Traditional Christian mysticism holds that one of the gifts of the spirit is cardiognosis—the ability to read hearts.
Apparently that ancient charism, usually reserved for saints, also is going to be an essential tool for the reporters and analysts who deal with Donald Trump’s incoming administration. Trump’s chief apologist Kellyanne Conway—whose bizarrely inexplicable enthusiasm for defending the indefensible would give Freud a migraine—put the cardiognostic case this way when explaining how her boss could deny ridiculing a disabled reporter, even though the incident was recorded on video: “You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth,” she complained to CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “rather than look at what’s in his heart.”
Oh, right—which naturally brings us to the topic of those “golden showers.”
(Now, that’s a phrase I never anticipated typing in the course of my work, but then, so is “president-elect Trump.” Still, that’s the world in which we now find ourselves, so stop sniggering.)
Golden showergate, as it’s inevitably come to be called, involves reports first made public Tuesday that Russian intelligence put together material that could be used to blackmail then-candidate Trump, including footage of him watching hired prostitutes urinate on the bed of the Moscow Ritz Carlton’s presidential suite.
At a press conference Wednesday, the president-elect denied that such an incident occurred. ““I’m also very much a germaphobe, by the way.” Trump told the reporters. “It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. It was gotten by opponents of ours. It was a group of opponents who got together—sick people, and they put that crap together.”
OK, that’s what he says, but if we apply the Conway test, what about what’s in his heart?
There’s the rub, because—as the lawyers like to say—Conway assumes a fact not in evidence. While it’s undeniable that Trump has a heart in the anatomical sense that there’s an organ pumping blood in his chest, it’s not at all clear that he has a heart in the sense that his explainer-in-chief implies. That older sense of the noun conceived the heart that place in the spirit where conscience, values and the operations of an interior life reside. There’s no doubt whatsoever that Trump has appetites, instincts and impulses—all the attributes of the lower orders. But conscience, compunction or introspection, those essential qualities of fully realized humanity? There, we’re on dubious ground.
Speaking purely for myself—and as someone too preoccupied with my own libido to be particularly interested in the quirks of others—I’ve never been clear on the erotic charge to be had from urination or defecation. Clearly, however, there are those do experience a link between the body’s eliminatory functions and sexual excitement. Can Trump be one of them? Well, one supposes that after you’ve “grabbed” enough reluctant pussy, one must venture further afield for libidinous stimulation.
Is that the direction in which the president-elect’s locker room appetites take him? It’s possible, one supposes. When it comes to judging politicians, I’ve always been dubious about what they say they’re going to do, since—life being what it is—almost nobody actually gets to do everything they say they’re going to do. What matters more to me, is the one thing I know a person can control: what they won’t do. In Trump’s case—even granting the Conway standard its broadest and most charitable application—I haven’t the faintest idea what Trump’s limits may be, except for his unwillingness to release his tax returns.
Back in the realm of reality and evidence as opposed to Conway’s mystical politics, the document alleging this particular sexual eccentricity on Trump’s part does seem a particularly problematic product of the secret world. According to reports, it was compiled by a former counter-intelligence specialist for Britain’s MI6—you remember, they’re the folks who employed Kim Philby and his friends—who now works as a private security consultant. He or she apparently was hired initially by wealthy Republicans anxious to find out if there was anything to worry about in Trump’s Russian connections.
At some point, the consultant peddled his 35-page work product, which alleges multiple contacts between Trump operatives and Russian intelligence and members of Putin’s circle, to the Democrats, who for sound reasons declined to make use of it. It apparently has been making the rounds in Washington and, at some point late last year, it fell into the hands of Sen. John McCain, who passed it on to the FBI. (Given that it doesn’t mention Hillary Clinton’s emails, we may assume their interest was minimal.)
In its report Tuesday, CNN characterized the document’s author as someone “whose past work U.S. Intelligence officials consider credible.” In an earlier, less specific report, Mother Jones wrote that the author, “is a former senior intelligence officer for a Western Country who specialized in Russian counter-intelligence.”
The full report, which you now can find online, courtesy of Buzzfeed, alleges that the Kremlin has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump for five years as part of a campaign to split “the Western alliance,” presumably NATO. Frankly, to have conceived the failed Casino operator turned golf course promoter turned reality TV personality as a credible vessel for such ambitions that long ago would have required another of those spiritual gifts: Prophecy.
At the very least, one of the networks ought to snatch up the Russian spy who came up with the campaign as a political analyst. The document claims that, while visiting Russia, Trump engaged in “perverted sexual acts” that were “arranged or monitored” by Russian intelligence. (According to the report, Russian spies have been eavesdropping on Hillary Clinton as far back as the 1990’s, but never caught her in anything more indiscreet than privately contradicting her public political positions. No wonder the FBI wasn’t interested.)
Both Trump and President Barack Obama were given summaries of the full document during their separate intelligence briefings last week, though none of our spies have confirmed the contents.
What are we to make of this? Sensational revelation? Disinformation? Commercial fiction cooked up by an ex-spook trying to hustle the rubes for a living? Who knows?
There’s so much about Trump and his circle that is inarguably and undeniably repellant and thoroughly objectionable that it hardly matters.
As John le Carre’s arch-spy George Smiley put it, “That’s thing about secrets. They’re secret.” You never know what’s in them—nor in the hearts that keep them.