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Trump’s dalliance with Putin

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally Wednesday at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally Wednesday at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa. The Associated Press

Imagine that you crave attention and the adulation of sycophants who will tell you how great you are.

Difficult though it may be, imagine you are Donald Trump.

You know you had a great week at the Trumpalooza in Cleveland because you were on every cable TV show and on the front pages of every newspaper in America.

As the Republican convention ended, Wikileaks delivered a gift by unveiling emails – probably stolen by Russian hackers – from the Democratic National Committee. With party leaders exposed for having tilted toward Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders’ backers were furious. As the Democratic convention opened in Philadelphia, they booed at any mention of Clinton’s name.

By Monday night, however, the story started shifting. Michelle Obama delivered that great line about waking up each morning in a house built by slaves and seeing her daughters playing with their dog on the White House lawn. That gave you pause.

On Tuesday, Sanders displayed dignity by sticking to his principles and promising to fight for his cause, and he showed grace by conceding defeat and urging his supporters to vote for Clinton. If only Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and the others had shown you similar respect.

Bill Clinton took the stage later that night and went on too long, though not as long as long as you in Cleveland. He accomplished his goal of humanizing his wife in ways only a husband of 40 years could.

Perhaps he should have said more about his transgressions. But the speech was about her, not him, and President Clinton did point out that she refuses to quit. Tenacity is an admirable quality. No matter what has gone on in the Clinton home, you are on your third marriage.

It would only get worse for you on Wednesday, the night Barack Obama and Joe Biden were to speak. Polls, about which you care so deeply, show Obama is more popular than you. And you decide to gather reporters at the Trump National Doral resort in Miami.

You make news by calling on Russia, an adversary, to inject itself into the U.S. presidential election, by finding Hillary Clinton’s emails from the time she was secretary of state, and releasing them. But in reality, you are not Trump. No one is.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he told reporters, as detailed by The Miami Herald. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Over the course of an hour, he called Clinton crooked, belittled an NBC reporter and said he believed Russia, or maybe China, has the Clinton emails. There are “some beauties there,” he predicted.

“Now, if Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I mean, to be honest with you, I’d love to see them,” Trump said.

The statement is astonishing, especially because Trump, like Clinton, will begin receiving classified intelligence briefings next week, a courtesy extended to Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

The comment also served a purpose: Trump seized the news during the middle of the Democrat’s big show and shoved the story of Clinton’s emails as secretary of state back in front of the public. Newt Gingrich, who says he’d like a job in a Trump administration, dismissed Trump’s comment by tweeting that it was a joke, though Trump was not laughing when he said it.

As rational Republicans know, Trump’s dalliance with Putin and the Russians is irresponsible and dangerous. Paul Ryan called Putin a thug. Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, soberly warned of “serious consequences” if the FBI determines Russia has meddled in the U.S. presidential election.

Trump’s request that Putin undertake a cyberattack on American democracy might not have been the worst of it. Asked whether Putin should butt out of the campaign, Trump answered: “I’m not going to tell Putin what to do. Why should I tell Putin what to do?”

Think about that. Ronald Reagan etched an indelible place in history by telling Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. In his finest 13 days, John F. Kennedy told Nikita Khrushchev to remove missiles from Cuba. And though he aspires to be leader of the free world, Trump won’t tell Putin how to act.

So far, Hillary Clinton’s convention is accomplishing its tasks by showing general party unity and burnishing her image. It’s to be expected. Clinton and her team run polished, disciplined campaigns.

In time, I believe, voters will face the reality that Trump is ill-equipped to lead this nation. But Trump is waging an asymmetrical campaign, and only he and maybe his Russian ally know what is in store.

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