Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trump gave classified intelligence to the Russians-- we learn nothing about Trump

OMG!!!  Can you believe that Trump gave up classified information to the RUSSIANS!!! This is the MOST SHOCKING NEWS EVAAAAR!!!

Nope.  Sorry.  Can't do it.  I can't even pretend to be surprised.  In February, this gem of an article appeared in The Onion:  "FBI Panicking After Learning National Security Communications May Have Been Intercepted By Trump Administration".  So, here we are.  Over the weekend, in one of my cleansing rants, I suggested that we would forget about the Trump lie about taping the FBI director within a week because something newer and crazier would replace it.

I was worried he would bomb Albania, so really, let's call this a win.

Anyway, what do we learn?  Nothing.  If a story makes a three-month-old Onion joke look prophetic, we don't learn anything.  More to the point, I want to get back to the old question about whether or not Russia really has something on Trump.  No, we still haven't learned anything about that.

The basic problem for that has always been that Trump is personally disposed to cozy up to Putin because he worships Putin and wants Putin's approval.  The story, as it has been reported, is that Trump gave up classified intelligence, to... brag about how great his intelligence is.

It is, of course, perfectly plausible that he could give up classified intelligence to brag.  He is stupid enough to be tricked into sacrificing national security for the sake of personal bragging.  He could also give up national security secrets because he is being blackmailed.  Both stories are consistent with the data we have.  The basic problem continues to be what we call, "observational equivalence."

There.  Fancy jargon.  It is a term we use in social science for the situation in which two models generate the same prediction.  Trump is an idiot braggart.  Prediction?  He gives up national security secrets to the people he wants to impress, like the Russians.  The Russians have something on Trump.  Prediction?  He gives up national security secrets to the Russians.  Observational equivalence.

While I gave a Ben Bradlee-approved "holy shit!" to the Comey firing, this is completely unsurprising, and we learn nothing about Trump, including about the fundamental question:  is Trump influenced by the Russians.

From late December through early January, when there wasn't much going on (i.e., before Trump was inaugurated), I did a long series of posts under the "Assessing democracy..." heading.  Fundamentally, it was about the failure of the electorate to recognize Trump's lack of "valence" characteristics, like competence and honesty.  (I also made repeated references to Neil Gaiman's American Gods, which is now airing as a tv show).  What is interesting about this situation is that we can't tell if Trump's latest disaster comes from incompetence or dishonesty.  I'm not sure how much it matters.

But hey, at least he hasn't started nuking people.



  1. Incompetence.

    Were he in the pocket of the Russians, he'd have better ways of getting them information.

    And, quite honestly, getting them info that let's them burn an Israeli agent inside ISIS? Not exactly at the top of Putin's wishlist. Not worth the risk.

    Occam's razor. The simplest explanation is that he's a simpleton.

    1. What you are missing is that his stupidity doesn't preclude him being compromised. A while back, I did a post on The Americans, comparing Trump to Charles Duluth, and the problem is that Trump could easily just be a stupid turncoat. If we could trust his intelligence, his behavior would exonerate him, but his very stupidity is exactly what makes inference so difficult. Yes, this would be stupid spycraft, but that's the only kind of which Trump would be capable. Why? Because he's a moron.