Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do (The Beach Boys)
I was going to write something about last night’s speech, but Sarah Kendzior has written a wonderful rebuttal that is better than anything I could do. It’s here and I highly recommend reading it.
The headline to Sarah’s piece says “Trump played nice for the night,” and that seems to have come as a surprise to a lot of people. President 44 1/2 doesn’t often play nice or like to talk much about things that would be nice. His rhetoric leans towards fearfulness and apocalyptic ravings, with some empty promises and slogans thrown in, such as in last night’s speech. Indeed, I Googled “donald trump wouldn’t it be nice” and I found a few references to an off the cuff remark he made at a town hall in October about not broadcasting battle strategies. Oh, and also, about one thousand references or variations on the same theme, that he keeps hitting over and over again:
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we got together with Russia and knocked the hell out of ISIS?”
The President has been saying this for years now, so I’d thought I’d respond. I want to ask him if he’s ever seen Black Mask, or is somehow otherwise familiar with the story of Whitey Bulger and FBI agent John Connolly. Because an alliance between the US and Putin’s Russia would be built on the same moral ground as the alliance between the FBI and Whitey Bulger, and a Putin alliance would be just as bad for the US as the Bulger alliance was for the FBI.
In the movie Black Mass, based on a famous real life case, it’s quickly obvious that FBI agent John Connolly has a case of hero-worship toward Whitey Bulger. It’s portrayed as a by-product of Connolly’s growing up in the same neighborhood.
Connolly: I’ve known him since forever!
His wife Marianne: And you certainly hold your boyhood heroes in high regard. ‘Jimmy’ this, ‘Jimmy’ that…
Connolly: He was very good to me when I was little, Marianne, that’s all you need to know.
Marianne: [sarcastically] How was he good to you, John? Did he take you trick-or-treating?
Trump and Connolly share the same sort of whiny, smarmy and obviously-full-of-shit personality, and Connolly’s constant fawning over Bulger is similar to Trump’s constant fawning over Putin, whom he has a pathological need to keep praising. Obviously, someone finally managed to get through to him that it’s a bit unseemly for the US President to fawn over a tyrannical murdering dictator like a teenage girls fawns over the latest boy band singer, because 44 1/2 somehow managed to get through a whole speech last night without once kissing up to Putin, some sort of record. In the past it’s been stuff like this:
Like Connolly, Trump’s taken in by the slightest of gestures:
TRUMP: I was in Moscow a couple months ago, I own the Miss Universe pageant, and they treated me so great. Putin even sent me a present, beautiful present, with a beautiful note. (2015)
W.W.C. Liberal [sarcastically] Awww, was it a really nice present? Did the note ask you if you LIKE-liked him, circle yes or no?
Connolly and Trump both exhibit lots of praise for the leadership abilities of their respective man-crushes.
It’s no secret that Southie’s been a war zone lately, what with 60, 70 slayings. But your brother, and his Winter Hill boys, they’re still out there. They must be doing something right.
I believe Putin will continue to re-build the Russian Empire…Putin has become a big hero in Russia with an all time high popularity.
Putin’s leadership abilities ARE similar to Bulger’s, in that both mainly stem from a willingness to murder and strong-arm his opponents, both lead using fear and intimidation tactics, both favor backdoor deals and betrayal over loyalty, and both are willing to lie to anyone no matter how close to them. And while Bulger poisoned the neighborhood he was supposedly helping and looking after with drugs while murdering people and sexually exploiting minors, Putin has destroyed the economy and standing of the country that he’s supposed to be leading with such strength, also while murdering people and sexually exploiting minors.
Trump and Connolly both pursue an “alliance” with Putin and Bulger, who basically have the same motivations in accepting such a partnership. It’s these motivations that Trump and Connolly don’t understand, which is why they are not playing by the same rules as their supposed partners. As Whitey puts it:
…it’s a business opportunity. Get the FBI to fight our wars against our enemies. While they protect us, we do whatever the fuck we want to do.
Connolly says that Bulger is helping the FBI clean up crime in Boston, but what’s really happening is the FBI is helping Bulger consolidate power as the king of crime in Boston. Trump says that Putin will help us defeat ISIS, but Putin doesn’t care about ISIS’ oppression of people. He is only using the fight against ISIS as a cover to move his troops around and expand and consolidate his own power in Syria and elsewhere, so he can be the main oppressor of people.
The President would be wise to watch this movie and note the parallels. His good friend Steve Mnuchin, new Treasury Secretary, could get him a copy. Mnuchin was a producer on the film. (A real movie-producing, hedge-fund managing, Goldman Sachs executive man of the people, that Mnuchin.) The movie could provide him some warning of the path this kind of partnership takes us down. Eventually, each partner is sharing in the other’s corruption. Whitey, who has no illusions about “loyalty” in the partnership and therefore less constraints on his behavior, quickly flips the power structure on Connolly, who actually trusts Whitey, thinking the bond he has imagined exists between them puts both men on equal footing with each other. Whitey barely gives any information to Connolly, who fabricates tips to credit him with for his bosses, from information taken from other informants. Meanwhile, Whitey uses information he gets from Connolly to aid in his criminal activity. Whitey even gets Connolly to give up the name of another criminal informant who has implicated him in a murder, and when he kills the man, Connolly becomes complicit in his murder. Later Whitey involves him in another murder, in Miami, dragging him even further into the criminal enterprise.
As Bulger’s star rises, Connolly starts wearing nicer clothes, driving a nicer car, getting manicures, and if every once in a while Bulger gets out of line with Connolly’s wife or partner, what’s the big deal? They’re cleaning up crime! But while Connolly brags about having cleaned up the Mafia, he and Whitey don’t make the city of Boston any safer. In fact, for the enemies of Whitey Bulger, it becomes a good deal more dangerous. Also for the 12 and 13 year old girls Whitey gets hooked on heroin. And the teenage girls he turns out onto the streets.
Trump may think that Putin values his friendship and respect, but he does not. Like Whitey to Connolly, Putin only values Trump for what he thinks he can get out of him. Trump may think Putin has an interest in defeating ISIS or building a coalition or a partnership. Putin doesn’t care about defeating ISIS, he only cares about expanding his own territory. His only desire when it comes to American interests is to see them weakened in order to improve his own prospects, knowing that a weaker America can do less to stand up to Russian expansionism. He may pretend to help America, but only in order to sabotage her, because a stronger America is counter to Putin’s desires, just as an effective FBI would have been counter to Bulger’s.
Eventually, Connolly’s bosses tumble to the fact that he is a criminal and a liar who has been taking money from his supposed informant to look the other way and worse as well as betraying his position as an FBI agent and a law enforcement official, but not before dozens of people are murdered, many more terrorized and hooked on drugs, and the FBI’s standing, position and reputation is damaged beyond repair. Trump’s bosses are Congress and the American people. If Trump can’t figure out for himself that the Trump-Putin alliance will end up doing the same kind of damage to the USA on a much greater scale as the Connolly-Bulger alliance, it will fall to his bosses to hold him accountable, demand answers, and ask why he hasn’t been doing his job. They’re already starting to ask questions, and Trump has responded much like Connolly did when his bosses leveled criticism at Bulger:
CONNOLLY: What’s Bulger done?
FBI BOSS: Everything, evidently. Drugs, extortion, murder.
CONNOLLY: Slander and lies from his brother Billy’s political opponents.
Connolly never did fully grasp the rules of the relationship. He never did abandon his unrequited love for Whitey and refused to testify against Bulger after their “alliance” ruined his life and career. He got forty years for his loyalty while Whitey ran. It won’t be such a simple ending for our new partners in bromance. I hope we’re all a little quicker to look past the flailing accusations of slander and lies from Trump than the FBI was when it came to John Connolly and Whitey Bulger, because Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are playing a bigger game with millions more lives and the fates of nations at stake, and only one of those men really understands the rules.