To Understand Trump, Learn Russian
The Russian language has two words for truth — a linguistic quirk that seems relevant to our current political climate, especially because of all the disturbing ties between the newly elected president and the Kremlin.
The word for truth in Russian that most Americans know is “pravda” — the truth that seems evident on the surface. It’s subjective and infinitely malleable, which is why the Soviet Communists called their party newspaper “Pravda.” Despots, autocrats and other cynical politicians are adept at manipulating pravda to their own ends.
But the real truth, the underlying, cosmic, unshakable truth of things is called “istina” in Russian. You can fiddle with the pravda all you want, but you can’t change the istina.
For the Trump team, the pravda of the 2016 election is that not all Trump voters are explicitly racist. But the istina of the 2016 campaign is that Trump’s base was heavily dependent on racists and xenophobes, Trump basked in and stoked their anger and hatred, and all those who voted for him cast a ballot for a man they knew to be a racist, sexist xenophobe. That was an act of racism.
Trump’s team took to Twitter with lightning speed recently to sneer at the conclusion by all 17 intelligence agencies that the Kremlin hacked Democratic Party emails for the specific purpose of helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton. Trump said the intelligence agencies got it wrong about Iraq, and that someone else could have been responsible for the hack and that the Democrats were just finding another excuse for losing.
The istina of this mess is that powerful evidence suggests that the Russians set out to interfere in American politics, and that Trump, with his rejection of Western European alliances and embrace of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was their chosen candidate.
The pravda of Trump’s selection of Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon Mobil, as secretary of state is that by choosing an oil baron who has made billions for his company by collaborating with Russia, Trump will make American foreign policy beholden to American corporate interests.
有关特朗普选择让埃克森美孚公司(Exxon Mobil)的首席执行官雷克斯·W·蒂勒森(Rex Tillerson)担任国务卿，这其中的pravda是，由于选择了一位通过与俄罗斯合作为他的公司赚取了数十亿美元的石油大亨，特朗普将令美国的外交政策受制于美国企业的利益。
That’s bad enough, but the istina is far worse. For one thing, American foreign policy has been in thrall to American corporate interests since, well, since there were American corporations. Just look at the mess this country created in Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Middle East to serve American companies.
Yes, Tillerson has ignored American interests repeatedly, including in Russia and Iraq, and has been trying to remove sanctions imposed after Russia’s seizure of Crimea because they interfered with one of his many business deals. But take him out of the equation in the Trump cabinet and nothing changes. Trump has made it plain, with every action he takes, that he is going to put every facet of policy, domestic and foreign, at the service of corporate America. The istina here is that Tillerson is just a symptom of a much bigger problem.
The pravda is that Trump was right in saying that the intelligence agencies got it wrong about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.
But the istina is that Trump’s contempt for the intelligence services is profound and dangerous. He’s not getting daily intelligence briefings anymore, apparently because they are just too dull to hold his attention.
And now we know that Condoleezza Rice was instrumental in bringing Tillerson to Trump’s attention. As national security adviser and then secretary of state for president George W. Bush, Rice was not just wrong about Iraq, she helped fabricate the story that Hussein had nuclear weapons.
现在我们知道，在让特朗普注意到蒂勒森方面，康多莉扎·赖斯(Condoleezza Rice)起到了很大的作用。作为国土安全顾问，以及后来担任乔治·W·布什(George W. Bush)总统的国务卿，赖斯不仅在伊拉克问题上出了错，还协助伪造了萨达姆·侯赛因持有核武器的故事。
Trump and Tillerson clearly think they are a match for the wily and infinitely dangerous Putin, but as they move foward with their plan to collaborate with Russia instead of opposing its imperialist tendencies, they might keep in mind another Russian saying, this one from Lenin.
“There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience,” he wrote. “A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.”
Putin has that philosophy hard-wired into his political soul. When it comes to using scoundrels to get what he wants, he is a professional, and Trump is only an amateur. That is the istina of the matter.