Donnie and Vlad: A Love Story – New York Times

Trump liked him all right and stopped playing coy in 2013, before he traveled to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant there. “Do you think Putin will be going?” Trump tweeted, and you could picture him poised blushingly over his keypad, like a schoolgirl scribbling in her diary. “If so, will he become my new best friend?”

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“Do you think Putin will be going?” Trump tweeted, before the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.

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Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

After the event, he did what all freshly besotted lovers do: crowed to the world about the bliss that the two of them had known.

“Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present,” he said early the next year, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, but he failed to describe the token. Lovers have their confidences, and must hold tight to them.

Trump enveloped the two of them in mystery, creating confusion about what was really going on. Apparently referring to that Miss Universe moment, Trump told journalists, “I was in Moscow recently, and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin.”

So they were unambiguously and ambiguously involved. “We were stable mates,” he said of another time that they kind of, but not really, crossed paths, each with a separate segment on the same “60 Minutes,” two wild horses in one media corral.

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Pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin

But how Trump felt about Putin was no secret. He routinely praised Putin’s muscular will. He repeatedly defended Putin’s honor, taking umbrage at talk of Putin’s Russia as a place where naysaying journalists and political opponents wound up dead.

“I think our country does plenty of killing also,” he told Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe.”

This was when Barack Obama was still in the White House, and the fact that he was Putin’s official counterpart, with more formal claim to the Russian leader’s time and attention, drove Trump a little mad. Jealousy is a tangerine-topped monster, and Trump repeatedly insisted that he’d be better with and for Putin, that Obama and Putin even looked wrong together.

“Really bad body language,” Trump tweeted at one point. And later, this, in an interview with Anderson Cooper: “He has no respect for Obama.” The proof, Trump added, was Edward Snowden’s safe harbor in Russia. “If I’m president, Putin says, ‘Hey, boom, you’re gone.’ I guarantee you this.” Love, alas, is as bad at predictions as it is blind.

Trump had a way of hauling Putin into unrelated conversations, just to insist that Putin cared only for him. He volunteered that while Marco Rubio, one of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, was a dreamboat to some, he’d be a leaky dinghy to Putin.

“Can you imagine Putin sitting there waiting for a meeting and Rubio walks in and he’s totally drenched?” Trump said in the winter of 2016. “I’ve never seen a human being sweat like this man sweats.” Take me, Vlad. I don’t sweat. I glow.

Trump grew frisky. “Russia is like, I mean, they’re really hot stuff,” he blurted, and it was obvious that he was thinking of Putin, whom he’d mentioned a moment earlier.

Trump grew insecure. Not once and not twice but more than eight times he bragged that Putin had called him “brilliant” or “a genius,” when there was in fact much dispute about that. By some translations, Putin merely described him as “colorful,” and could well have been appraising nothing more than his vaguely orange hue.

Is it any wonder that Trump craved a grand gesture for all the world to behold? He publicly beseeched Russia to ferret out and expose “the 30,000 emails that are missing” from a personal server that Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state. If I mean anything at all to you, Vlad, you’ll do it.

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It’s clear what Trump has done: fashioned himself in the swaggering image of his beloved Putin — like Olivia Newton-John in “Grease.” And it’s gross.

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Paramount Pictures/Photofest

Now, at long last, they come face to face, and while it’s uncertain what Trump will say, it’s clear what Trump has done: fashioned himself in the swaggering, blustering image of his beloved. It’s “Grease.” And it’s gross.


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