There is great trepidation throughout the free world and the American electorate as President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE prepares to meet first with our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and then with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin behind closed doors.
With one of the most consequential midterm elections in American history fast approaching, Putin continuing his attacks against Western democracy and the investigation by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE of the Russia scandal moving towards a crescendo, a powerful convergence of great events has arrived.
As Trump begins his European visit, here is the playing field for this great convergence.
The first battlefield pits Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman Mattis20 years after 9/11, we've logged successes but the fight continues Defense & National Security — The mental scars of Afghanistan House panel advances 8B defense bill MORE, an invaluable defender of the post-war alliance that has protected our peace and security for seven decades, against President Trump, the only post-war president who has been consistently contemptuous of the NATO alliance.
The second battlefield pits Trump against our NATO and democratic allies, who he often criticizes and undermines while praising unsavory dictators like the Russian strongman who attacks us and abuses his people.
The third battlefield pits NATO and the democratic world against Putin, who seeks to divide and conquer democratic institutions, security relationships and economic alliances that have protected our security and enhanced our prosperity since World War II.
The fourth battlefield pits Putin and Trump against special counsel Robert Mueller, who seeks to unravel the conspiracies surrounding the Russian attack against democracy and prosecute any individuals who may have colluded or conspired in this attack.
All of these battlefields, plus the great Supreme Court confirmation battle that has now begun, are destined to keep converging and intensifying until the midterm elections, which will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s election as president in 1968.
Believers in freedom and democracy owe a profound debt to Defense Secretary Mattis, who towers above all others inside the Trump administration as a bulwark of the democratic alliance. Mattis is a good man, a modern throwback to the days when allies made common cause in defense of our common values and shared security.
By contrast, Trump, whose sense of history extends no further than the latest news cycle, and whose defense of democracy extends no further than his latest attacks against democratic leaders and praise of foreign dictators, is seen by NATO allies as a threat to their security, not a guarantor.
Trump as president is historically unprecedented. He is the first president since World War II who is not seen as the leader of the free world. Many of the leaders of free-world nations view Trump with horror and trepidation.
Trump’s disastrous behavior at the latest Group of Seven meeting, which sunk to a litany of insults against democratic allies and their leaders, led some to refer to the “Group of Six plus one."
The free world prays that Mattis will persuade Trump to play the democratic statesman at the NATO meeting. Putin yearns for Trump to continue attacking democratic leaders, dividing democratic peoples, undermining democratic alliances and tearing at the fabric of democratic institutions. Trump and Mattis may well be destined for a historic clash of world views.
It appears Trump is determined to conduct a secret meeting with Putin, with no Americans present at this critical moment. This prospect horrifies leaders throughout the democratic world who are terrified by what could transpire if Putin and Trump collude in concert, without free-world witnesses, on whatever ventures they secretly discuss.
Secretary of Defense Mattis should be present at all meetings between Putin and Trump, without exception. There must be no secret meetings between the Russian dictator and the American president.
The battlefield between Trump and Putin on one hand, and Mueller on the other, is converging with the midterm elections because of the delay and defame strategy of Trump. Putin fears Mueller because he fears the public exposure of his attacks against America.
Trump fears Mueller and masterminds an all-out attack against him, because he fears what Mueller may find about collusion between his inner circle and Russians attacking America under orders from Putin.
Mueller should take no public actions after Oct. 1 and before the midterm elections. Until Oct. 1, he should act wherever the facts lead him.
The coming midterm elections may be the most important midterm elections in American history. There is a high probability that Democrats emerge with control of at least one house of Congress and possibly both.
There is an ominous sense among voters that something has gone terribly wrong in America with Trump and Republicans in control of every branch of government.
The liberal base is rising. As I recently wrote, a growing number of principled conservatives agree that the nation would be served by Democratic control of Congress, for reasons including the battles of Mattis vs. Trump vs. NATO vs. Putin vs. Mueller discussed here.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.