You’re not insane. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, is currently blaming the previous president, Barack Obama, for not doing enough — indeed, for not doing anything, he says, to prevent the Russian attack on the 2016 election, which Trump has repeatedly said is a hoax. In other words, Trump wants to know why didn’t Obama prevent this thing that never actually happened.
Again, you’re not insane.
It’s difficult to know how to begin unpacking Trump’s latest series of public statements regarding the Russian attack and the subsequent Trump-Russia scandal, chiefly because we’re unraveling the words of someone whose growing insanity makes us feel like we’re all going a little bit crazy, too. Imagine for a moment trying to deconstruct the words of George W. Bush if he had denied the 9/11 attacks ever took place and then if he blamed Bill Clinton for not doing enough to prevent the, you know, nonexistent attacks. This is where we are with our very own Mad King and his stunted, upside-down view of how presidents are supposed to behave and communicate.
For months now Trump’s been telling us that the Russian attack is a Democratic hoax — a big, fat sour-grapes excuse for why Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College vote. He keeps saying this despite the assessment of all 17 intelligence agencies, countless federal law enforcement officials, dozens of respected members of Congress and indeed a growing number of high-profile Republicans, who all say that Russia launched a major cyberattack against the U.S. and the attacks are likely to worsen before the situation gets better. Yet Trump keeps denying this despite what he’s almost certainly been told in classified briefings and intelligence assessments.
On Friday The Washington Post published a bombshell report about how the intelligence community and the Obama White House dealt with the attack amid the harrowing events of the most raucous and unpredictable presidential campaign in modern history. Included in the article was a quote from an unnamed former Obama official who said the 44th president “choked” in the face of the attack. Anyone who remembers the incendiary climate of the campaign has to give Obama a bit of latitude for not turning the attack into a political psycho-bomb, with Trump and his legion of Pepe-cultists accusing the president, not to mention his former secretary of state, of trying to rig the election against the screechy reality-show host.
Despite the possibility of the Russian attack becoming another politically destabilizing factor in the election on top of the impact of the attacks themselves, Obama went public with the news in early October, months after the story initially broke but hadn’t been officially confirmed. Of course we might not remember that members of the Obama administration, namely director of national intelligence James Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, told us about the Russian attack on Oct. 7, 2016, because it was the same day as the "Access Hollywood" tape was dropped in the press, obliterating everything.
Later after the election we learned that Obama and his team had devised a series of retaliatory measures, including further sanctions and the planned deployment of digital “bombs” planted inside Russia to be detonated if the attack worsened. Obama also booted the Russians from a pair of “spy nest” compounds in New York and Maryland. Obama further pledged we would strike back “at a time and place of our choosing.”
Should Obama have done more? Sure. Given that we were under attack, I’d like to think other undisclosed measures were taken — covert measures that we can never know about due to national security. Or perhaps the publicly disclosed retaliatory plan was everything. Either way, we know that Obama devised and executed a counterattack.
Once more before we continue: You’re not insane.
Throughout the last several days, since the Post’s epic report, Trump has been engaged in an all-out Twitter assault on Obama for failing to act against Russia.
Compare these with many of the president's previous remarks, such as “Why did Democratic National Committee turn down the DHS offer to protect against hacks (long prior to election). It's all a big Dem HOAX!”
That “hoax” tweet? That was from last Thursday, just a few days ago, the same day that he also tweeted, “By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn't they stop them?” It's confounding that Trump posted both tweets, the “hoax” tweet and the Obama tweet in which he seems to confirm the existence of the attack, on the same day.
You’re not insane. But the president might be.
Incidentally, on Sunday Trump appeared on his favorite TV show, "Fox & Friends," where he said this about Russia, “Well, I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election and he did nothing about it. . . . In other words, if he had the information, why didn’t he do something about it?” Yes, Trump attacked Obama for not doing enough about an attack that, on Thursday, Trump said was a hoax.
More important, per his "Fox & Friends" remarks, Trump claims to have just now heard about Obama’s response to the Russian attack, even though Obama officials spoke publicly about it way back in October. And surely Trump heard about Obama’s plan for retaliation before this week because 1) Trump confoundingly returned the Maryland and New York spy compounds to the Russians without explanation, and 2) the Post reported that Trump is tasked with deploying Obama’s “digital bombs” against Russia but hasn’t done so, as far as we know. So not only did Obama do something about it, but Trump literally erased two of those measures while totally failing to explain his reasoning or his deeply confusing, awkward and mendacious posture.
Finally, imagine there’s a massive building on fire. Two fire companies are ordered to put out the blaze. One fire company shows up first but ultimately fails to put out the fire and is pulled from the scene. The second company shows up, but instead of battling the fire, it doesn’t even bother to do a damn thing and instead sits on the curb across the street denying the fire is even happening — that it’s a hoax inexplicably orchestrated by the first company. Later the second company blames the first company for not doing anything about the fire, which it still claims never existed. That’s the insanity of this story. That’s the insanity of Donald Trump. That’s the collective delusion and ignorance of his base. That’s the complete disconnect from reality that ought to be reason No. 1 for Trump’s swift removal from office.
It’s vitally important for us to continuously remind ourselves of our own sanity when reading about Trump’s herky-jerky public statements, in whatever form they appear. The most dangerous outcome of Trump’s incessant scrambling of reality could be that we all grow too frustrated by the madness to continue bothering with the resistance — that the preservation of our own sanity forces us to walk away from bothering with his lack of sanity. We can’t let Trump’s untethered, berserker maneuvering wear us down. You are not insane.