The Korea Herald


[Martin Schram] A week of Valentines and courtship

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 22, 2024 - 05:36

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One way or another, Valentine’s Day week seemed mostly consumed with the complicated courtships of Donald Trump.

Anchors with famous faces spent most of the week pinballing between Trump’s criminal and civil cases in courthouses in New York City, Washington, DC, Atlanta and south Florida. They kept us up-to-the-minute on the maneuverings involving 91 charges contained in the four indictments involving America’s 45th president.

They include criminal cases focusing on Trump’s actions as president that go to the heart of America’s democracy: Federal charges and state charges that Trump, while a sitting president, criminally tried to overturn his legitimate 2020 reelection defeat. Also a federal case in Florida, where Trump is being prosecuted for not just retaining highly secret government documents, but allegedly hiding them from federal agents.

Other courthouse sessions are about smut and personal scandal that has been redefined as crimes of campaign finance and civil violations of bank fraud. A New York case focuses on Trump payments of hush money to a porn star to keep his sexual extracurriculars from becoming a 2016 campaign controversy. It also has been recast as an unreported campaign finance violation.

Also, when Trump’s team concealed his hush-money payments as a business expense, they ended up in civil court for defrauding banks by vastly overstating Trump’s wealth. And that led to a verdict ordering Trump’s business to pay about $400 million in fines.

But suddenly all that Trump courtship cacophony stopped. (Good thing! I hear your minds boggling, bigtime. It’s over now.)

It was replaced by breaking news from subzero Arctic Siberia. Russia’s courageous dissident Alexey Navalny -- the globally known nemesis of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- suddenly died at age 47 in a Russian penal colony. In 2020, he was almost killed by a nerve agent. He was in a coma but regained his health in Germany and chose to return to Russia, knowing his fate.

Within minutes after Friday’s news broke about Navalny, all our news screens were awash with esteemed Russia experts telling us that it was Putin who killed Navalny -- one way or another. These policy experts were speaking at the Munich Security Conference, where Europe’s prominent officials were convening amid fears that Putin’s invaders may indeed conquer Ukraine. While Europe’s leaders and experts blamed Putin for murdering Navalny, Trump, who loves to praise Putin, stayed silent in America for three days.

Indeed, on Feb. 10, at a Conway, South Carolina, rally, Trump told an apparently apocryphal tale, bragging that, as president, he made Europeans pay more to NATO.

Trump said: “One of the presidents of a big country stood up (and) said: ‘Well, sir, uh, if we don’t pay (their share of NATO funding) and we are attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’

“I said: ‘You didn’t pay… No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want!”

It may not have meant much to the folks in Conway, South Carolina. But Trump’s pre-Valentine’s Day effort to take his bizarre bromance with Putin to a new level sure rocked the serious gang in Munich. World leaders and experts were stunned -- assuming Trump signaled a mindless willingness to ignore the NATO alliance’s founding principle that that an attack on one NATO member will be responded to militarily by all NATO members.

That principle, forged to halt Soviet Union aggression, was championed by all Republican presidents: Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and both Bushes. Until now.

For three days Trump said nothing about Navalny’s murder. Even as a world of leaders condemned Putin. Finally, Monday, Trump posted about it (sort of) on social media. But he never mentioned Putin’s name. He just made it his vehicle for attacking today’s USA:

“The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country. …CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges …Open Borders, Rigged Elections, and Grossly Unfair Courtroom Decisions… WE ARE A FAILING NATION!”

Shameless. Richard Haass, the longtime Republican senior diplomatic and national security adviser in both Bush presidencies, quit his party under Trump. He’s an independent now.

“This is so far from the party I was a member of for 40 years,” Haass said last Friday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “…The way Donald Trump presents himself -- the unwillingness to support Ukraine. … The Republican Party has gone from a principled internationalist party to something now that lacks principle and is isolationist.”

Haass was puzzled by one thing most of all: “I just don’t understand … the … romance with authoritarianism.”

Trump’s Putinesque sabotage of American democracy is on the verge of scoring its first success -- the shattering of the party of Abe, Ike and Ron.

Martin Schram

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. -- Ed.

(Tribune Content Agency)