Did you see the president’s press conference on Tuesday? The one where he tried to convince us that he isn’t treasonous, but only careless with language? It was an absurd piece of political theater and it was punctuated by a dramatic, mid-monologue plunge into darkness. I don’t know who’s directing this show, but he or she has a wicked sense of humor.
Look at cast member Maria Butina, indicted this week on suspicion of being a Russian spy. Butina charmed her way into the ultra-conservative heart of America and was rewarded with invitations to the National Prayer Breakfast and multiple high-level National Rifle Association events. The National Prayer Breakfast is nothing more than a thinly veiled opportunity for unregistered lobbyists to twist arms and peddle influence. The NRA, of course, is the organization charged with making sure every idiot with a passing fancy can easily obtain an arsenal. Both groups seem mighty cozy with Putin’s Russia.
Now conservative lawmakers and lobbyists are scrambling to distance themselves from Butina. They are trying to say she was a bit player, but there is evidence she was a rising star in the Russian plot to infiltrate America. Butina had an early cameo as an audience member at a campaign rally where she asked then-candidate Trump about his plans for Russian relations. And numerous photographs exist of Butina smiling and posing with everyone from Rick Santorum to Scott Walker, and with multiple NRA presidents and NRA mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre. These people are all on the same side.
I get why Trump is starstruck by Putin and Russia. He likes shiny things and is easily seduced by power. Plus, there’s the rumor of that compromising tape, a subplot of sordid intrigue that once seemed improbable and now seems likely. But why are other conservatives so enamored with Russia? Why do so many of them praise Putin for his strength and his power? Surely they know that dictators are only strong because they keep the people beneath them weak.
Putin rules by instilling fear. He kills those who speak out against him, including journalists reporting the news. Maybe that’s the appeal. Perhaps these people long for a day when they can silence their dissenters by any means necessary. They certainly act like they are part of a corrupt chorus. I’m about ready to walk out in disgust.
But this production isn’t over yet. I hold out hope for a major twist in the third act. I’ve got my eye on Robert Mueller. Sure, he’s been quiet and mostly off stage, but I sense he could burst onto the scene at any moment with stunning revelations that will lend new perspective to everything we’ve seen so far. Let’s hope so. It’s the only ending that will be worthy of an ovation.