Thursday, May 14, 2020

"Enemy of the People"

I strongly recommend watching "Reliable Sources" on CNN at 9 a.m. Sundays and subscribing to host Brian Stelter's nightly newsletter.  You can subscribe to it at http://cnn.it/reliable.  Here's the lead story from his Thursday night email:


Radicalized

I usually come up short when I reach for words to describe the radicalization of the far right in America. This short video conveys it like no words can. Kevin Vesey, a reporter for News 12 Long Island, covered a reopening rally in Commack on Thursday. Vesey was harassed by a bevy of pro-Trump protesters who called him "fake news," a "traitor," and so on.

After he shared the video on Twitter and it went viral, Vesey followed up by saying, "I'll probably never forget what happened today. I was insulted. I was berated. I was practically chased by people who refused to wear masks in the middle of a pandemic. All the while, I was there to tell THEIR story." He did, and he filed this fairreport at the end of the day.

Among the verbal arrows targeting Vesey: "You're disgusting." "You are the virus." "You are the enemy of the people!" "You shouldn't be here." "Traitor!" "F--- you. You guys are f---ing fake news." Some of the taunts were very personal, reflecting the fact that Vesey is well known in the community: "Tell the truth, Kevin, come on." At one point the crowd chanted: "Fake news is not essential."

This crowd didn't reflect all Trump supporters, nor did it reflect all Long Islanders. But these behaviors toward the news media... the intolerance... the indecency... have all been modeled by President Trump for several years. No one should be surprised to see it infect local communities. But everyone should be disturbed by it. Constructive critiques make journalism better, but destructive attacks make society worse.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Dems Need to Realize That People in Trump’s Base Are Simply Unreachable


Perhaps you’ve harbored the thought that if only you could show Trump supporters this or that story or this or that flaw in the president that they might vote against him or just stay home in November.  Forget it.  They’re unreachable.
If we’ve learned anything about them, it’s that there is nothing Trump can do or say that will change their minds. If what is already known and recognized about the man isn’t enough to sway his supporters, there is nothing Trump — or Biden — can say or do that will make any difference.
This became clear to me from the many pro-Trump emails, letters, phone calls and texts that I received as a result of my previous “Talking Turkey” columns. I want you to see this for yourself, so I have compiled 36 pro-Trump emails into a 13-page PDF that you can download and read.
A reader alerted me to the term “Cult 45” to refer to his supporters. (Trump is the 45th president.)  Googling the term, I found this in an Eric Zorn column in the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 11, 2019, which suggested the term go mainstream: "A Monmouth University survey asked 401 respondents who approve of the president's job performance, "Can you think of anything that Trump could do, or fail to do, in his term as president that would make you disapprove of the job he is doing?" Sixty-two percent answered no, nothing their dear leader could do or not do would shake their faith in him."
It’s common to speak of people on both sides of the political divide as being in a “bubble,” where they simply are unaware of the facts or pseudo facts fueling the other side of the political divide.  I’ve concluded that it’s more like an “iron dome,” a term coined to describe the anti-missile defense system protecting Israel from its neighbors.
Trump supporters have provided many videos to convince me that I’m wrong about Trump, and they’re worth watching. They reveal the strategy for expanding his base.
Central to their strategy is painting mainstream media as the enemy of the people. One video says simply, “DON’T WATCH THE NEWS!”  The argument is that anything negative about Trump must be a politically motivated lie, no matter how rooted it is in facts. The key is for people get all their news from Fox News, One America Network and Trump’s own tweets. (He has 79 million Twitter followers. FYI, Barack Obama has the most, 117 million, and Michelle has 15 million)
Turn-out in November will be huge for Trump, driven by fear mongering about socialism, gun confiscation and killing of newborn babies if Democrats win. A big political attack will be “Spygate,” re-banded as “Obamagate,” and it will be built up to a frenzy inside the iron dome he has created by isolating his base from fact-checked journalism.
Trump, however, will motivate turnout by Democrats too, and turnout will determine the winner. A huge concern for Trump is mail-in voting like we have here in Colorado, which makes voting easier.  Easier voting means bigger turnout, which historically has favored Democrats. It probably contributed to Colorado "going blue." 


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

There’s Only One Woman for the Job


It has been widely reported that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden wants to pick a woman — preferably a woman of color — as his running mate. And it has been widely reported that Michelle Obama has no interest in being on the ticket — but I hope she succumbs to a draft.

Michelle is probably the only person, man or woman, who will give “Sleepy Joe’s” campaign the energy it sorely lacks right now.
The documentary about her book tour for “Be-coming” was released last week on Hulu. It reminded Rita and me of two things — Michelle’s deep commitment to the values and policies of her husband; and how much the American people love this woman. Her book has sold 20 million copies and is still on the best seller lists. Rita and I loved it. She filled entire stadiums during her book tour. It is because she’s so authentic and real, unlike the current president. She would so energize the campaign.
Yes, Michelle has said she does not want to be a politician. She hates campaigning. But she is appalled, like us, at what the Trump administration has accomplished. She needn’t do much campaigning. All she needs to do is be interviewed a lot.
If Biden is to win, he must choose her for VP. If he waits until the August convention to name her, she will only have to campaign for a couple months.  I want to believe that her love of country will overcome her dread of politics, recognizing that without her on the ticket, it's less likely Biden will defeat Donald Trump. 


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Why Are Trump Supporters So Unwavering? They Have Given Me Some Answers.


Last week’s column generated a lot of emails and phone calls — mostly from readers thanking me for my “courage” and speaking out about what one reader called our “Moron-in-Chief.”  But it also drew the ire of many readers who were offended by the psychological analysis I presented of Trump supporters.
Mind you, it was not my analysis. I was publishing what psychologists near and far have written about Trump and some of his supporters. It’s a fascinating area of academic study these days.
I really appreciated (and responded to) all the emails I received, because they gave me additional insight into this phenomenon we know as Donald J. Trump.
It reminded me of my days as a bicycle activist in New York City, organizing a demonstration to create bike lanes on the 59th Street Bridge. It was so satisfying to see demonstrators on TV parroting the talking points which I had given them prior to the event. Donald Trump and his tribe at Fox News would be similarly gratified to see the president’s fans parroting a kaleidoscope of mistruths which are laid out for them. Some of them were new to me. Obviously I need to watch more of Fox News, especially the evening opinion broadcasts. 
By the way, have you noticed that what Trump calls the “lame-stream media” — NBC, ABC and CBS — don’t have any opinion shows during the evening? While Fox News Channel fills its prime time with pro-Trump, anti-Democratic rabble-rousers, the broadcast channels have nothing but entertainment programs — sitcoms, police shows, reality shows, and the like. There is virtually no opinion programing at any time of any day. All the president has to attack are the straight news reports of the evening news program and the Sunday programs which include guests with their opinions for and against the president.
But I digress. Back to the negative emails I received. More than one described Joe Biden as a “fantasizing senile plagiarist,” a picture being painted by Fox News. A woman I’ll call “Mary” was my favorite, diagnosing Trump with Aspergers Syndrome  (is Trump a savant?) with no mention of narcissism. She compared Trump to Einstein, saying “you will notice that geniuses generally are socially challenged and have unusual behaviors. Trump definitely is challenged and has unusual behaviors.”
She and I had begun to have a conversation via email, but she went silent after I wrote the following:
“So you believe that Trump is a genius – a stable genius, as he says?  This genius said yesterday that we should look into injection of disinfectants! He was touting hydroxychloroquine, so much that it was tried on veterans in VA hospitals. The results, reported today? Nine percent of veterans who were given standard treatment died, but 28% of those who got standard treatment plus hydroxychloroquine died. Because of his promotion of the drug, Trump actually caused the death of many veterans. And today his own FDA came out opposing the drug because of its failure to help and proven causing of death!
“This stable genius promotes coal, while the power industry itself is closing coal plants left and right in favor of cleaner, cheaper natural gas, wind and solar. You know the president only ‘digs coal’ for the votes it gets him in the Midwest.  He pulled us out of the Paris climate accord, making us the only nation in the world not to commit to reducing greenhouse gases. He ordered the EPA to remove the phrase ‘climate change’ from its website and all documents. This is a genius?  Geniuses [like Einstein] believe in the value of science.  If he were smart instead of narcissistic, he would leave the daily briefings to the scientists instead of using them to get screen time and make statements that appeal to his base and then require walking-back by the scientists at the very same briefings! This man is a walking disaster.  No I don’t ‘hate’ him, I see him for what he is.  And it’s scary for this country and this planet.”
If you’d like to write me, too, my email address is jimsmith@ecentral.com. I answer every email.
Many thanks for the additional donations received since last week’s column to help pay for this ad. The donation site is www.FundTalkingTurkey.com.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Why Are Trump Supporters So Committed That Nothing Will Change Their Minds?


This question has haunted non-supporters of the President from the beginning. We saw his support unaffected by numerous actions and statements which would have deep-sixed any other politician.
I’m sure you remember when Trump said he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose a single voter.  Or when he said he could get away with grabbing a woman’s private parts, and when nearly 20 women painted a picture of him as a sexual predator.
Now, remember when Gary Hart was photographed with a mistress on the yacht “Monkey Business”? That story of infidelity ended his 1988 presidential candidacy, yet multiple stories of marital infidelity haven’t had any effect on the support for President Trump -- including from the religious right.
As you might guess, the unwavering support of Trump has been a topic of academic study by psychologists. I suggest that you Google the phrase “psychological reasons people support Trump,” as I did.
One academic who has studied this phenomenon extensively and been published in Psychology Today is cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian, PhD, who is affiliated with George Mason University. On Dec. 31, 2019, he posted “Why Evangelicals May Be Hardwired to Believe Trump’s Falsehoods.” A post on June 14, 2019 was titled “The Psychology Behind Trump’s Unwavering Support,” and a Dec. 27, 2018, post was titled, “A Complete Psychological Analysis of Trump’s Support,” which includes a short video about “Terror Management Theory,” which I found really informative.


As Azarian wrote in that post, “The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitability of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface.”

Because of this ever-present sense or our mortality, he argues, we are easily manipulated by stoking fear, which Trump does most effectively. It started with immigration, but you see it in many of his other issues. In the “hardwired” post mentioned above, Azarian asserts (citing scientific studies) that it takes more brain effort and resources to question a statement than to believe it, and cites studies which show that people with a conservative worldview are more susceptible to fear-mongering than people with a liberal worldview.
In a June 24, 2019, post, Azarian wrote, “While the analytically-minded may see Donald Trump’s opinions and answers as superficial and uninformed, many people view them as straightforward and relatable. A certain degree of perceived ignorance can be beneficial for a presidential candidate, especially if he can pass it off as being folksy."
Of course, when the person promoting fear or telling a lie is a leader for whom you voted, it’s even easier to believe it, and having both TV and radio hosts echoing those fears or lies gives them more credibility. That’s the world we’re living in now, and Azarian addresses the issue of supporters not being exposed to other information or viewpoints. Fox News has given its viewers the impression that it is complete enough that viewers don't need any other television news source. By listening to AM talk radio, which is dominated by Trump supporters, the right's information bubble is complete and largely impenetrable.
In my previous “Talking Turkey” I wrote about Trump’s mentor, Roy Cohn, who taught him that a lie repeated often enough becomes accepted as truth. According to Azarian, it may not have to be repeated much at all. Lies told only once by Trump immediately come to life in the echo chamber of Fox News and talk radio. And those same outlets, which Trump follows, have the power of starting those lies, which Trump then repeats in a tweet, and the outlets then attribute the statement to Trump, giving it greater and greater credibility.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Covid-19 Crisis Is Putting Trump’s Disdain of Science to the Test. How’s He Doing?


As I witness the unfolding of the Covid-19 pandemic in our country and our president’s handling of it, I find myself thinking about climate change.
Some cartoonist will draw a cartoon of Trump being hit over the head by a 2x4 labeled “Covid-19” and “Science.”
The pandemic is, hopefully, a wake-up call for Trump regarding the importance of science in addressing the world’s challenges, such as climate change.
Trump has said he knows more than the generals, more than the experts in every field of study. He bathes in the adulation of evangelists who actually believe that he was sent by God to save our country, to “make America great again.” They truly think he can do no wrong.  Or can he?
I’ll never forget the 2-hour Frontline program on Sept. 27, 2016, called “The Choice 2016” about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, which I wish PBS would air again.  You can watch the full program online.
In that Frontline report, we learned about “the Donald’s” personality in ways that ring even more true now that we’ve experienced over 3 years of him playing the role of President.


Fast forward to 36:18 of that documentary to see how Trump found a mentor in Roy Cohn, a lawyer hired to defend the Trump Organization in a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in their rental properties. In the following 4 minutes of that documentary you’ll see exactly where Donald Trump acquired the persona which we see every day in our president. The key rules instilled by Roy Cohn are:
  • Never settle or admit anything, never admit a mistake
  • If someone hits you, hit back harder and never stop
  • Even when you lose, claim victory
  • Tell a lie long enough and people will think it’s the truth
  • Use lawsuits like machine gun bullets
  • Take no prisoners
Roy Cohn was described as a “street fighter,” and in Donald Trump we see what it’s like when a street fighter becomes president.
I believe that history will not be kind to Donald Trump once he is gone, nor will it be kind to those who fell under his spell, whether they are US Senators or Representatives or ordinary citizens. The 2018 elections were the first proof that.



Thanks to All Who Donated to ‘Talking Turkey’


    In my column on March 26th, I said that this column, published in the Denver Post on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursday of each month, will cost me $8,000 to run through the November election. Within days, over 20 readers contributed over $2,000 at www.FundTalkingTurkey.com. I welcome additional donations to help cover the cost of this ad.
   I did receive a few hate emails, phone calls and two anonymous letters telling me to “shut up!” But they were far out-numbered by support — and backed up by donations. Thank you so much!
   Let me know if you or someone you know would like to get this ad by email. My email is JimSmith@ecentral.com.  Or subscribe to this blog, where all these articles are posted.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

I Found This 2019 British Take-Down of Trump -- It's a Must-Read

It's hard to dispute a single paragraph of this 2019 article or blog post (not sure) by Nate White, described as "an articulate and witty writer from England." It's making the rounds on the internet and I'm happy to share it here.

He was answering the question, "Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?"  It was posted with this classic (and unfortunately typical) picture of Donald Trump with former British Prime Minister Theresa May.


Here's what Nate White wrote:


"A few things spring to mind.
Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.
For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace - all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.
So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing - not once, ever.
I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility - for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.
But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is - his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.
And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults - he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.
There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.
Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.
Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.
And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.
Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.
He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.
He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.
That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.
There are unspoken rules to this stuff - the Queensberry rules of basic decency - and he breaks them all. He punches downwards - which a gentleman should, would, could never do - and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless - and he kicks them when they are down.
So the fact that a significant minority - perhaps a third - of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think 'Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
* Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.
* You don't need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.
This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.
After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.
God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.
He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.
In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws - he would make a Trump.
And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:
'My God… what… have… I… created?
If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set."

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Now That Biden Is the Presumptive Nominee, I Suggest He Name a ‘Shadow Cabinet’


My June 21, 2018, page 3 column had a secondary article with the headline, “A Couple Modest Proposals for Saving America.”  One of those proposals was that the Democratic Party follow Britain’s example and create a “shadow cabinet,” consisting of a Democratic counterpart to each cabinet secretary.
Wikipedia describes the concept as follows:
“The Shadow Cabinet is a feature of the Westminster system of government. It consists of a senior group of opposition spokespeople who, under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, form an alternative cabinet to that of the government, and whose members shadow or mirror the positions of each individual member of the Cabinet. It is the Shadow Cabinet's responsibility to scrutinize the policies and actions of the government, as well to offer an alternative program.”
That suggestion, obviously, was not implemented, and I harbor no expectations this time either, but it would sure be useful and effective if it were.
If, as I hope, Trump is defeated in November, the new president, Joe Biden, will have a lot of repairing to do in each and every department.
Take, for example, the EPA. One of Trump’s most childish and odd orders was that the phrase “climate change” be banned and that it be removed from the EPA website and from any documents issued by that agency. Doubtless there were numerous other orders implemented within the EPA that were not publicized but probably need to be reversed.
   The climate change order is an example of something that was reported. We don’t even know much of what was done in each of the other agencies but was not reported.
Behind the scenes, it’s important that Biden’s future department and agency appointees hit the ground running, and that means starting now with their research. Previous secretaries or under secretaries under Obama would be the best candidates for these shadow cabinet positions, because they know the agencies and probably have contact info for the career officials who may or may not still be at work and can identify the changes that have been implemented since Trump took office.
There are Executive Orders signed by President Trump every day that are of public record but don’t make the news. Each Biden “appointee” could start the process now of studying all the executive orders signed by Trump relating to their agency so they can determine whether those EOs are beneficial or detrimental in their impact on the agency and on public policy.
Naming such a Shadow Cabinet has a benefit beyond allowing Biden and his team to “hit the ground running” next January. It will allow Biden and his appointees to be specific and informative now — during the presidential campaign — about the changes Trump has made to the government that the public — the voters — need to know, whether they love those changes and want Trump re-elected or think they should be undone by a Biden administration.
By calling these appointees his “shadow cabinet” instead of his actual nominees for each position, Biden would avoid being accused of presuming his election.  A shadow cabinet is a concept that can be easily explained to the public, especially by referencing the British example. The opposition party should always have a shadow cabinet, and I welcome the Republican Party adopting the concept when/if they lose the Presidential election.
A shadow government, as I wrote in June 2018, is simply a “good government” idea. We shouldn’t expect Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be the sole persons responding to Trump’s latest tweet or action. It would be so much better to have a “shadow” secretary of each department or agency speak with the authority of having credible knowledge of the topic being addressed.
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This post appeared as a half-page ad on page 2 of the March 26, 2020, edition of the Denver Post's YourHub section for the City & County of Denver and all of Jefferson County. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

What Values Would You Like to See Reflected in Our Social & Political Discourse?


Like many of you, I have stood by in dismay, watching the decline of civility and the rise of extremism in American society over the past few years.
There was a time — very recently, in fact — when politicians spoke respectfully of their political opponents, when they didn’t assign them crude nicknames, and when they weren’t outright mean to each other.
There was a time when the anchor of the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite, was “the most trusted man in America” and factual reporting of events was respected and not discarded as “fake” or “partisan” news.
There was a time when the work of scientists was respected. Indeed, the word “STEM” entered the dictionary as Americans saw the value of promoting science, technology, engineering and math in school curricula.
There was a time when 99% agreement (actually, less than that) among scientists on topics like global warming was considered enough to consider it “settled science.”
Americans fooled themselves after the election of Barack Obama into thinking we had entered a “post-racial” era, but now we realize racism will never die. Instead there are times when it’s not considered appropriate to voice those impulses or put them into action.
The election of Donald Trump was different. Seeing and hearing the President of the United States mirror one’s own thoughts emboldens him or her to express them or perhaps take to the streets with them, as we saw in the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Thus emboldened, they often go further than the President, such as when the demonstrators chanted, “Jews Will Not Replace Us!” Making matters worse afterwards was when the President said there were “very fine people” among those demonstrators.
What brought this topic to mind for this inaugural edition of this column was a segment on last week’s Bachelor program on ABC, “The Women Tell All,” in which Rachel Lindsay described the hate and death threats which she endured as an African-American celebrity when she was the “Bachelorette.” The black women who were contestants in this season’s Bachelor program nodded their heads in acknowledgement of experiencing similar hatred.
That’s what has been so destructive of the current presidency — the emboldening of racists, white nationalists and others who in years past would have kept those thoughts to themselves and their loved ones, and certainly not acted on them as they so freely do nowadays.
But there’s more.
The President’s baseless demeaning of the mainstream media, abetted shamelessly by Fox News, has not been fatal — the press will survive and thrive after this president is gone — but it has contributed to the emboldening referred to above.
The most serious long-term effect of this presidency, however, will be the four-year hiatus in the national effort to address climate change. This is a president who has given voice to that 1% of climate scientists who are blind to this worldwide threat at a time when action is so critical. Fortunately, cities, states and corporations have understood the threat and are, to an extent, taking up the battle without the White House support they should be receiving.  Let’s hope it’s enough.
From the beginning, most Americans recognized Donald Trump as a narcissist and pathological liar, someone who returned love only for those who loved or pretended to love him through flattery, such as smart ex-KGB officers like Vladimir Putin.
What’s most surprising to me is not just the self-serving Republican enablers who have tied their wagon to Trump’s star, but how many day-to-day Americans see in Trump’s personality something to admire.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Why Wouldn’t the Russians Want Trump Re-Elected? Look at His Accomplishments.


No world leader has done more to advance the interests of Vladimir Putin and Russia than President Trump. I write this as a former student of the Russian language (in which I am still semi-fluent) and thus as a student of the Soviet Union and now Russia. I traveled to Moscow and Leningrad in 1978 as part of an MIT alumni trip, and again in 1986, 1987 and 1988 on “citizen diplomacy” trips under the auspices of the Center for Soviet-American Dialogue in Bellingham, Washington. My last trip was to Vladivostok, the Pacific port and terminus of the Trans-Siberian railroad, in 1995, on a tour of China, Korea, Russia and Japan.
First, let’s consider Putin’s interests. As a former KGB officer for the Soviet Union, Putin watched helplessly as the Soviet empire disintegrated under Gorbachev. When Boris Yeltsin resigned as Russian President and appointed Putin acting president on December 31, 1999, Putin made it his goal (after pardoning Yeltsin) to return his country to its former glory as a super-power and to bring as many of the former Soviet republics as possible, including Ukraine, back into Moscow’s orbit.
Key to strengthening Russia was the weakening of NATO and the European Union, and annexing strategically important Crimea. Although that annexation occurred before Trump took office, he helped Putin succeed in weakening NATO and the EU. As a candidate, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and, as president, he hesitated to endorse Article 5, which states that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members. The only time Article 5 has been invoked was in connection with the Sept. 11th attack on the United States. Trump’s reluctance to support it must have made Putin very happy. He was made even happier when Trump enthusiastically supported the Brexit campaign to leave the European Union, and encouraged other European countries to follow Britain’s example.
Withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and from the Paris Accord on climate change, combined with other international actions, have contributed to a reduction in America’s standing on the global stage, allowing for a bigger role by Russia.
Trump’s criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its ongoing aggression against Ukraine can be described as half-hearted at best. The entire theory of Ukraine interfering in the 2016 U.S. election, as recounted under oath by Fiona Hill, was a Russian narrative adopted hook, line and sinker by President Trump. It is fair to say that Trump has been duped by the Kremlin in this and other ways. Why wouldn’t Putin want to keep him in the White House for another term?
Forget about collusion — it wasn’t necessary for Trump to collude in 2016, and it’s not necessary for him to collude now. Putin saw in Trump the perfect man to become President when he was the Republican nominee, and is happy to join the chant, “Four More Years!”
What, you might ask, about Russia helping the Sanders’ campaign?  I suspect that is also in support of Trump, since Sanders would be easier for Trump to defeat as a “socialist.”  If true, you can expect Russian social media postings that trash Sanders' opponents to help him win the nomination.  Then their posting would trash Sanders as a socialist to help Trump. 
The lingering question is why Trump wants to advance Putin’s interests.  A cynic might say that there's a Trump Tower Moscow in Trump's post-presidency future.