It is hard not to get even more disturbed by the latest explosion of political animosity in the United States and fear it is a situation which is rapidly spiralling – and it is impossible to see what the consequences might be. In true Donald Trump style, the president-elect has hit back after the publication of reports that say Russia has collected damaging information about his business interests and salacious video evidence of his private life, including claims of using prostitutes in Moscow.
These reports are unverifiable and have been circulating among US media for some months, but they were felt sufficiently credible that US intelligence agencies chose to brief Trump and President Barack Obama.
The Scotsman has decided not to publish the unverified allegations in full, but to give enough information that people understand the nature of the aaccusations. Two factors largely shaped this decision, the first the credence given to them by the US federal agencies, and the second that the man in question is the leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world, not a private citizen, and his actions could have a direct impact on all of us.
Trump has now blamed the intelligence agencies for allowing the reports to be leaked to the media, and comparing that to the actions of the Nazis in Germany.
What was a bit lost in the storm yesterday was the first admission by Trump that Russia had been behind the hacking attacks on the Democratic party during the election. Previously he had claimed the intelligence agencies had got this wrong and were involved in a political witchhunt.
The intelligence agencies, sworn to defend America from attack, must be bewildered.
So as the plot from what sounds like a spy novel rockets towards who-knows-what, where should attention be focussed?
Yesterday, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson told his Senate confirmation hearing that Russia probably was behind the cyber attack, and that it pursued military action to further its own interests but it was “predictable” and weak US leadership that had allowed Russia to become dominant.
As chief executive of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson did multi-billion-dollar deals with Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft, and was awarded an Order of Friendship by the Kremlin.
Perhaps it may seem trivial, but let us contrast some of the language used yesterday. President-elect Trump denied all the allegations saying it was “phoney stuff” and “sick people” came up with “that crap”. He said CNN was “fake news”. He described Islamic state as “number one tricky”.
In his farewell speech in Chicago, President Barack Obama paid an eloquent tribute to his wife Michele, saying: ”You took on a role you didn’t ask for and you made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humour. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.”
Which speaker gives greater cause for optimism, and which inspires fear and loathing?