The rhetoric on the Left has become alarmingly unhinged and detached from reality. History shows a far different picture when looking at how Trump and our previous president have both handled Russia on the world stage.
President Trump’s trip Europe last month ended with a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin, that some commentators have said has made the President’s ability to stay in office questionable.
In that press conference, Mr. Trump said this when asked about Russian meddling in the 2016 election:
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today…. [Putin] just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
There was a significant amount of criticism from conservatives and liberals, much of it justified and in a matter of days Mr. Trump back peddled, claiming that he misspoke and meant for the next-to-last word in the quote above to be “wouldn’t.” (“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be.”)
Will this be Mr. Trump’s” Katrina moment” – that episode where it all starts to go downhill for him as President George W Bush’s response to the 2005 New Orleans hurricane was for him?
We don’t think so. Neither criticizing John McCain in 2015, nor the “Hollywood Access” tapes of 2016 brought him down and we don’t think this will either.
For one thing, people recall that President Obama dismissively underrated Russia, mocked Mitt Romney for his warnings about the threat, attempted to collude – there is no better word – with Mr. Putin during his own 2012 re-election campaign as evidenced by the “hot mic” comment, and was in charge as the Russians meddled in our election – responding with an anemic “cut it out” warning.
For another, people understand that President Trump’s handling of Russia is far tougher than Mr. Obama’s was.
Are these people nuts?``
Trump is arming Ukraine; he authorized fighting that has killed hundreds of Russian operatives in Syria; he is pressuring Iran, a Russian client; he called out Germany for its energy dealing with Russia and in this lined up with the views of the Obama administration and many European countries; he is strengthening funding for NATO, a major worry for Russia which believes that the US betrayed promises made at the end of the Cold War.
And, as always, Mr. Trump is lucky in his enemies. Some of the liberal reaction to Mr. Trump’s press conference:
• MSNBC contributor Jill Wine-Banks: “It’s just as serious to me as the Cuban Missile Crisis in terms of an attack, or the 9/11 attack. . .. [Trump’s] performance today will live in infamy as much as the Pearl Harbor attack or Kristallnacht.”
• Former CIA director John Brennan: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous.”
• A group in Colorado put up a sign likening the Republican Party to the Soviet communists.
Treason? Just as bad as the day three thousand Americans and others died in terrorist attacks in 2001? Likened to attacks against Jews and murder throughout Nazi Germany in 1938, carried out by paramilitary units? The GOP is communist?
Are these people nuts?
Middle-of-the-road people may stop short of that opinion but at least conclude that they are saying some nutty things.
The simpler explanation for the press conference statement is that Mr. Trump, in his anger and ego, conflated Russian meddling with a charge of conspiracy with his campaign and, unprepared as he often is, lashed out. The resulting statement was awful but to compare it to treason or Pearl Harbor is an outrage, unfortunately too typical of our time.
We have maintained that the Democrats’ hatred and unhinged attacks helped Mr. Trump separate from a decent Republican field and to go on to win the election two years ago. Commentary from people like Mr. Brennan may continue that work.
The Democrats have counted on Robert Mueller and President Trump to bring about the demise of this presidency. But Mr. Trump’s poll numbers here in the US have not gone down following the press conference with Mr. Putin. In fact, his job approval, while still under 50 percent is almost ten percentage points higher than a year ago.
That leaves Robert Mueller.