As I write this, Donald Trump is in France for Bastille Day, at the invitation of the also recently elected president, Emmanuel Macron.
But I keep thinking about his trip the week before to Germany where I watched in disbelief as Trump, sitting next to Vladimir Putin, reached across and shook his hand, Trump’s expression one of bonhomie. It was the same good cheer that was evident when he invited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to the Oval Office along with a Russian photographer. And didn’t they have a conversation wherein Trump joked about firing our FBI director, James Comey (in the words of the president, a “real nut job”), just the day before? That got a big laugh, especially from Lavrov, who seems like a heck of a guy.
Our press and our photographers were shut out of the meeting while the Russian photographer, with a bag of gear, had the run of the place. But not to worry, he was just photographing the office from desk to table to windows and any paperwork that happened to be lying around. Wasn’t it during this Oval Office meet that Trump bragged about his great intel regarding ISIS?
The images from both meetings (the White House and Germany) were broadcast widely and gave me serious pause. I thought, “Wait, hang on, aren’t these the guys who hacked the DNC and attempted, using stolen data disseminated through Wikileaks, to influence our presidential election, blatantly putting their collective thumb on the election scale?”
I mean, isn’t this the equivalent of having your house broken into and stuff carted out to a waiting van and later inviting the thieves to a sit down around the kitchen table (one of the few pieces of furniture left behind) for coffee and good conversation? Aren’t these the bad guys? And yet you reach across the table and shake hands. Of course, just to be sure, you ask, “So you aren’t the guys who broke into my house? Right? Just asking.” And they answer, emphatically, “Nope! Wasn’t us. Really.”
Of course, the guy next door, a real security hound, described the break-in crew to you in detail, including surveillance video showing them carting out your new suede sofa and flat screen TV.
But you insisted to your neighbor, as he showed you the tape, that, well, it could have been a different bunch of guys. Or how about that 400-pound squirrely kid, a real geek, who lives down the street, spends his days sitting on his bed with his computer, while his mom brings him trays of Twinkies. It could be him, right? He looks like the type who might plan something like this. Plus there are some neighbors who never wave. Aren’t that friendly. Suspicious, right?
The two guys seated at the table, sipping their coffee while listening politely to your suggestions of who could have been responsible for the break-in, nod in affirmation. After all, they ask, who can you really trust nowadays?
And then one of the robbers, sensing your concern (sensitive soul), suggests that it just might be a good idea to form a neighborhood watch committee. Figure out how to increase security in the 'hood. Of course, to be effective, they’ll need the alarm codes for all the houses on the block so they can make suggestions as to how to tighten things up and thereby prevent the next burglary. Be helpful to get the layout of each house and lists of valuables with serial numbers for all the electronics. Plus passwords for the computers would be helpful. Can’t be too careful, right?
The kitchen table guests go on to explain that they have a couple of vans and could cruise the neighborhood late at night, sort of keep an eye on things. And wait, “aren’t there a couple of houses that are on the market and vacant? Heck, we could set up all our gear there and keep track of things. Wouldn’t everyone on the block sleep a lot better knowing that our watch group was on the job?”
After all, what could go wrong?
— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.