Summer is political silly season in the United States. There are elections for the House and one-third of the Senate this November, and primaries to select the nominees between now and then. But Congress is treading water. Republicans, seeking to paper over their failure to fulfill their seven-year promise to repeal Obama-care, are standing pat with a single major enactment, the drastic lowering of business taxes. Democrats have no positive message at all beyond Don’t Kill The Job and promising more free things for everyone.
Now President Trump meets with Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative who has been engaged in external aggression ever since Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State gave Putin that red button apparently inscribed with Let Bygones Be Bygones. Why, before that, Trump met with Kim-Jong Un, a dictator who has murdered friends and relatives in public using everything from missiles to nerve agent.
Evil men, yes. The function of a President is to keep the lines of communication open with everyone. The alternative, refuse high-level meetings while low-level issues fester, might lead to war. Presidents have called evil by its name, Evil Empire (Reagan) or Axis of Evil (G.W. Bush), to the horror of pundits — but, even then, have met with the top henchmen.
So now, the bluntest of all Presidents meets with Putin, and there is a post-summit press conference. We all know how this works, just as it did with Kim: The two issue a communique, specific where there was agreement and vague where there was not, and there are smiles and handshakes, both men understanding that the goal now is to pass off the meeting, to their respective constituencies, as a pathbreaking success. The President might even make promises about his future behavior, which everyone knows he will sashay away from, once safely back in the Oval Office.
Unfortunately, there is a cloud over this Kabuki dance: The year-long investigation, conducted by self-righteous Obama holdovers in the Justice Department, of whether Trump “colluded” with Russia to deny Hillary her Presidency. The investigators’ hatred for Trump rarely surfaces, but when it does, such as with the texts between Strzok and his mistress Page, we are asked to believe that a tenured federal employee never lets his biases affect the exercise of his power (or, putting Strzok under oath, we are asked to believe that it isn’t bias at all).
So network reporters call on Trump to use the post-summit press conference to call out Putin for “meddling” in the 2016 U.S. election — a charge that Special Prosecutor Mueller, recently indicting a dozen Russians who will never actually stand trial, admits has not led to anyone being charged with a crime, nor to proof that any votes or election outcomes were changed. Chronic CIA meddling in the governance of foreign countries is ignored, as is specific Obama meddling in foreign elections from Brexit to Netanyahu.
The reporters know that Trump is going to do no such thing.
- It breaks the harmony of the ceremony,
- It lessens the likelihood that the adversary will fulfill any promises he made during the summit,
- It refocuses the event from its intended purpose,
- It gives Trump the dilemma of disparaging his Russian invitee or disparaging the “intelligence community,” and
- It invigorates the opposition’s narrative that Trump’s election was illegitimate.
And — surprise! — Trump does not do so, albeit with a rambling performance that included one sentence that, the next day, the Administration had to clarify meant the exact opposite of what Trump said.
What has followed is summer silliness: Network pundits comparing the omission to nine-eleven and Kristallnacht, James Clapper calling the omission treason, and new talk about whether the omission is a “high crime or misdemeanor” justifying impeachment.
Excuse me, but this is another Charlottesville moment. Following the “Unite the Right” rally in that small Virginia city — organized by, but not exclusive to, white supremacists, attracting people on both sides ready to brawl, and resulting in one vehicular homicide — the media unanimously called on Trump to take the podium, attack his own side, and thereby feed the narrative that Republicans are essentially white supremacists. Trump likewise did no such thing, though with comparable ineptitude, asserting that “there are good people on both sides” (which there were), which led to comparable leftie hyperventilation. Secretary Tillerson publicly disavowed Trump and a Campbell’s Soup executive used the incident as a rationale for a showy resignation from a Trump task force.
The President is not the most lucid nor incisive defender of his country, its Constitution, or his party. But his adversaries, far from proposing alternatives, have put him in a series of clever no-win situations, dating back to the moments in the Presidential debates where Hillary dared him to divulge business records so the nation could discover what he is hiding, or to pledge that he would be magnanimous when he lost the general election.
Sorry, but it is now getting really silly.