Now that Ukraine is under Russian attack, it’s worth mulling over the immortal reaction of our former President to an act of naked military aggression:
BUCK: Mr. President, in the last 24 hours we know Russia has said that they are recognizing two breakaway regions of Ukraine, and now this White House is stating that this is an “invasion.” That’s a strong word. What went wrong here? What has the current occupant of the Oval Office done that he could have done differently?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, what went wrong was a rigged election and what went wrong is a candidate that shouldn’t be there and a man that has no concept of what he’s doing. I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, “This is genius.” Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.
So, Putin is now saying, “It’s independent,” a large section of Ukraine. I said, “How smart is that?” And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy… I know him very well. Very, very well.
By the way, this never would have happened with us. Had I been in office, not even thinkable. This would never have happened. But here’s a guy that says, you know, “I’m gonna declare a big portion of Ukraine independent,” he used the word “independent,” “and we’re gonna go out and we’re gonna go in and we’re gonna help keep peace.” You gotta say that’s pretty savvy. And you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad. Very sad.
BUCK: Do you think the southern border is just gonna continue to deteriorate?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah.
To unravel the chaotic thinking here: Putin’s Orwellian description of Ukraine as part of Russia is “genius,” not because it’s true, but because it’s so outrageously false. And if Trump were President–as by rights he should be, at least if we set aside the election he lost–he would adopt that same openly Orwellian approach to solving our border problem with Mexico. How? Presumably by recommending an invasion of Mexico on the cynically false pretext of keeping the peace there.
According to Trump, Putin would never have invaded Ukraine while Trump was President. Maybe not. What he did instead was to attack the United States directly, while Donald Trump pretended out loud that he hadn’t.
In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt makes the point that totalitarian leaders rarely conceal their true intentions. They tend instead to come out and assert them so bluntly and abruptly as to elicit incomprehension, denial, and minimization. It’s beside the point that Trump never managed to become a totalitarian leader. It wasn’t for lack of trying. What matters is the character of the man’s thinking, and of the man himself. A man who responds, reflexively, to military aggression with admiration and praise is a psychopath. A psychopath in power is a fascist in the making. To demand more evidence than we already have of Trump’s proto-fascism is practically to demand confirmation by direct experiment. Thanks, but no thanks. If Trump’s reaction to Putin doesn’t convince the skeptics, I guess they’ll have to wait for confirmation by engraved invitation to a concentration camp. Better them than the rest of us.