B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

Putin on the Ritz – How the media finally seized on Trump’s concerning ties with Russia

Waiting for the national media to notice ties between Russia and the Trump campaign was long and frustrating – especially to those concerned over the dire ramifications,  but the grand unveiling of the Trump-Russo romance this week has taken over the media cycle. The DNC has said since June the Russians were responsible for their widely-reported attack on the Democrats email servers, but today the Clinton campaign took the next step and said the hack was done to benefit Donald Trump. This was a connection some took for granted, as Trump’s ties to the Russians are deep and are throughout his staff, and are little surprise to those who have watched the Russians behave on social media platforms. But it was a big step in the campaign of pointing out just who is behind the Trump campaign.

A few reporters have looked at Russia and its involvement in the 2016 election. Chris Zappone of Fairfax Media has regularly wrote and blogged on how Russian trolls and twitter accounts (often bots) had a distinct Trump flavor. How many Trump twitter supporters not only like the Donald, but are strangely up to speed on Russian domestic politics? Too many to not at least be curious, if not flat-out cynical. I’ve written about how this same group has a horrifying anti-Semitic streak.

Most of this was limited to the fantastic reporting of Franlkin Foer, Zappone, and others who picked up on the trends on social media such as myself.

Then the flood gates opened due to one morning TV rant – and an email.


Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s criticism of Donald Trump was light by today’s political standards. You could hardly call Kasich’s statements about Trump a major criticism according to the Donald’s own rhetorical standards

Kasich didn’t like Trump, that was clear. But surely, the Trump camp felt, the Governor would want to speak at the first major party convention in his state in 70 years, so the bait was simple – if you give an endorsement, you speak, probably in prime time, and if negotiated correctly, maybe a keynote. Kasich said no and to make his point more plain,  decided not to attend the convention. He spent the week in Cleveland, but at party functions around the city.

Whether Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort lost his mind on the morning of Monday, July 18, or if he planned a grand strategic maneuver to turn the party and Ohioans against Kasich, and put them in the Trump column, nobody knows but Manafort, Trump and a few others. The result was a morning appearance on MSNBC – of all networks – where he double-barrell blasted Kasich for not giving an endorsement and not appearing at the convention; calling Kasich “petulant”and an embarrassment to his state and party. This was the first negative word Trump’s campaign had said about Kasich since the primaries started – Trump himself spoke better of him than he did of other candidates, usually with respect to the governor, but criticized trade deals Kasich supported. The reason for this more polite approach was quite calculated.

What happened the next three days showed the campaign staff for the Governor of Ohio was smarter than the campaign staff for Donald Trump. More importantly, someone finally called the emperor on his lack of clothing.

Once Manafort took his first swing, Kasich strategist landed what Vladimir Putin, a judo practitioner, would know as an ippon. He left him flat on his back and beat.

“Manafort’s problem, after all those years on the lam with thugs and autocrats, he can’t recognize principle and integrity,” Kasich strategist John Weaver wrote Jonathan Martin of the New York Times. “He has brought great professionalism, direct from Kiev (Ukraine) to Trump world.”

A day later a source on the Kasich staff revealed that Trump and Manafort wanted the Ohio governor as their Vice President. Manafort and Trump’s son Donald Jr. went to Kasich strategist John Weaver with an offer he nor the governor could possibly refuse – to make him the most powerful vice president in history. This led to the now famous line of Don Jr. telling the Kasich strategist, the governor could run foreign and domestic policy, while Trump would be in charge of “making America great again.” Kasich said no.

Trump denied offering Kasich the VP slot in a very short tweet. His campaign then blasted Kasich, saying he was never considered and said his background “read like a dirty novel,” which was interesting since if Trump’s staff didn’t consider him for VP, why were they looking into his background?

Trump’s camp became suddenly bored talking about Kasich’s allegation that he was offered the VP spot after the Columbus Dispatch confirmed with four more sources in the governor’s campaign that the offer had been made.

When Ted Cruz left the RNC stage to boos and yells for not endorsing The Donald, a Trump chief staffer immediately ran to CNN and gave a ranting speech about how if Trump wins, he’s booting both Kasich and Cruz from the GOP.

As the Democratic National Convention starts tomorrow, Kasich told the Philadelphia Inquirer he doubts Trump can win Ohio. He called Trump a divider and said “Ohio was a snapshot of the country and wanted a positive way forward.”

Trump’s response was to say he may start a super-PAC – even as president – to fight Cruz and Kasich in whatever future political endeavors they choose.

Weaver’s comments took new meaning today. When he inferred Manafort had been “on the lam” with autocrats, the first thought was Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who Manafort had worked, before the Putin apparatchik was chased from the country after a rigged election and a popular revolt (Yanukovych now resides in exile under the warm, tender embrace of Putin).

Or Weaver knew what Franklin Foer tweeted and wrote in Slate today: Manafort once lost investment cash from a Russian billionaire oligarch and crime lord, and went into hiding for a sustained period, with some of his former business colleagues asking in cryptic emails if they knew his whereabouts.

If Paul Manafort wasn’t real, Martin Scorcese would have to invent him.

 

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