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The Media’s Russia Policy In 8 Words: If A Republican’s For It, We Hate It


The New York Times published an article this morning headlined, “Donald Trump’s Campaign Stands By Embrace of Putin” that begins:

WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump’s campaign on Thursday reaffirmed its extraordinary embrace of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, signaling a preference for the leadership of an authoritarian adversary over that of America’s own president, despite a cascade of criticism from Democrats and expressions of discomfort among Republicans.

The New York Times has always struggled with even-handed coverage of Republican candidates, long before this year, when they gave up even the pretense of a fight and ran an article on the front page of the paper defending and justifying explicit media bias against Trump.

Reporters Jonathan Martin and Amy Chozick aren’t trying to conceal how they feel about Trump or his comments regarding Russia. Fine. People noticed the dramatic language:

What’s weird about it is how different the media, including the New York Times, are about Trump’s posture to Russia relative to the the views of the previous Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney.

Remember all the way back to four years ago when Romney said Russia was our greatest geopolitical foe? The context was that President Barack Obama had been caught on a hot mic being very convivial with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev “This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility.” Medvedev said in response, “I understand you. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.”

This alarmingly friendly posture toward Russia was pooh-poohed by many in the media. In fact, in the very interview in which Romney made his comments about Russia, Wolf Blitzer defended the president. “That is a factual statement that the president is making. If he doesn’t have to worry getting reelected, he doesn’t have to worry so much about domestic politics.” But then he asked, “Is there anything wrong in – when in comes to national security issues, to be saying something like that to the Russian leader?” Here’s a snippet from later in the interview:

ROMNEY: …And if he’s planning on doing more and suggests to Russia that – that he has things he’s willing to do with them, he’s not willing to tell the American people – this is to Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. They – they fight every cause for the world’s worst actors. The I – the idea that he has some more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling, indeed.

Blitzer found this extremely surprising and worrisome:

BLITZER: But you think Russia is a bigger foe right now than, let’s say, Iran or China or North Korea? Is that – is that what you’re suggesting, Governor?

He joined the rest of the media (“What about your gaaaaaaaaaffes?”) on the Romney fainting couch.

Obama and his allies in the media made their outrage over Romney’s comments a major part of their campaign. Remember Obama brutally mocking Romney for thinking Russia was a bigger threat than al-Qaeda? (al-Qaeda, for those in the juicebox journalistic community, used to be the world’s leading Islamist terrorist organization.)

“The 1980s called. They want their foreign policy back,” Obama said. And oh, did the media cheer him on. “Oh, snap!” they all triumphantly tweeted in unison, pleased with him and themselves.

Richard Oppel Jr.’s story on Romney’s totally weird views on Russia being a threat was headlined “Romney’s Adversarial View of Russia Stirs Debate.” It began ominously:

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney’s recent declaration that Russia is America’s top geopolitical adversary drew raised eyebrows and worse from many Democrats, some Republicans and the Russians themselves, all of whom suggested that Mr. Romney was misguidedly stuck in a cold war mind-set.

If Russia is an “authoritarian adversary,” as the New York Times is asserting in opening paragraphs of their Trump story, why in the world would Romney’s comments about them being such a major geopolitical foe have raised eyebrows or worse? That’s weird.

The New York Times editorial page was less restrained in its editorial, “The Never-Ending Cold War.”

Two decades after the end of the cold war, Mitt Romney still considers Russia to be America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” His comments display either a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs or just craven politics. Either way, they are reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender.

Hunh. That’s super weird. Is it reckless to find Russia a serious threat? Is it unworthy of a major presidential contender? Because in that same story about how Trump’s embrace of Putin is the worst thing ever, Hillary Clinton says:

Hillary Clinton excoriated Mr. Trump for asserting that Mr. Putin is a better leader than President Obama, saying it was “not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief — it is scary.”

She seized on Mr. Trump’s assertion in the televised forum that Mr. Putin’s incursions into neighboring countries, crackdown on Russia’s independent news media and support for America’s enemies were no more troublesome than Mr. Obama’s transgressions. She said it showed that, if elected, Mr. Trump would be little more than a tool of Mr. Putin.

“It suggests he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do and then make excuses for him,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters Thursday morning at Westchester County Airport in New York, stepping up her criticism as polls indicate the race has tightened, and as Mr. Trump continues to say things rarely heard before from a major party’s presidential nominee.

Does the New York Times find Hillary Clinton’s comments reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender? Do they display a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs, or just craven politics?

The U.S. relationship with Russia and its authoritarian strongman Vlad Putin is complicated. I’m not even talking about Hillary Clinton signing off on a Russian company with many ties to the Clinton Foundation taking over 20 percent of U.S. uranium reserves. I’m not talking about her embarrassing multi-layered failure to “reset” our relationship with Russia. Some see the country as a menacing threat that seeks world domination and some see it as a potentially valuable partner in the fight against global Islamism. Some see it as both.

But whatever one’s views on Russia, they shouldn’t change diametrically depending on whether a Republican or Democrat is talking about them.

And if the New York Times is going to flip out over Trump’s lack of concern about Russia, perhaps they could at least do so after a heartfelt apology for their unseemly and indefensible role in unfairly tearing down Mitt Romney in 2012.