New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Monday that “the only possible explanation” for U.S. President Donald Trump’s lavish endorsement of Russian President Vladimir Putin at their meeting in Helsinki is “the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.” He’s wrong. The much likelier explanation is that, perhaps for the first time in his life, Donald Trump feels a type of love.
Put yourself in Trump’s place for a moment. If you knew that a sword of Damocles was hanging over your head, would you demonstrate your own guilt with every word and deed? No, you would try to make good your debt to Putin without calling attention to that debt. You would criticize Putin publicly and do his bidding privately. And Putin would bank his winnings with a grim little smile and take the criticism. Instead, Trump has done the exact opposite, fawning over Putin in public while allowing sane people in his administration to protect the United States from its most determined adversary. This does Putin much less good.
It is, of course, altogether possible that Trump believes that he is innocent of a crime or impeachable offense of which he is, in fact, guilty. Since the U.S. president appears to be incapable of recognizing any fault or failure of his own, his own inner conviction tells us much less about actual facts than would be true with a normal person. He may very well have obstructed justice, for example by firing FBI Director James Comey last year, without having any belief that an investigation of his behavior would uncover guilt. Nevertheless, the extraordinary lengths to which he has gone to embrace Putin so obviously point to that guilt that even Trump would act otherwise unless some deep emotional commitment is at work.