that much of the illogic criticizing Trump is based on contempt for him.

Douthat takes his lead from the testimony of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee on February 27. Douthat doubts the veracity of the famous Steele dossier that supposedly launched the idea that the Trumpies were in bed with the Ruskies. The Steele dossier said that the Russians were manipulating social media and using other tactics to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. This appears to be the case. Second, that Russia had been grooming Donald Trump for the presidency and had him chosen as an agent for years. Third, that the Russians affected the outcome of the 2016 election using their relationship with Trump. And fourth, that the Russians had compromising tapes and other material with which they could blackmail the next President of the United States.

Douthat goes on to speculate that little of the Steele dossier is true and that the Mueller report is likely to exculpate Trump in any collaborative activity with the Russians. In short, points two through four are probably false.

He says that Cohen’s testimony makes it more likely that the Trump team were Russia’s fools but not its agents. It seemed that Trump learned about the bad Clinton email-hacking behavior of Julian Assange AFTER that behavior took place. It seems likely that Cohen was never in Prague doing Trump’s bidding with Russian agents. In essence, maybe Paul Manafort tried to play the Russian angle for his own purposes, but it is unlikely that Trump had a long-standing relationship with Russia beyond trying to build the Trump Tower for his own financial purposes.

If Donald Trump is to be brought down it is far more likely to be by Stormy Daniels or Allen Weisselberg than by Vladimir Putin. That Trump paid off a porn star to keep her affair with him quiet seems irrefutable. Is this impeachable? I doubt it.

Did the Trump Foundation break a host of campaign finance laws and commit tax evasion? That will be up to the attorneys of the Southern District of New York to suss out. Might that prove impeachable? Maybe.

It is far more likely that any impeachment proceedings will depend on a large majority of Americans being convinced to hold Mr. Trump in contempt. Haven’t we had enough of that already?

The most effective way to rid ourselves of Mr. Trump is to vote him out of office. Not because we hate him, but because his presidency has harmed the country, domestically and internationally.

Donald Trump has been a bad president. He is an awful example to young people. He is coarse and crude. He’s a misogynist and surely insensitive to racial minorities and people who are not like himself—male, white and privileged. That’s why he should be out of office and Nancy Pelosi is right to be cautious about the use of impeachment. Undoubtedly Trump committed crimes. Whether or not they were “high crimes” remains for the federal and state prosecutors or members of Congress to unearth.

Contempt cannot be the basis of unseating a president. It should not be the basis of our political discourse either.

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