In July 1945, Harry Truman went to Potsdam to meet with Churchill and Stalin to begin planning the political future of Western Europe after World War II. This was the conference where Truman mentioned to Stalin that the United States had developed a terrible, new weapon, the Atomic Bomb, and Stalin just shrugged. It was also the conference when Truman brought along his just-named Secretary of State, James Byrnes, to advise him on how to negotiate a post-war settlement with the Soviets.
Byrnes started his political career by being elected to the House of Representatives in 1911 and serving in the House from 1912 to 1925. He then served in the Senate, and then was appointed Secretary of State in 1945. In between he was also briefly on the Supreme Court and after quitting Truman’s Administration in 1947, he went back to South Carolina and won election to the Governor’s office in 1950 and served until 1955.
So, here was a guy who was at the top of all three branches of the Federal government which would make you think that he was a pretty smart guy. In fact, when he was at Potsdam, Truman went out of his way to avoid Byrnes once he realized during their first discussion about post-War Europe that Byrnes kept getting the Baltic and the Balkans mixed up.
The point of this little anecdote is that you can be a very successful politician and still be dumb as shit. Or maybe you’re what we call smart-stupid, smart in some areas and dumb in others. If we’ve learned anything from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s that Vladimir Putin is either smart-stupid or dumb as shit.
Now, I’m not saying that Ukraine isn’t taking a terrible shellacking. And I’m also not saying that Russia won’t sooner or later get rid of Zelensky and declare Ukraine to be under its control.
What I am saying is that a month ago, nobody would have predicted that the Russians would be such pariahs on the world political stage and more to the point, that ol’ demented Joe Biden would be directing an international coalition that is keeping Ukraine in the fight.
And not only has just about every country in the Western zone joined to support Ukraine thanks to the leadership of Biden and his team, but in just one month we have witnessed the resurrection of the NATO alliance which Joe’s predecessor had left for dead.
If nothing else, the reaction of our NATO allies to Putin’s decision to move Russian military units across the Ukrainian border has made it clear how short-sighted and useless was the ‘America first’ policy promoted by Trump. And even with his verbal flubs and sometimes funny mis-statements (ex: Kamala ‘first lady’ Harris) compare Joe’s daily performance in front of the media to the grandiose lies, distortions and vulgarity which emerged with stunning regularity out of Donald Trump’s mouth.
Remember when Trump said that Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was a mark of the man’s genius? Know who Trump was really talking about? He was talking about himself. And I’m willing to take the short odds on the possibility that Putin’s decision to launch his military assault on Ukraine was based on a conversation with Trump which went like this:
Putin: “So Donald, what do you think Biden will do if I send my people into Ukraine?”
Trump: “Biden? He won’t do shit! He’s so fucking dumb and such a pussy that he probably won’t even know that you’ve moved in there. He’s fucking senile and he only won the election because those shitheads stole it. Everyone knows that.”
Putin: “So I don’t have to worry about him, you think?”
Trump: “Lemme tell you something Vladdy. The first thing you do when you get in there is take a look around and get me everything about Biden and that drug-addicted jerk of a son. I’ll have Rudy come over and meet you, okay?”
Now if you think that the above conversation is all that fanciful or unreal, you didn’t pay attention to how Trump talked to various Heads of State during the time that he was a Head of State. And why shouldn’t Putin take Trump seriously in planning his military assault on Ukraine?
After all, when LBJ ordered an increase in our military commitment to South Viet Nam on November 24, 1963 neither the Dean of Harvard, nor the head of the Ford Foundation, nor the most experienced member of the diplomatic corps, nor the Secretary of Defense nor the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff know anything more than what Trump knows now.