Trump is seamier, cruder and more temperamentally authoritarian than Bush and Obama, and his Russian romance lacks the establishment pedigree of the Bush-Saudi connections and the cosmopolitan idealism of Obama’s wooing of the Muslim world.
But his team’s dalliances with Russian oligarchs and his inner circle’s dumb attempts to set up a secret line to Putin could still just turn out to be a seamier, cruder, more stumblebum version of the Bush-Saudi links that set Michael Moore and Craig Unger ablaze in the Bush years, or the attempts to woo Tehran and tame the Muslim Brotherhood that persuaded anti-Obama paranoiacs that he was an agent of Shariah.
The whole Russia affair might, in other words, just be what it looks like when an inexperienced, incompetent and, yes, sordid presidential apparatus tries to pursue a different foreign policy agenda than its predecessors.
Which would not make that agenda wise. The Russian threat is currently inflated: A post-Communist Russia will always be a troublesome rival, but it need not be an eternal enemy, and if our presidents can maintain alliances and forge deals with dictators in Riyadh and Tehran, they can also make deals with the strongman in Moscow. But Trump pretty clearly lacks the gifts required for that kind of deal making, and instead he’s much more likely to be a mark for the Russians, who can use his desire for a kind of super-reset to sow divisions in NATO without offering much of substance in return.