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A Russian spy in the White House?

A Russian spy in the White House? Featured

PRIOR to the internet, Kindle books, social media, Facebook, we read real books. Books we can hold in our hands with real pages one thumbs through; books that are either sold in bookstores, like National Bookstore and Alemar’s (in Metro Manila) or borrowed from libraries. With the advent of new technologies, books can still be read but mostly downloadable; worse, we just google the plot, read the synopsis and voila! — we have the patina of an intellectual and impress women with our “wide reading fare.” Unless the women one intends to impress also do the same — google the plots. In my day (which my son Carlo refers to as “during the dark ages”), to cheat, we read the comic book version of the classics; which means, we may not read the original tomes — Quo Vadis, Two Years Before the Mast, Moby Dick etc. — or if adapted on screen, we simply watch the movie.

But the books that I particularly like are seldom adapted into movies, unless they are international bestsellers. In which case, I read both the book and watch its movie version. Which brings me to my regular fare during the dark ages (1960s-1990s) – prior to the internet, which burst into the scene in its primitive version in the mid-1980s, but really came into its own and people’s consciousness only in the 1990s or thereabouts, upon the inception of the World Wide Web.

I love spy stories (I also love Henry Miller’s novels, particularly the classic Tropic of Cancer and similar ones of that genre). In college and shortly after in the mid-1960s I discovered certain authors that wrote copious books on espionage and political fiction. I was born and live through the Cold War, 1947 to 1991— the post-World War 2 decades of geopolitical non-bloody confrontation between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), now Russia, and the United States and its Western allies, chiefly Britain, France, West Germany and Italy, among others. The Philippines, as a former colony of America, was positioned smack into the Western alliance.

The Cold War era was reflected in the fictional literature of the times and produced my favorite contemporary authors with books I devoured. John le Carré, Ian Fleming, Richard Condon, Jason Matthews, Frederick Forsyth and Tom Clancy, among others. Many of these books became bestsellers and the Hollywood money machine turned some of them into iconic symbols of the period. Ian Fleming’s James Bond series has produced two dozen blockbusters, not so much due to the inane plots but for the fascinating gadgets, action and gore and more importantly, for some of my septuagenarian classmates (the author excepted), the “eye candy” exposition of Bond’s women in various stages of undress, arousing some primal memories of past engagements.

I prefer, of course, the political undertones of the novels of John le Carré that depicts the betrayal by a real British double agent, Kim Philby, who was recruited as a student in Cambridge, England, by the KGB, the Russian secret service. The book published in 1974, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was brought to the screen in 2011. This was followed by The Honourable Schoolboy (1977), and Smiley’s People (1979) with the same recurring theme; the co-opted British intelligence agents engaging in psycho-warfare with Soviet spies, exposing the weaknesses of both the democratic and totalitarian systems. The reader is invited to think deeper on the plot’s nuances, but the film version contrasts with James Bond, bereft of gadgets, violence and skin. Le Carré’s are the intelligent spy stories.

On another level is Jason Matthews, The Kremlin’s Candidate. This more contemporary novel depicts Dominika Egorova, a double agent for the US CIA planted in the Kremlin and gaining the trust of President Vladimir Putin who with his KGB concocted a plan to assassinate the CIA Director and substitute him with Putin’s mole in the CIA.

But the spy novel that hews closely to contemporary US politics is Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate. The original movie adaptation was in 1962, starring Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury and Janet Leigh. The Manchurian candidate was an American soldier captured and imprisoned during the Korean war. As the prisoner of war, Raymond Shaw (played by Harvey) was subsequently brainwashed by the North Koreans and repatriated to the US as a war hero. “After his discharge back into civilian life, he becomes an unwitting assassin involved in an International communist conspiracy. Officials from China and the Soviet Union employ Shaw as a sleeper agent in an attempt to subvert and take over the United States government.”

But the fascinating plot involves a deeply implanted psychological triggering mechanism that upon seeing the Queen of Diamonds card, Shaw is primed to kill the US presidential candidate, substituting him with the popular vice president who was Shaw’s stepfather, and who would, upon election, declare martial law.

This fascinating plot about the co-optation of an American hero by the Soviets could be adapted to the present political drama now unfolding in the United States. Real life follows fiction. We can twist the plot that hews close to scenarios now being peddled by the American liberal-leaning media.

President Donald Trump, as presented by these credible leading US news organizations, is the central figure. Inuendoes abound about his long secret relationship with Russia and Putin’s role in his election. Putin was once the head of the KGB and certainly an expert in the arcana of international espionage. The KGB “honeypot trap” is famous for ensnaring sexually prodigious unsuspecting victims that could be blackmailed. Innuendoes and reports on Trump having been a subject of this plot have been circulating among the US media cognoscenti on the existence of the “pee-pee tapes.” This and Trump’s sorry actuations in the Helsinki summit with Putin are being interpreted as the US President’s scornful role as a defense attorney for Russia — and worse the groveling marionette of Putin.

Fiction and reality could merge when Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller comes up with his report on the two-year-long investigation into Russia’s suspected collusion with the Trump campaign to pervert the US election process. And now, the Washington Post has published an op-ed that says Trump had been investigated by the FBI since 2017 as possibly an agent of Putin. The inference being that the capitalist Trump with several bankruptcies to his name has been saved and nurtured by Putin over the years making him vulnerable to Putin’s machinations. His constant declaration of “no collusion, no collusion” smacks of a forced and fake denial, insinuating the reverse. Putin could have sized him up years back and saw his vulnerability and worked on him as the “useful idiot” or an unwitting participant — or a combination of both.

In the next few weeks, we could see the unraveling of a conspiracy that could beat the best of John le Carré spy novels, Jason Matthews, The Kremlin’s Candidate and Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate all rolled into one: the Donald, the US President — the Russian spy in the White House.000
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