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I read an article today that referred to Trump’s performance at the Helsinki summit as disastrous. I’d like to know what was disastrous about it. The United States affirmed its growing friendship with Russia. Trump left no doubt that he takes Putin’s word over the CIA’s, but given the way the CIA operates and Putin operates, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t believe Putin. If two liars tell you opposite stories, which fabulist will you believe? You’ll go with the one who is your friend, of course. You won’t go with the one who is your enemy. Why would you?

If two liars tell you opposite stories, which fabulist will you believe? You’ll go with the one who is your friend, of course.

Donald Trump knows who his friends are. Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the CIA do not qualify as friends or allies. James Comey and any number of intelligence people have not put themselves on the president’s good side. From the president’s perspective, all of them pursue a dogged witch hunt to degrade his administration’s authority. Everyone wants to score the president’s broomstick.

Vladimir Putin, by contrast, returns all of Trump’s compliments and phone calls, treats the president far better than anyone treats him in Washington, and in general gives him the respect he craves. The CIA and the rest of Washington’s intelligence apparatus does not even try to compete with Putin for Trump’s affections or good will. So why should Trump’s remarks at the post-summit press conference surprise anyone? What did you think he would say?

When people say Trump is a traitor, they pick a label they believe furthers their public relations campaign to rid the White House of a president they hate. In fact, the president is a patriot in his own way. He is a fool about some things, but not others. A lot of people have underestimated him, a mistake you should never make in politics. It gives your adversary an unearned advantage. When Trump speaks slightingly of his own intelligence agencies, and speaks highly of fellow strongman Mr. P., he knows what he wants to accomplish. You won’t turn him back with disapproval or criticism.

Andrew Sullivan has this to say about Trump’s behavior toward Russia:

Why are we then searching for some Rosetta stone to explain his foreign policy? Some evidence of his being a Russian asset? Some bribe? Some document or email proving his fealty to Moscow? Yes, it’s perfectly possible that he knowingly accepted Russian help in defeating his opponent in the last election, and is even now encouraging Russia to help him again. But that’s simply the kind of unethical thing Trump has done for years, without batting an eyelid. He sees no more conflict here than he did in seeking Russian funding and German loans for his businesses.

In the end, Trump is an unpredictable president. We cannot anticipate what he will do, based on guidelines analysts like to call policy. If you want to react to the latest tweet, or press conference, or any surprising expression of presidential sentiments, no one will call you incompetent, but you will only thrash and churn, the way the president thrashes and churns. You will not find Trump’s decoder ring, nor will you find evidence of a deep, traitorous plot. You can only look back with this president, not ahead. The view out the rear window may not be pleasant, but neither is it inconsistent. Trump likes and admires Putin.