By Anthony L Hall
At a joint press conference today, President Trump doubled down on his belief in President Putin’s denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. This, despite his own intelligence agencies, which includes the CIA, FBI, and NSA, saying that Russia did, and the Mueller investigation indicting 12 Russian agents for orchestrating that meddling.
‘I have — I have confidence in both parties,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘So 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.’
(The Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2018)
Of course, as the Journal insinuated, Trump of all people knows full well that denials from liars are always strong and powerful.
Bipartisanship is as rare in Washington these days as virtue. But Trump siding with Putin on this existential issue — on the world stage no less — provoked bipartisan outrage in spades. It began with Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats immediately rebutting and rebuking his betrayal as follows:
We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.
(USA Today, July 16, 2018)
But nobody expressed the Democrats’ outrage quite like John Brennan, the former head of the CIA:
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
And nobody expressed the Republicans’ outrage quite like John McCain, US senator and bona-fide war hero:
Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate.
(CNN, July 16, 2018)
To be fair, though, nobody should be shocked. After all, Trump telegraphed for years everything he did in Europe last week. Notably, this included stabbing UK Prime Minister Theresa May in the back over her beleaguered Brexit negotiations, extorting “pledges” for increased defense spending from NATO members, and standing shoulder to shoulder with Putin as they insulted US intelligence. I duly commented in “Trump Abroad: Mooning NATO, Droning Britain, Spooning Putin,” July 12, 2018.
But frankly, I have nothing but contempt for the American politicians who are rushing to TV cameras to express how “shocked, shocked” they are. And I have nothing but pity for the European politicians who are asking today the question I posed the morning after willful Americans elected this mendacious buffoon, namely: “WTF President-elect Donald J. Trump? America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 9, 2016.
To be clear, the following excerpts explain why I am too informed to be shocked and too indignant to be outraged by this latest manifestation of Trump’s “treasonous” behavior.
- From “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker!” April 8, 2011:
Nothing demonstrates that his clownish foray into presidential politics is just for personal ego and financial enrichment quite like previewing his campaign platform by speaking more like a right-wing radio shock jock than a politician. …
That he is fashioning himself as a born-again conservative — after supporting mostly liberal causes for much of his life — indicates that he’s only doing what is good for Trump, not what is good for his country. …
It’s one thing for Trump to be huffing and puffing all over the media about how he would demonstrate that he has far bigger balls than Obama; i.e., by acting on the world stage like a bull in a China shop (pun intended). It’s quite another for this preternaturally self-obsessed shyster to be propagating racially divisive claims about Barack Obama being an African who perpetrated the biggest scam in history by getting elected president of the United States.
- From “Trump Is Trump, Intelligence Is Intelligence, and Never the Twain Shall Meet,” January 6, 2017:
It has become self-evident that Donald Trump and human intelligence are parallel forces of nature. The obvious reason for this is that Trump’s need to feed his ego — even in the face of brazen hypocrisy or imminent danger — knows no bounds. …
[T]here’s agreement across all US intelligence agencies that Russia tried, in a variety of unprecedented and foreboding ways, to influence the outcome of that election. …
The point is that, if you are still expressing shock and venting outrage over all of the ignorant, narcissistic, dishonest, puerile, thin-skinned, hypocritical, and dangerous things Trump says and does, the joke’s on you.
To be fair, though, Trump never missed an opportunity throughout his presidential campaign to warn voters that it’s more important to him to preserve his ego than to ‘preserve the Union.’
- From “The Week Trump Kissed Up to Saudi Arabia, Kissed Off Europe, and French Kissed the Philippines,” May 30, 2017:
One of the many unseemly things about Donald Trump as president of the United States is his longing admiration for dictators. …
Trump began insulting America’s European allies long before his arrival in Brussels on May 24. Therefore, it also came as no surprise when, on this occasion to reaffirm the ties that bind the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), his words reeked like a skunk at a garden party. …
Trump did in two days what Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to do for nearly two decades: He sowed discord in NATO — the greatest military alliance in the history of mankind and the unassailable guarantor of peace on the Continent of Europe since WWII.
- From “Treasonous Trump Releasing Fake Memo to Frame FBI and Hide Russian Ties,” February 1, 2018:
Forget The Manchurian Candidate! Trump is behaving like a Manchurian president. … Just imagine Trump’s tweets about treason if Obama had taken the word of any foreign leader over the unanimous word of the directors of US intelligence agencies. …
And let me hasten to clarify the specious claim Trump and his enablers are making about Russia’s meddling not actually changing any votes. … [H]aving meddled to influence how so many Americans voted, the die was cast: Russia had no need to change the results.
There’s no denying the reasonable suspicion that Putin has cast a spell on him. Specifically, that fear of Putin releasing compromising information has something to do with his antic presidential behavior.
I told you so, no?
I will only add that Trump led Republicans in ridiculing Obama for bowing (as a courtesy) before the king of Saudi Arabia, a longstanding US ally. Yet here we have Trump kissing (as an apostasy) the ass of the president of Russia, a longstanding US enemy.
Unfortunately, accusing Republicans of rabid hypocrisy these days is rather like accusing jihadists of rabid religiosity. In both cases, I fear only Judgement Day will bring them to their senses.
Actually, waiting for enabling Republicans — who control Congress — to back up their rhetorical outrage with legislative action would be like Waiting for Godot. So don’t hold your breath.
Indeed, their spasms of outrage notwithstanding, here is what I texted to an old friend today:
The only chance they have of redeeming themselves in this world is if Republican leaders drag Trump in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot him between the eyes.
* This commentary was originally published at The iPINIONS Journal on Monday, July 16.