‘I’ve been hearing that people have been saying’ that the person actually running the government of the USA is not Donald Trump, but Steve Bannon. This has even been to the extent that Trump has been called Bannon’s useful idiot.
The term ‘useful idiot’ has often been attributed to Lenin, but there is no indication that any of Lenin’s works contain the epithet. Indeed, the Russian equivalent is translated as ‘useful fool’. The latter has been found to be in common use during the early part of the Second World War. The phrase usually refers to a naïve person that can be cynically manipulated towards an end of which they are either unaware or only partly aware.
Michael Hayden, a former Air Force general and former director of the NSA (1999-2005) and CIA (2006-2009) referred to Trump as Moscow’s ‘useful fool’. In his piece in the Washington Post, Hayden says he was struck by the similarities in the world view of Trump and Putin, and much on which they seem to agree.
Hayden goes further and asks why there was a reversal of the Republican platform to provide lethal defensive weapons to the Ukraine to combat ethnic Russian separatists and the Russian army, who have annexed the Crimean Peninsula. This reversal was initiated by the Trump camp, but Trump and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort have denied any role in the reversal. So who instigated this reversal of policy? Could it have been Bannon?
Hayden then gets on to the Trump businesses; Trump has said that he ‘has zero investments in Russia, but his son Donald Jr conceded that Russia contains “a disproportionate cross-section of our assets”. Without access to Trump’s tax details, this proportion cannot be quantified.
Hayden is also concerned that Trump seemed to denigrate the intelligence agencies when they presented what was termed a ‘high-confidence’ judgement that Russia had interfered in the election. In Hayden’s experience, to him that language means that the intelligence agencies are sure that Russia had interfered to help Trump win. This would be anathema to Trump because, as a narcissist, he cannot accept that anything other than his own magnificence could have helped him win. This narcissism is also demonstrated by his insistence, despite the evidence, that his inauguration crowd was bigger than anybody else’s. What is even more disturbing about this crowd assertion, is that he harped on it in front of a wall at Langley, where each star represents a staff member of the CIA who has died doing their job. Whatever you think about the CIA, the disgusting self-absorption by Trump, standing in front of this memorial, and whining over something as insignificant as a crowd size, was simply appalling, and unworthy of any adult, let alone one elected to public office. If Trump had shrugged his shoulders and said ‘win some, lose some’, when the photographs of the crowds were published, it would have been over. Nobody would have cared, but because he whined about it and lied about it, this clearly demonstrated that he has narcissistic personality disorder.
It is also clear that Trump signed the executive order putting Bannon on the ‘principals committee’ of the National Security Council, without actually knowing what he was signing. Furthermore, this executive order effectively demoted the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who used to attend all meetings of the principals committee. Now they will only be invited to attend when required. However, the executive order did promote the director of the CIA to a full voting member of the council. When Trump was told what he had signed some time later, he was not happy.
So, while it is clear that Trump spends most of his time admiring his reflection, and is some sort of ‘useful idiot’, the big question remains; is he Bannon’s or Putin’s useful idiot?