What Kind of Cheese Did Putin Sweet Talk Out of Trump? –The Crow and The Fox

There has been no shortage of punditry around the significance of Trump and Putin’s meeting. One NPR commentator said, “Isn’t there a fable about this, something along the lines of the hens letting the fox in the coop?” Well, actually, there is a fable that’s apropos, but the story is about a crow and a fox. The hens are not so vain or silly!

Mister Crow was perched on a tree branch, a cheese in his beak. Mister Fox, drawn by the delicious aroma, engaged the crow in conversation with words more or less like these:

Well, hello! Good morning My Good Sir Crow. I can’t get over how good looking you are. You are as handsome as they come. No lie, if your song is as good as your plumage, then you are the crown jewel among all the feathered creatures in this wood. 

At these words the crow was overcome with joy. To demonstrate his beautiful voice, he opened his beak wide, letting the cheese fall.

The fox grabbed the cheese and said: My good man, when will you learn that all flatterers live on what their listeners spend. No doubt this lesson is well worth a cheese.  

The crow, embarrassed and confused, swore (a bit late) that he would not be taken again.

Crow Trump dropped his cheese at Fox Putin’s feet. But what exactly is the cheese his new BFF was sniffing around after? Are we in trouble because we lost this cheese, or could we just swear off dairy for a while?

Trump is a potentially dangerous, volatile fool, who has no loyalty, except to his own vanity. But we knew that before he went to Helsinki. Nothing he said there is any different in spirit or content from what he’s said before. He has never been above trash talking his own government, the intelligence agencies, in particular. He has been calling the Mueller investigation a witch-hunt since its inception. What exactly is it that people think he gave away in his secret meeting? He can’t call off the investigation (he’d already have done that) and he doesn’t actually have the power to make real promises on behalf of the country without some input and implementation support. Unless he and Putin were talking about possible real estate deals (which is significantly plausible, since we know Trump is a self-dealer and he is unlikely to have stuck to any kind of foreign policy script), there was no real cheese to give.

In practical terms, has anything changed?

Some speculate that Putin’s great desire is to destabilize America, by, for example, meddling in elections. Well that’s already been done. Though I’m still dubious about whether there was any actual impact as a result of the interfering. Is destabilization Putin’s end game, or is legitimacy the cheese he really wanted? Putin may feel legitimized by the visit. What if that’s the cheese that Putin and Russia wanted all along?

I agree with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response. It is a good thing if the two largest nuclear powers are talking to one another. Yes, it is unfortunate that the two powers are led by so-called strongmen, though not strong on democracy, diplomacy or strategic thinking. Still, talking is better than not.

To paraphrase Marie Antoinette, let them eat cheese.

While he and Putin are eating their processed cheese food slices, let’s get to the important business.

Democracy works best when the electorate is intelligent and engaged, capable of the critical thinking necessary to separate fact from fiction. Therefore able to separate meddlesome rumour-mongering and actual candidate qualifications and policy positions. The Mueller investigation is a sideshow distraction from the real work of improving American democracy. I might even go so far as to say a waste of money. Money better spent on improving the public education system. Money better spent on developing stronger media regulation. Money better spent on fostering a fair and robust electoral system.

Our Crow-in-Chief lives in a permanent state of confusion and is never embarrassed. He is ready to succumb to anyone who asks to hear his beautiful singing voice. Let’s not succumb to the musical distraction and focus on actually making America’s democracy great.


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