I was reminded of the joke “How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving” this week vis a vis the widespread, bipartisan outrage (also known as TDS, Trump Derangement Syndrome) over President Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki this past week. The aphoristic version of this sentiment would then be “How do you know when Donald Trump is doing the right thing? When the left and the right are equally outraged.”

The source of the left’s displeasure is, as usual, any action of Trump’s that can be somehow shoehorned into their Trump-Russia-collusion narrative. This Trump-Russia conspiracy theory truly is the “birther” equivalent for the left. Yet somehow they can’t fathom that they look as absurd as right-wing birthers did. Anything Trump does that can in any way be construed as being positive for Russia is for them simply further kindling to be heaped upon the bonfire they hope will one day consume the Trump presidency. Of course they conveniently ignore Trump’s belligerent actions toward Russia (various sanctions, expelling diplomats, firing on Russian troops in Syria, etc).

The right’s consternation over Trump stems from their reflexive, blind patriotism. How dare he not take the word of US intelligence agencies as being absolutely sacrosanct! Why these brave men and women are Americans! You must always believe your own countrymen! Anything else is treason! O ye of very short term memory. I guess they have quickly forgotten about that little “weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” fiasco a few years back. You know, that thing where the US “intelligence community” were all 100% sure Saddam had WMD’s. But hey, no big deal, it only resulted in a multi-decade war and occupation of the Middle East that led to millions dead or displaced and a few trillion added to the US national debt. Somehow “my bad” from the CIA doesn’t quite rectify things. Color me skeptical if I don’t think it’s a good idea to risk WWIII over their assurances that Putin interfered in US elections. Even if  true it’s not worth people’s lives.

Sure, if you ask Putin “did you try to interfere in the elections” he’s going to say “no”. It’s a stupid question, why ask it? Nobody who has gotten away with something is going to freely admit their guilt if asked. But for anyone to sit here and say, “you must never question US intelligence agencies conclusions” after the fiasco of WMD’s needs to have their head examined. For Trump to equivocate on answering that direct question doesn’t mean he’s a traitor or any other such nonsensebut rather that (despite all evidence to the contrary) he does have a few functional brain cells in that head of his. The only sane response is to question ANY intelligence agency from any country. All countries are equally culpable in this regard. The CIA has a long and sordid history of sowing misinformation and internal disruptions in other countries (see Iran, 1953) as well as our own (see Operations Northwoods, 1962) in order to manipulate people and alter the outcome of (gasp!) elections.

If “our” democracy is so fragile that a few ads on Facebook can “destroy” it then it’s really not worth saving, is it? Or maybe, just maybe, that is hyperbole and we should instead thank the Russians for saving our democracy, that is, helping to reveal the shady dealings of Hillary Clinton.  But I digress.

Those who wanted Trump to “talk tough” with Russia would rather risk war than sacrifice an opportunity to engage in useless testosterone fueled bravado designed solely to stroke the American ego. Considering Russia still has several thousand nuclear weapons prudence suggests both sides approach each other with a polite and conciliatory demeanor. Poking a bear in the eye with a stick will not result in anything good. President Trump summed it up best in what is perhaps his most thoughtful and eloquent statement of his presidency; “I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace, than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.” Pretty wise sentiment, wouldn’t you think?