As I was chatting with my assistant about President Trump’s
borderline treasonous preference of believing Vladimir Putin over 17 of his own administration’s intelligence agencies, I came to a small decision.
I’ve been cautious to throw around the idea that the Russians have blackmail materials on the president. My suspicion has always been that Trump probably wouldn’t be too worried about the infamous “pee tape,” though I’ll nevertheless expound on that later. I simply thought that the idea of extortion was hyperbole — important to avoid in this day of screaming epithets at each other on social media. Also, I definitely want to make my arguments in an informed, focused way, so that the next time I engage with Mr. MAGA-Hat-McGee who invariably dismisses my facts as “fake news,” I can rest easy knowing that I’m fighting the good fight. I like to make my points without devolving into insults or easy pot-shots.
As I was discussing the events of last week with my colleague, I had a realization: I think Russia absolutely has something on Trump. At first, I became confused, then my interest was piqued. Finally, I began to ponder something: What on earth could Putin have that makes a man with absolutely no shame whatsoever kowtow so completely against his country, party, administration and against the best interests of his own reputation?
Hear me out: this feels like it could be interesting. Let’s look at some of the things Trump has admitted to doing and/or saying without shame — sometimes due to incontrovertible evidence and sometimes denying it, despite incontrovertible evidence. The “game-changer” that was supposed to tank his campaign, the pussy-grabbing bus tape. His first campaign statement equating Mexicans with criminals and rapists. His misogyny, name-calling and mansplaining during the debates. His abuse of executive privilege. His attempts at delegitimizing the media and free speech. His payoff to an adult film actress to stay quiet about an affair. His disastrous foreign policy of supporting questionable (I’m being polite) regimes while giving the shaft to century-old allies without the courtesy of a reach-around.
It is inarguable that these are events and statements to be sheepish about, to hide from, to obfuscate for, to deny, to feel shame for, at the very least. But Trump has done or said them all with the glee of a toddler on Christmas morning. What on earth could Putin have on him that would make him so subservient, especially in the face of overwhelming evidence that Russia tried — and succeeded — to influence our elections? The only thing I can think of is the monkey wrench it would throw into the legitimacy of his presidency. Clearly this bothers him; he still pontificates on his electoral win any chance he gets, even when absolutely no one contest it, even when absolutely no one mentions it. Except him, of course. This possibility is no pea and, no matter your political stripe, Trump is no princess.
So what could it be? Let’s think about the glut of information we know about Trump and his personality:
- His obsession with appearing as wealthy as possible. I’m close to certain that his refusal to disclose his tax records is because they would show that he has far, far less in liquid assets than he’d like us to believe (or far more in debt — perhaps both);
- His terror, to a ridiculous degree, of being thought of as weak. He clearly doesn’t care if people think he’s lied, cheated or flip-flopped; it’s his obsession with “toughness” and toxic masculinity that drives most of his actions. If there was footage or audio or clear physical evidence of him supplicating, begging or being a “wuss” in any way, I could see his ego being pretty much in charge.
- His fear of what the First Lady could do to his agenda and his reputation. I’m not sure if he loves Melania, per se, but from public and private statements he does seem obsessed with her not doubting his fidelity (I mean, come on, but still). He expressed as much to James Comey and was worried about it with the Stormy Daniels situation.
But he could still say it was his word against any accusers in defense of his marriage.
But…but…but… If the “pee tape” — or any other audio or video that the Russians are notorious for procuring — show clear, incontrovertible evidence of him cheating on his wife, I still feel that Trump would take strong, even drastic measures to ensure it would never see the light of day. Remember, he doesn’t care if his base thinks he slept with an adult film star; he knows they’d cheer him on. But if Melania were to, say, divorce him, sign an eight-figure book deal, and tell everything she’s seen and heard, I suspect that wouldn’t go down well for a president without shame.
What do you think? Is it possible that there are far worse scenarios out there than the ones I describe here? What can blackmail a man with no shame?