Reporters and pundits covering the presidential campaign of Donald Trump have been torn between two conflicting narratives: The first is that Trump is a reckless amateur and, as president with his finger on the nuclear button, he would bring the world to the brink of catastrophe. The second is that Trump is a cat’s paw for Russian President Vladimir Putin and, as president, he would, advertently or inadvertently, work to implement Moscow’s agenda for world domination.
The first narrative is a familiar one. Past Republican presidential candidates – Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan – have all had to fight off accusations that, if elected, they would waste no time before launching World War III. The second narrative however is somewhat unusual. It is not often that Republicans are accused of acting as witting or unwitting tools of the Kremlin – at least not by so-called liberals.
For it is liberal media outlets that are the most enthusiastic purveyors of this tale of Putin, the manipulative mastermind, and Trump, his would-be hand puppet. Most of these stories depict Trump as a buffoonish narcissist, easily susceptible to the empty flattery doled out by a predatory Putin. In a story titled “Putin’s Puppet,” Franklin Foer in Slate claimed that Putin “has a plan for destroying the West – and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.” Foer set the Red-baiting tone by announcing that Trump’s campaign is “the moral equivalent of Henry Wallace’s communist-infiltrated campaign for president in 1948….A foreign power that wishes ill upon the United States has attached itself to a major presidential campaign.” Trump’s ambition doesn’t go beyond fulfillment of a “longtime dream of planting his name in the Moscow skyline.” Putin’s dream is far more sinister:
If Putin wanted to concoct the ideal candidate to serve his purposes, his laboratory creation would look like Donald Trump. The Republican nominee wants to shatter our military alliances in Europe; he cheers the destruction of the European Union; he favors ratcheting down tensions with Russia over Ukraine and Syria, both as a matter of foreign policy and in service of his own pecuniary interests. A Trump presidency would weaken Putin’s greatest geo-strategic competitor. By stoking racial hatred, Trump will shred the fabric of American society.
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