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Blame the 400-Pound Guy


© Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press Trump supporters at a rally in Montana on July 5.

By TIMOTHY EGAN, The New York Times

Wishing for supporters of Donald Trump to find their hearts, their brains or their patriotism is a fool’s errand. We are, as the president has said many times, “a stupid country,” and every day of this presidency proves his point.

[post_ads]I didn’t use to feel this way, and it pains me to say this. There’s still a golden opportunity in November for the non-stupid majority to be heard. But it’s time to abandon some of the stories we tell about ourselves as a people.

Trump supporters stuck with him through his boasting of sexual assault, through the comforting words he gave neo-Nazis after Charlottesville, through the revelation that he paid off a porn star, through his policy of ripping children from their mothers’ arms and putting them in cages.

Tea Party budget hawks stayed with him after he signed a tax bill that will burden Americans with a deficit of more than $1 trillion next year. Poor whites stayed with him after repeated attempts to take away their health care. Farmers stayed with him after he launched a trade war that will cost them dearly.

His cult was with him through a collusion-in-real-time sellout of his own country this week in Helsinki. Even though most Americans are appalled, polls taken after the Russia summit show that a majority of Republicans approve of his submission to the former Soviets.

We should stop thinking that a Fifth Avenue moment — the shooting that Trump famously said he could commit that wouldn’t hurt him — will change minds. For there are enough Fifth Avenue Republicans, in the apt term of James Hohmann of The Washington Post, to shield this man from any debasement of our national dignity.

In the do-over appearance on Tuesday, the one that looked like a hostage video, Trump continued to cast blame on somebody else for Russia’s attempt to steal an American election, even while reluctantly conceding the consensus view of the intelligence community.

“Could be other people,” said Trump. “A lot of people out there.” So long as his supporters will always blame the mythic “400-pound guy,” who Trump dreamed up during the presidential debates as the possible “other people” mastermind of election meddling, it’s absurd to try to reason with these people.

Trump supporters surely know who’s their Vladdy. The Russian strongman, Vladimir Putin, is a former K.G.B. operative whose country has invaded other nations, poisoned opponents in Britain, shot down a civilian passenger plane and aided a monster in Syria who uses gas to kill his own people.

And yet, the moral equivalence between the United States and Putin’s Russia is fine for all but a handful of Republicans. In Ohio, the party chairman of one county resigned in disgust. “I did it as a matter of conscience and my sense of duty,” said Chris Gagin.

He was the outlier. “Bravo Trump! Bravo Russia!” was a tweet after Helsinki from the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who said the president stood up against “the Zionist Deep Evil State Ruling American Media and Politics.” In rooting for Trump to be Putin’s poodle, the ex-Klan man is just a goose step ahead of the party that has been remade in Trump’s image.

These people disgrace the history that preceded the American moral collapse in Helsinki. Two presidents went to the Berlin Wall and shook a fist at Russian tyranny. “Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner,’” said President John F. Kennedy, declaring himself a citizen of a divided city.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” said President Ronald Reagan, an oratorical heave that would lead to history.

President Franklin Roosevelt went after the quislings in his own country in his Arsenal of Democracy speech in 1940. “They say that we can and should become the friends and even the partners of the Axis powers,” he said. “Some of them even suggest that we should imitate the methods of dictatorships. Americans never can and never will do that.”
The moral order was clear to every prior leader of the free world. When the lights went out briefly on Tuesday while Trump read his attempted take-it-back statement, it was emblematic — and yes, an easy metaphor — for what this president has done to our standing in the world.

So we turn to the Democrats. And this is not a promising prospect. The denunciations of Never-Trump Republicans were much stronger this week than the tired words from the tired leadership of the Democratic Party. Senator Chuck Schumer is no more rousing than a robo-scoreboard admonition to cheer at a baseball game.

What will save us is what F.D.R. alluded to, and what the polls this week showed, even if it wasn’t flagged in the headlines: A majority of Americans are against this sellout of our principles, and against this president. We’re a democracy, still, not a stupid nation, and we can prove it in November.


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Politics - U.S. Daily News: Blame the 400-Pound Guy
Blame the 400-Pound Guy
Politics - U.S. Daily News
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