Alternate title: The Man from Moscow
We'll borrow the theme song from The Manchurian Candidate.
The Party of Putin?
Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on the new questions about Vladimir Putin's interest in electing Donald Trump - with additional links to reports on Trump's and Manafort's Russian connections.
Team Trump’s credibility problems notwithstanding, it’s not overstating matters to suggest Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election may be the biggest political bombshell of the year – or in several years. I realize there are plenty of shiny objects on the political landscape, but this is becoming an issue that shouldn’t be ignored.
Benen reviews the evidence. For example, consider Trump's manipulation of the GOP platform.
- The Washington Post also reported the other day that the Trump campaign, which generally took no interest in the Republican Party’s official platform, took special care to add language about U.S. policy towards Ukraine – a new position that contradicts GOP foreign-policy orthodoxy – that brings the platform in line with the policies of the Russian government.
- The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, reporting last week from the Republican convention, said he’d spoken to a GOP congressman who believes the “most under-covered story of convention” is Team Trump’s efforts to change the party platform “to be more pro-Putin.”
- Noting Trump’s anti-NATO posture – another break with decades of Republican thought on foreign policy – The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, a center-right observer, noted last week, “Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East.”
So is the GOP now the Party of Putin?
It’s often hard to predict how Americans will respond to political developments and whether voters will care about assorted controversies. But we’re dealing with circumstances that defy easy explanation: a party that has largely defined its foreign policy by its anti-Russia attitudes has nominated a presidential candidate who sees Russia’s autocratic president as an ally, possibly worthy of emulation.
For GOP leaders who’ve grudgingly thrown their support behind Trump, shouldn’t Trump’s Putin ties – substantive, financial, political – give them serious pause? If Russia is trying to influence the outcome of an American presidential election, doesn’t the political world have a responsibility to pause and ask why?
Trump's tax returns: What is he hiding?
The possibility that Trump is "The Moscovian Candidate" makes the release of his tax returns imperative. Steve Benen again:
But when circumstances warrant a return to an old story, the coverage can change. The Atlantic’s James Fallows noted today, for example, that Russia’s alleged intervention in the U.S. presidential election has changed the calculus.
These new developments underscore the importance of an old, familiar point: now, more than ever, Donald Trump must release his tax returns. To put it differently, the press should no longer “normalize” his stonewalling on this issue. [emphasis in the original]
As another veteran figure in the defense world and political affairs wrote to me this morning: “In normal times, this [the Russian hacking] would be the lead on all network news. But these are not normal times. I am having trouble getting through to some people that this is a real thing. The very people who always say “follow the money” with regard to the Pentagon [or other boondoggle bureaucracies] don’t see that (a) Trump has been kept afloat for about 15 years by Russian oligarchs; and (b) Russia has a powerful incentive to see a US president who will end economic sanctions.
To be sure, even if these allegations about Russia trying to boost Trump’s candidacy didn’t exist, Trump would still have a responsibility to honor campaign norms. Indeed, the Russian story isn’t the only controversy that Trump’s tax returns can help resolve.