My Grandfather and Trump

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

My paternal grandfather was a peculiar man.  During WWII in Holland he was active in the Corrie ten Boom group that saved hundreds of Jews from the extermination camps.  At some point he was arrested and taken to the Gestapo headquarters in Apeldoorn, where he was tortured.  Because he believed that his God and Maker had forbidden him to tell a lie, even to the Germans, he told my aunt, the only family member allowed to visit him, that in a couple of days he was going to break and give the Germans the names and addresses of other group members he knew.  She was able to warn them and they all went underground.   I hardly knew my grandfather because he died when I was three years old, but this week Trump made me think of him.  Trump is also a peculiar man, he simply cannot tell the truth.  When he said that he ‘didn’t see why it would be Russia’ that meddled in the 2016 election he was lying, because in January 2017 he had been shown overwhelming proof that it was Russia.  When he claimed to have misspoken and had wanted to say ‘wouldn’t’ instead of ‘would’ he lied, because that was never his intention.  He produced a similar double lie when he first – while knowing better – expressed his belief that Russia was no longer meddling, and then pretended he never said that.

There is a wide range of explanations for Trump’s latest lying.  The most popular is that acknowledging Russian meddling would question the legitimacy of his 2016 victory.  Almost as widespread is the idea that Trump is being blackmailed by Putin and is under his orders to lie.   A third and equally plausible theory is that Trump is living in a made-up universe of his own, where truths are lies and lies represent the truth.  Jeffrey Sachs, finally, believes that Trump is senile.  Combinations of all four explanations are possible.  Even worse than Trump’s lying about Russian meddling was his initial enthusiasm for Putin’s ‘incredible offer’ to have Robert Mueller’s people question the twelve Russian officers accused of hacking into American computer systems, while in return Putin’s Gestapo would ‘interrogate’ two people who have caused the Russian leader a lot of heartburn, former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and English businessman Bill Browder.  The latter is largely responsible for the Magnitsky Act, which is named for his murdered Russian lawyer and sanctions Putin and his inner circle.   One day after the Helsinki meeting the White House still called this a ‘very interesting’ proposal, while the State Department immediately called it ‘absurd,’ expressing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s opinion.

Almost all GOP senators supported a non-binding motion to protect McFaul and Browder, but that is about the maximum amount of courage they can muster.  Trump is very popular among 90% of the Republican base, and GOP politicians are scared to death that they will lose their next election without its support.  Their predicament is growing, however, because the more they cower to Trump and his deplorables the more likely they are to lose support from independent voters, without which they cannot win either.

The current debate in DC is about the question whether traditional Russia hawks like Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who contradicted Trump a couple of times this week, Mike Pompeo and even John Bolton should stay in their positions.  To everybody’s surprise Trump instructed Bolton to invite Putin to the White House, and that will be a good test case.  As an alternative the threat of Sean Hannity as Director of National Intelligence (sic) looms.

If my grandfather had lived in America today he would have been an Evangelical, and Evangelicals still deeply admire Corrie ten Boom, who became one of them after she moved to the US.   My grandfather would never have voted for a pathological liar like Trump, as many Evangelicals unfortunately did, and I don’t think Corrie ten Boom would have either.

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