Until this month, the most disastrous summit performance ever by a U.S. president took place in Vienna in early June 1961. A young, very green and much impaired John F. Kennedy was virtually eaten alive by his Russian counterpart, Nikita Khrushchev. Kennedy went into that meeting only weeks after being embarrassed and severely weakened in both his own eyes and the eyes of the world by the Bay of Pigs debacle. Worse, just before the summit that morning, he was administered a potent methamphetamine “cocktail” devised by a quack, Dr. Max Jacobson (a.k.a. “Dr. Feelgood”), in order to mask Kennedy’s pain from the bad back, Addison’s disease and multiple other ailments that afflicted him. During the meeting, JFK behaved like a meth addict who had been overdosed. He was delusional, paranoid and unable to follow what his adversary was saying.
The Russians reckoned the summit a great victory. Khrushchev was sure he had Kennedy’s number. JFK’s abject deportment emboldened the Soviet leader two months later to erect the Berlin Wall and shortly thereafter to secretly position offensive missiles in Cuba that threatened the U.S. The ensuing Cuban Missile Crisis was as close as the world has ever come to a nuclear holocaust. JFK then escalated U.S. involvement in Vietnam in part to show Khrushchev that he was not a weakling. JFK’s summit dysfunction had adverse real-world consequences for the U.S.
Trump’s pitiful performance in Helsinki was worse. He came across as a 97-pound weakling in the ring with a Gorilla. Putin played him like a virtuoso cellist. The difference from 1961 was that Khrushchev, unlike Putin, was not making war on the U.S. The Russian cyberwar that Trump refuses to acknowledge is happening is the 21st-century equivalent of a shooting war. Instead of pulling out all the stops to defend his country, its values, its democratic ideals and its people, Trump pulled out and hoisted the white flag of servile surrender in Finland.
Of all the depredations of the Trump era, this is the worst. The unacceptable implication is that we are heading toward captive nation status. Trump is Putin’s Walter Ulbricht, a toady eager to please his big boss and do whatever he commands. God only knows what Putin has on him and what Trump conceded to Putin in their private, two-hour meeting prior to their press conference.
I no longer delude myself into thinking that there is a straw that will qualify as the last one for the spineless congressional Republicans who have been and continue to be complicit in Trump’s overthrow of our republic. The only way to preserve what might be left of it is at the polls in 2018 and 2020.
In the early 1980s, a Danish politician suggested that Denmark replace its defense expenditures with an audio tape saying “We surrender” in Russian. This is what we have come to today under this appalling excuse for a commander in chief.
Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” You be the judge.
We are living in very dangerous times. Who would have ever believed that the U.S. president could be a Russian agent?
Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann is a law professor, legal blogger, author of seven books and part-time resident of the Finger Lakes.