Many secrets, no mysteries

If you want to hear some intelligent opinion and analysis about Trump, Russia, Putin, and the American political landscape, you can’t do better than this podcast, a conversation between Sam Harris and Anne Applebaum.

There are so many important insights and ideas therein, I shouldn’t try to summarize them. Give it a listen – you won’t be sorry.

A small sampling of what is covered and illuminated:

The audacity, scale, and frequency of Trump’s lying, meant, in the end, to discredit the very idea of truth.

The tactic of dividing the country into warring factions: those who agree with and supported him, and the losers who don’t and didn’t.

The distraction and misdirection that is the congressional hearings aiming to find the “smoking gun” of Trump campaign collusion with Putin.

The damage already done to American “soft power” in the world, i.e. the influence we exert by the examples of our free press, social discourse, and government institutions that have functioned for the citizens before the elites.

The moral equivalence seen and even stated by Trump between our system and the totalitarian, authoritarian, and oligarchical alternatives. If we are no better, why would people elsewhere in the world aspire to our system and values?

What can be said to Trump supporters to influence their views?

What can be said to Trump detractors to ease the pain?

“Many secrets, no mysteries” refers to the nature of Trump’s relationship with Putin’s Russia. In the end, it doesn’t matter if Trump is heavily invested in Russian businesses, whether Russia is heavily invested in Trump’s business, whether Flynn. Manafort, Bannon, Kushner, Gorka, or anyone else in the Trump inner camp actually coordinated anything with anyone in Russia. It’s an unimportant detail which may remain a secret.

But there is no mystery that Trump greatly admires Putin, and that is the important thing to understand. What is it that Putin has achieved? What makes him a figure for Trump to emulate? For starters, Putin has shown how to manipulate the media in Russia and abroad, and thereby mold public opinion in Russia and abroad. He has shown how to crush dissent.

But most importantly for Trump, Putin has shown how to blend politics and business to achieve personal enrichment. Putin may now be the richest man in the world.  This is what Trump admires above all and wants to achieve for himself. This is why our democracy is at a critical inflection point. This is already understood by anyone paying attention. It’s not a mystery.

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