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When Donnie called Vladdie

  Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald J. Trump at the G-20 Hamburg Summit, 7/7/17. Courtesy the Kremlin.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald J. Trump at the G-20 Hamburg Summit, 7/7/17. Courtesy the Kremlin.

Just when you thought you could take a break from the greatest love affair of the 21st century – which is actually sort of like one of those horror movies in which the dead guy’s hand keeps rising up out of the grave – it’s back and hotter than ever.

No sooner had Vladimir Putin – alias “Vlad the Lad Rootin’ Tootin’” Putin – won another six-year term as Russian president, an outcome that was never in doubt, then President Donald J. Trump, alias “Donnie Two Scoops,” was on the horn to congratulate him. Trumpet’s handlers, er, advisers had warned him not to congratulate Vladdie in that phone call to discuss important presidential stuff like setting up a summit to discuss what Donnie calls the heating-up arms race. (Are those nuclear arms, Donnie, or yearning ones?)  But like a contrary child, Donnie went ahead to salute his BFF.

It’s like “Brokeback Mountain” – you know, without the elegantly spare Annie Proulx story, the sensitive Ang Lee direction, the haunting Gustavo Santaolalla score and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal’s magnificent performances. Like Gyllenhaal’s Jack, who tells Ledger’s Ennis, “I wish I knew how to quit you,” Trumpet can’t seem to quit Pootie. But the connection seems to go beyond the rumored prostitutes and money laundering – the twin Achilles’ heels (more like Achilles’ privates) of Trumpet, the theory being that this is Rootin’ Tootin’s real hold over Donnie Two Scoops. No, there is a need on Trumpet’s part not only to be admired by an audience but to be loved by a friend – a friend who is the autocrat he longs to be.  After all, who are Trump’s friends apart from a family bound by blood and money?

This would seem to be a paradox, given Trumpet’s solipsistic narcissism. But I think deep down the narcissist needs to be loved, as we all do, understands that his narcissism pushes all but manipulative sychophants away and, regardless, has to have that audience, even if it’s an audience of one.

There have been other American presidents who had relationships with Russian leaders – Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin were thrown together by World War II; Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin by a fledgling Russian democracy.

Now we have Trump and Putin – the man who betrayed Yeltsin and that fledgling democracy, who built his landslide victory, so-called, on the idea that it’s Russia against the (still American-led) West.

In “Brokeback Mountain,” Ennis and Jack’s all-consuming but secret love leads to the death of some of the sheep they were hired to tend on the mountain – a metaphor for the swath of personal destruction still to be unleashed.

The question is, Will America become those sheep while Trump and Putin play footsie?