In his 2015 book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson discusses the “disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment.” Yesterday’s media frenzy following President Trump’s Helsinki news conference with Putin is a perfect case in point.
No, it wasn’t Trump’s greatest moment. Although we wish he’d been stronger with Putin, it wasn’t treasonous to say that Putin strongly denied the allegations. Would it have been preferable for Trump to have demanded a confession from Putin? Was Trump supposed to call Putin a liar and risk alienating him completely? If he did, he would be accused of bringing us to the brink of nuclear war, just as when he exchanged insults with Kim Jong Un last year.
So much for not discrediting the President when he is overseas. The media attacked Trump with “gleeful savagery.”
Consider the following reactions to President Trump’s news conference with Putin on Monday:
CNN’s Chris Como: Russian election hacking is an act of war.
Tom Steyer: President Trump has committed treason.
Josh Marshall: Putin has some kind of hold on Trump.
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
Hey liberals, remember this? “Pssssst: Please tell Vladimir I’ll have more flexibility after the election.”
Tucker Carlson interviewed NYU Russia expert Stephen L. Cohen, who had harsh words for the press. (Cohen is quick to say he did not vote for Trump.)
TUCKER CARLSON: Assess, if you would, the reaction today to this press conference and to the summit between Putin and Trump.
STEPHEN F. COHEN: The reaction by most of the media, by the Democrats, by the anti-Trump people is like mob violence. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.
This is the president of the United States, doing what every other president before him, since FDR in 1943 with Stalin, meeting with the head of the Kremlin. And something that every American president since Eisenhower, a Republican by the way, has met with the leader of the Kremlin for one existential purpose: To avoid war between the nuclear superpowers.
Today, in my considered and scholarly long time judgment, relations between the U.S. and Russia are more dangerous than they have ever been. Let me repeat: Ever been, including the Cuban missile crisis.
I want my president to do — I didn’t vote for this president — but I want my president to do what every other president has done. Sit with the head of the other nuclear superpower and walk back the conflicts that could lead to war, whether they be in Syria, Ukraine, the Baltic nations, these accusations of cyber attacks.
Every president has been encouraged to do that and applauded by both parties. Not Trump.
Look what they did to him today. They had a kangaroo court. They found him guilty. And then you had the former head of the U.S. CIA, who himself ought to be put under oath and asked about his role in inventing Russiagate, calling the President of the United States treasonous. What have we come to in this country? And what is going to happen in the future?
Chris Wallace’s interview gave us insight into how Putin lies/evades/manipulates. Unruffled, Putin acts as if you are simply misunderstanding something. He has either convinced himself of his own innocence as when he said, “If anything, it (the meddling) was patriotic citizens” or he is just a very accomplished liar. Probably both.
When Wallace confronted Putin with the indictment document of the twelve Russian spies, he waved it away as if it were trivial or silly. In Putin’s world, election meddling is not much of a crime anyway. Moreover, the US has interfered in foreign elections. The most recent example was Obama’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015.
He also minimized Russian actions with remarks such as, and “I’m sorry you have been deceived by” such and such. When asked by Wallace “why do so many of your critics end up dead?” Putin pointed to the atrocities that have occurred in the US, specifically the assassinations of JFK and MLK. Putin would not yield one inch.
Everyone is trying to determine why Trump did not project more strength in the face of Putin’s refusal to admit that his government interfered in our election. None of us know what was discussed between Trump and Putin behind closed doors. Perhaps Putin shared some intelligence regarding the actions of the FBI in the Russian collusion case. The point is that we don’t know the facts.
Was anyone genuinely expecting Putin to confess? And really, how important is it that he does?
The Truth Must be Told
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