There is nothing inconsistent in Trump's attitude toward Russia. Donald Trump could kiss Hillary Clinton on the cheek and say she is the queen of decency. Does that capture your attention? Good. The New York Times can be forgiven for complaining of whiplash in the face of Donald Trump's recent four-page assault on Russia's credibility. Does anyone have any idea what's going on? Good, because tomorrow we may be all smiles again. Does the president have any sense of his own aims or is he truly a loose cannon? Confusion and volatility are his weapons.

Does he consciously employ them?

The president's main weapons

Confusion is almost a habit with Donald Trump. Since he can move from menace to smile in a nanosecond, he fills those around him with angst and befuddlement. This extends to the whole planet when he is said to be in bed with Putin and suddenly veers toward a new cold war that grows tepid. Trump's other weapon is volatility. He is anything but predictable. He is a master of the unexpected. No president has been so brash in exhibiting these traits.

Donald Trump

To weapons must be added what can only be subplots which are when the main plot is submerged on purpose. Bear with this. We bomb Syria and Russia is critical because Putin and Assad are allies.

We publish a report that says Russia is trying to cover up the Syrian chemical attack. It's now a face-off among killers.

But do you remember Russia? Russia was the way we get Trump out of the White House by proving a tie. Putin and Trump are in the same bed! Today we have a Trump family chorus telling the Times we now have proof that there never was a Trump-Russia tie.

This is a game in which the winner is the one not overcome by exhaustion.

Good or not?

Good is the sum of truth and beauty and there is nothing true or beautiful about the international scene just now. Good is known by its fruits.

We do not have the option after the election of putting the genie back in the bottle. But there is a reasonable and useful method of measuring good. Measure it in terms of harm done and hurt inflicted. Measure the actuality of it. In the social media environment, I do not think that taking offense necessarily qualifies as being harmed. The harm done is the loss of one's insurance, getting hit by a car or domestic abuse. Good is avoiding such fates.

One can, if one chooses, stand apart from Donald Trump's posturing and reserve our judgment for what truly does harm or avoids it. I recall the attack on the Khan family and on others during the campaign. It certainly seems that the president was being harmful, not least in encouraging a general mood of intolerance and perhaps inciting some acts that did actual harm. Whether the latest gyration on Russia will do harm or good will depend on what it prevents or what it unleashes.