Vast efforts to portray Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin's flunky have given Trump huge incentives to prove otherwise. Last Thursday, he began the process in a big way by ordering a missile attack on Russia's close ally Syria. In the aftermath of the attack, the cheerleading from U.S. mass media was close to unanimous, and the assault won lots of praise on Capitol Hill. Finally, the protracted and fervent depictions of Trump as a Kremlin tool were getting some tangible results.
At this point, the anti-Russia bandwagon has gained so much momentum that a national frenzy is boosting the odds of unfathomable catastrophe. The world's two nuclear superpowers are in confrontation mode.
It's urgent to tell ourselves and each other: Wake up!
The dangers of a direct U.S.-Russian military conflict are spiking upward. After the missile attack, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it was suspending a memorandum of understanding with the United States to prevent mid-air collisions over Syria. And Russia's prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, issued a statement referring to "our now completely ruined relations" and declaring that the United States was "on the verge of a military clash with Russia."
These ominous developments are a longtime dream come true for ultra-hawks like Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who've gained leverage in an alliance with numerous congressional Democrats. The neocons and the "liberal interventionists" really have something going now, after propagating the meme that Trump is a Putin puppet.
At this perilous moment in human history, the quality of the Democratic Party leadership was embodied in a tweet last month from the Democratic National Committee's new chair, Tom Perez, who sent out this message about a weekly address by President Trump: "Translated from the original Russian and everything."
Such tactics aren't just McCarthyite. They are baiting, goading and pressurizing Trump to prove that he's willing to clash with Russia after all.
Those tactics are a far cry from what's actually needed -- truly independent investigations -- in order to address the charges that Russia interfered with the U.S. election last year. We most definitely do not need the kind of baiting and goading that creates enormous pressure on Trump to show he's willing and able to go to the brink of war with Russia.