by Caleb Talley
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. There’s something going on with Donald Trump and Russia…
Okay, I get it – you’re probably sick of hearing about our president and his “is he-isn’t he” relationship with our chief foreign adversary, Vladdy Putin’s Russia. I was a never Trumper – certain the man was better suited to host the latest adaptation of the Gong Showthan be commander in chief – and even I was getting sick of hearing about Trump and Russia. Not without an indictment, at least.
Trump, too, seemed pretty tired about hearing about Trump and Russia. But I’ll be damned if he can’t help but continue to make matters worse for himself. As I’ve said since 2015, the man is his own worst enemy.
To put it mildly, Trump’s Monday Helsinki summit with Putin was a disaster. I haven’t seen bootlicking like that since Mike Pence groveled for his approval in a December cabinet meeting. But this time, it was on the international stage. And the boots being licked belonged to our nation’s leading antagonist.
Trump was given the opportunity to hold Russia accountable for any number of their terrible acts against the rest of the world – their 2008 effort to dismember the former Soviet republic of Georgia, the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17, the invasion of Crimea, the invasion of eastern Ukraine, the use of a deadly nerve agent in the UK. And let’s not forget the computer hacking associated with the 2016, an objective fact the president seems to forget. Trump found no fault with Russia on any count.
He did, however, find fault with his owncountry. Trump followed the series of questions by throwing his own intelligence community under the bus, saying the probe into Russian meddling by Robert Mueller and his team, was a disaster for America. He then said that he had no reason to believe Russia would be behind any of the hacking. Really?
The president tried to walk back his buffoonery on Tuesday by suggesting his “would” was really a “wouldn’t,” which make sense unless you have two brain cells to rub together and had no grasp of the context in which his quote was used.
Compare Monday’s butt kissing to Trump’s performance at last week’s NATO summit, when he tore into our tradition allies for this, that and the other. Hell, Trump has taken a firmer stance against Canada on the made-up grounds of national security than he has on Russia, a country that actually poses a national security threat. Trump has literally ripped into everyone at one time or another. But he’s never once said a bad thing about Putin, and Trump continues to defer to him at any given opportunity.
There’s really only one of two reasons he would continue to do this.
Perhaps there was some truth to that Steele dossier, and Russia does have some serious dirt on the president. It would make sense, and Democrats were quick to suggest that Putin is blackmailing him. It’s possible.
It’s also possible that Trump sees any Russian connection to the election as an accusation that his victory wasn’t legitimate. And as a result, he refuses to admit to the objective fact that there was interference. This is the most logical explanation for the president’s behavior, but it doesn’t exactly explain why he treats Putin more favorably than allies.
We might not ever know what’s really going on. And we definitely won’t see any action out of Congress, not so long as it’s dominated by spineless lawmakers who’d more likely give more blind deference to the president than their mother. With his unconvincing verbal rewrite on Tuesday, Trump gave his lemmings the (not so plausible) deniability they needed to maintain the status quo.
Now seems as good a time as any to dig up a past editorial series from my days as a real-life journalist – partly because I think it’s relevant, and partly because I’ll be on vacation next week and don’t feel like putting effort into anything else. So, here it is.
Communism Kills – Pt. 1
It has been nearly 170 years since German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the second bestselling book of all time, The Communist Manifesto. Those writings promoted the spread of their ideology across the globe, serving as the foundation of governance for a number of 20th century states. And despite the collapse of nearly every single one of those failed governments, the socioeconomic concept of communism is still popular today among a growing number of young voters.
On a recent visit to the University of Arkansas campus, I was surprised to find a certain sticker stuck to stop signs and lights posts. They were red stickers, embossed with a golden hammer and sickle. I later found out that they were placed around campus, and Fayetteville, by members of a growing communist group known as Red Youth NWA.
According to their own Facebook page, the group has dedicated itself to undermining capitalism and promoting the supposed virtues of the communist rules of governing. In one post, the group even pledged its solidarity to both the Syrian and North Korean regimes.
Just to be clear, everyone is entitled to their opinion. No one should be condemned, jailed or exiled just because they believe government should operate a certain way. The red scare of the early-to-mid-20th century was one of the most embarrassing periods of modern American history. And many Americans lost their lives fighting unnecessary wars based primarily on fear.
Nothing can be achieved by combating ideology with anger. Sometimes the best remedy is education, because for one to blindly embrace communism is to be ignorant of human history. And history has proven that communism kills.
Throughout history, seldom has a communist regime taken and maintained power of a state through peaceful or democratic means. For some reason, it seems that a lot of people have to die in order for this “virtuous” ideology to remain in practice.
The first time a decidedly communist group of leaders seized power was in the early 20th century, following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. In 1917, after the Russian Czar Nicholas II was ousted in favor of a provisional government, Bolshevik Party leader and devout communist Vladimir Lenin led a coup d’etat and made himself dictator of the first Marxist state in the world.
Under Lenin, Russia soon became a communist’s dream. Everyone got land. Everyone had a job, and employees were in charge of their own industries.
But peace and prosperity didn’t even last a year. By early 1918, many Russian cities faced crippling famines as a result of chronic food shortages. Lenin blamed greedy farmers for hoarding their extra grain, so he disincentivized producing more than one could consume. As a result, overall production dropped dramatically.
Lenin was also very fearful of opposition. He ordered the establishment of a political police force and gave them permission to kill whoever they deemed necessary, including former elites, anti-communists and anyone thought to be undesirable to society. Hundreds of people were killed in the streets every day. Soon after, Lenin established concentration camps. Anyone thought to be critical of Lenin’s regime, including countless priests and intellectuals, were used for slave labor and worked until they died.
Despite his efforts to stamp out opposition, anti-Communists rose up and lead a revolt against Lenin’s regime. As a result, more than eight million Russians were killed in the Russian Civil War. Millions more died from starvation and epidemics. Another five million Russians died in 1921 from famine alone.
Conditions didn’t improve after Lenin’s death in 1924. Following a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin became the new leader of Russia. Under Stalin’s paranoid leadership, millions of Russians were executed or imprisoned in what became known as the Great Purge. Any political leader Stalin perceived to be more popular than him was assassinated. Every ethnic foreigner was imprisoned or killed, including every American that migrated to Russia during the Great Depression.
The death toll due to starvation only continued to rise under Stalin’s communist regime. In the 1930s, five to 10 million Russians died due to widespread famine. In order to eliminate the nation of Ukraine as a political factor, Stalin’s administration engineered a mass famine in the neighboring state that wiped out millions more.
In total, communist Russia’s non-military death toll from the early to mid-20th century is estimated to be approximately 30 million. Calculating those figures accurately is difficult, however, because so many records were destroyed, altered or incomplete.
Lenin’s revolution set in motion the spread of communism throughout Eastern Europe, Asia and eventually South America. And in each country that communism was introduced, mass murder and starvation was soon to follow, most notably in China under Mao but even in present day Venezuela.
Proponents of modern-day communism are likely to point to the robust economy of China for justification of their debunked ideology, while unwittingly ignoring the fact that economic growth in China did not begin until post-Mao leaders began shifting the nation gradually towards free market policies.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan state, a country once rich in oil and other natural resources, continues to crumble amidst an economic meltdown. In fact, more children are dying in Venezuela as a result of socialist economics than in war-torn Syria.
Irish author and political theorist Edmund Burke once wrote, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Unfortunately, it will take a lot more than one editorial column to educate the next generation of American voters on vital parts of human history. Next week: the communist revolution that killed 70 million Chinese.
In Cash & Candor, Arkansas Money & Politics / AY Magazine Editor Caleb Talley aims to shoot it straight when it comes to business and politics in and around the Natural State. Talley comes to AMP by way of the Arkansas Delta, where he called balls and strikes at the Forrest City Times-Herald. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more Cash & Candor here.