After searching for two days to find the cause of all the bipartisan outrage over the U.S.-Russia summit, I finally turned to my trusted source for liberal outrage, CNN. Thank you, Chris Cillizza, CNN editor-at-large, for capturing the “21 most disturbing lines from Donald Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin.”
The number one most disturbing line? “I’m here today to continue the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy. From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility.”
How on earth did even the most Trump-hating partisan turn that sentence into the number-one most disturbing line? Cillizza wrote a paragraph of spin to fluff up his outrage over the comment. His explanation had something to do with using the word “bold.” Maybe it was a font offense?
There are 21 of these, so I’ll make an honest effort to find a few that actually appear to offer a reason to disturb without a paragraph of spin. Number two is, “But our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.” Okay, if I really squint, I can see it on this one. Cillizza doesn’t like it that Trump has “tremendous faith in his own charisma and personal appeal as well as his massive capacity for exaggeration.” Yes, Trump exaggerates. Is that a new development?
Number four was, “Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. I believe that many of these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.”
Whoops, I got my quotes mixed up. That was President Obama in May 2009 during a diplomatic mission to Turkey. This was the Trump quote Cillizza objected to: “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. … And I think we’re all to blame.”
Number 8 was, “There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. And people are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign.”
What’s wrong with Trump continuing to protest his innocence? Well, Cillizza argues that it’s improper because the special counsel has obtained some convictions (that for the millionth time have nothing to do with Trump himself colluding with the Russians to interfere with the election). I guess our president is supposed to confess to a crime he says he didn’t commit just to avoid disturbing Cillizza.
Number 17 was, “So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server — haven’t they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?”
Cillizza wasn’t really disturbed by this remark. Instead he used his column to argue to the contrary. I made exactly the same point as President Trump in The Federalist a few days ago. More than 800 days after the Russians supposedly hacked the DNC server, the feds have yet to inspect the scene of the crime. A normal person would consider that weird, if not incompetent.
Number 18 was, “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
This is the quote about which everybody is going bananas. But I still say, “So what?” The “intelligence community” has given president ample reason not to trust it. For one, note Mollie Hemingway’s observation that the CIA and FBI used one of their first briefings of Trump to engineer a hook for CNN to cover and BuzzFeed to release the Hillary Clinton-procured character smear compiled by Fusion GPS.
Critics can bleat all they want about “Russia interfering in the election,” but they better explain what they mean. Do they mean Russia hacked voting machines or change votes? No. And it’s irresponsible to continue to imply otherwise.
Did Russians hack the DNC server? Maybe. But as Trump pointed out, the servers have never been examined by law enforcement and at least one non-partisan group has challenged that theory.
This politicized narrative has been the weapon of choice to undermine the Trump presidency from the beginning. President Trump would be fool to parrot those talking points at the end of a summit with the Russian leader. The greatest criticism of Trump is that he dares question the “intelligence community” as though he works for them, not the other way around. Imagine that.
I’m no fan of Vladimir Putin nor of that North Korean rocket dude (who is also the worst mass murderer alive). But this is how diplomacy works. Carl von Clausewitz said, “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” So do we want to fight Russia or not?
If not, diplomacy is the logical means of avoiding war. Has Trump moved us closer to war or closer to peace after the summit? In the end, that’s the yardstick by which summits should be measured. The answer to this question remains to be seen, so it’s premature to call the summit a failure.
Trump ran on improving relations with Russia. Plenty of rational people think that’s a terrible idea. From all the coverage I’ve watched and read, I’ve not been able to find a single sentence Trump uttered that could not have come from his mouth the day before the election.
Elections have consequences. And this is who was elected. You can disagree with Trump. But don’t pretend to be surprised.