February 20, 2018

So many stories this past week; it’s been another dizzying week trying to stay well informed: the Parkland (FL) school shootings, the Mueller indictment of Russian agents for meddling in the 2016 election, Ronan Farrow’s account of yet another Trump sexual liaison while married to Melania: with all these tumbling upon us, it’s hard to stay attuned to the Olympics or Syria/Iran or Scott Pruitt.

Here’s one linkage that struck me.

The most dramatic stuff in the Ronan Farrow account is not the affair itself but rather the depiction of how the National Enquirer’s publisher, David Pecker, purchased the story from Karen McDougal in order to bury it.  “Catch and kill” we learned was the name of this tactic.  Why would Pecker do this — something he apparently does frequently?  Perhaps out of friendship with Trump, but often his motive is to gain leverage.  If he has a bad story about someone he’s not printing, he can pressure them to give him other salacious stories.  Leverage: Pecker may have had leverage over Trump.

Meanwhile, remembering that Trump is (holysh*t!) the President, let’s wonder again why Trump is so desperate not to acknowledge any involvement with Russians or to make any move adverse to Putin.  Of course he doesn’t want to look bad, but he’s making himself look foolish with all his denials.  This leads Tom Friedman of the New York Times to open his Friday column with the following paragraph:

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

Wow!  That’s not Friedman’s normal tone of voice.  And he adds this: “In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief.”

One suspicion that is voiced in the infamous Steele dossier is this: “The document also claims that Russian operators possessed “kompromat” about Trump which could make him subject to blackmail.”  Again, the possibility of leverage.

From Dylan Farrow we get confirmation that domestically, someone (Pecker) has already achieved what could be leverage against Trump.   Trump acted recklessly, and not just with McDougal: we’ve only recently learned of Stormy Daniels.  If Trump has opened himself to leverage within the United States, should we not worry that he has exposed himself to leverage vis a vis the Russians?

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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