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OPINION

As the West closes ranks against Putin, Trump asks the Russian war criminal for political help

The former president’s plea for dirt on Hunter Biden is disgraceful. Republicans should recognize that.

One hopes that more and more everyday Republicans will finally come to see Donald Trump for the callous, amoral opportunist he is.Sean Rayford/Getty

It would be shocking if we still had the capacity to be stunned by anything our former president does.

Donald Trump is publicly seeking the help of a brutal war criminal in his effort to weaken Joe Biden by generating dirt about the president’s controversial son Hunter.

Honestly, if this doesn’t break the camel’s back, we are looking at one truly indomitable dromedary. The conceptual camel in question? The continuing allegiance of grass-roots Republicans to Trump.

That comes despite regular revelations about Trump’s disgraceful conduct. It’s not often, after all, that one sees a prominent American politician who through word and deed so regularly reveals his utter disdain for the rules, rites, and rituals of democracy. And yet Trump remains the favorite of conservative flag-wavers who claim the mantle of true American patriots.

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So let’s repeat what should be obvious: You can’t honestly say you cherish democracy if your respect for the rules of the road ends when your candidate loses. To cast that proposition forward, a politically aware American can’t plausibly claim to support both our Constitution and the man who tried to subvert it. The two are polar opposite values.

Consider what Federal District Court Judge David Carter wrote in his recent ruling that John Eastman, louche legal strategist for Trump’s attempted auto-coup, had to turn over relevant e-mails to the Jan. 6 committee: “If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”

Carter also declared it is “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”

Nor, according to US Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, did Trump’s scheming stop after the MAGA storming of the Capitol. Miffed that Trump withdrew his endorsement in this year’s Senate contest, Brooks has said that, for months after Jan. 6, 2021, Trump repeatedly asked him to “rescind” Joe Biden’s election, somehow reinstall him as president, and then hold a new, special election, actions that would have no basis in law.

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Faced with Judge Carter’s assessment and Brooks’s assertions, your run-of-the-mill rogue would have ducked low in the hopes that the brutal, unprovoked war Russia is waging against Ukraine would so dominate the news cycle that it would limit the time and attention paid to those stories.

Not Trump. Instead, he went on television and tried to leverage the war in Ukraine to his political advantage. Noting that Putin was currently “not exactly a fan of our country,” Trump called on the Russian despot to release unflattering information he might have about the president’s influence-peddling son

That resembles Trump’s public call during the 2016 campaign for Russia to find the e-mails he deemed “missing” from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s private server. Realizing how untoward it looked for him to be appealing to Russia to help his presidential campaign, Trump soon claimed that he was only being sarcastic. (Still, Russian hackers undertook a successful effort to break digitally into the e-mail accounts of Clinton’s presidential campaign.) This time, Trump has doubled down on his hope for Putin’s help.

As others have noted, Trump’s logic seems based on the Machiavelli-like maxim that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And yet, as Machiavelli might note were he alive today, if the enemy of your enemy is a poisonous tyrant with the blood of innocents on his hands, it’s probably best not to seek his aid in your latest attempt to scuff up a political rival.

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In an alert nation, Putin’s brutal war on Ukraine should have a recontextualizing effect. Those who have been Putin’s patsies, poodles, far-right apologists, and propagandists — “useful idiots,” Vladimir Lenin would have said — would come to be seen for the dupes, dolts, or democracy-despisers they are.

Certainly one hopes that more and more everyday Republicans will finally come to see Trump for the callous, amoral opportunist he is. And that as they do, his role as de facto GOP chief will crack and crumble. It is, after all, crucial for the well-being of a democracy that a healthy majority of the public is still able to recognize contemptible political conduct.

It would be encouraging if that occurs of its own accord. But even if it doesn’t — and even if most Republicans can’t yet see the folly of renominating for president a man whose campaign would trumpet the preposterous lie that the 2020 election was stolen — these newest developments would provide devastating ammunition for future political battles.

That alone should give rational Republicans ample reason to shun Trump.

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Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at scot.lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.