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Trump’s links to Russia are bad – but he’s doing far worse

The Guardian logo The Guardian 6 days ago Emma Brockes

There is an extraordinary paragraph at the end of one of Maggie Haberman’s string of extraordinary pieces about Donald Trump in the New York Times this week is hard to categorise as good or bad news. The piece, about Trump leaking classified information to the Russians, ends with an off-the-record assessment by White House insiders: the president probably didn’t leak anything of too serious a nature, because he’s simply not engaged or well-informed enough to have read the relevant briefings.

Related: James Comey feels nauseous about the Clinton emails? That's not enough | Richard Wolffe

Coming so soon after the firing of James Comey, this latest crisis means that Trump’s collusion with Russia is, for many, an inevitable conclusion. But in an odd way, it might just as easily imply the opposite. Before firing Comey, Trump was reportedly offended not only that the FBI director wouldn’t do his bidding but also that Comey had told the Senate judiciary committee of feeling “mildly nauseous” at the thought that the timing of his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails had influenced the outcome of the election. The implications of this statement were, whatever the president’s general deficiencies in comprehension, clearly not lost on Trump.

All of which, despite the timing of the dismissal, makes it just as likely that Trump fired Comey out of pique as out of strategic calculations. In fact, it becomes increasingly impossible to believe Trump has any powers of strategic thinking at all, unless he is being expertly – and, one would imagine, unwittingly – guided by superior minds. If he is not, then every new public embrace of the Russians looks less like a red flag for treason, or some complicated effort on Trump’s part to hide in plain sight, than another gaffe from a man who doesn’t even know enough to know when he’s incriminating himself.

In a long piece in the New York Review of Books earlier this year, Masha Gessen argued for us to dismiss the Russia connection as a red herring, a paranoid hangover from the cold war, and a distraction from Trump’s real evils – on immigration, press freedom, and the influence of big money on the integrity of government. “Russia has become the universal rhetorical weapon of American politics,” wrote Gessen, and while every week seems to bring new evidence of Trump’s “collusion”, I find myself ever more persuaded by this thought.

Fare way to heaven

A view of New York from New Jersey, across the Hudson river, which the M5 bus follows © Provided by Guardian News A view of New York from New Jersey, across the Hudson river, which the M5 bus follows A view of New York from New Jersey, across the Hudson river, which the M5 bus follows. Photograph: Gary Hershorn/EPA

The crosstown buses in New York are infuriatingly slow, and everyone on them is angry. But there are some more marginal routes that have a quieter flow, and I love them. My favourite is the M5, which heads west from 72nd Street up Riverside Drive, following the line of the Hudson. It’s mostly favoured by pensioners trying to get to the subway, or opportunists going a few stops up a very long road. Riding this route with young children is like walking in the park with a dog; people talk to you, either to commiserate over how hard it is to keep two-year-olds in their seats, or to tell you about their grandkids. Banging on about community always feels a bit fake, but this is a tiny, nice thing in bad times.

Mamma meltdown

Black Friday shoppers in New York. © Provided by Guardian News Black Friday shoppers in New York. Black Friday shoppers in New York. Photograph: Michael Nagle/Getty Images

It rained all day on Saturday and we took two buses to the Museum of Natural History, which was pushing it. By the time we got there, the main entrance was like a scene from Black Friday. Every kid within sight was on the floor having meltdowns.

Parenting experts go on about soothing toddlers out of their tantrums, but I’ve never found any of their approaches work. Then this morning, as we were leaving the house in a hurry for preschool, one of my toddlers took a purple felt tip and drew all over the other one’s shirt. I felt something take off in my brain. I wanted to scream and bang my head on the floor. I wanted to break things.

Instead, I went and stood in the kitchen, flapping my hands uselessly against the sides of my body until the moment had passed. Afterwards, I felt much more cheerful and understanding of the toddler in meltdown. It is sometimes useful to recall how it feels.

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