Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He congratulated Vladimir Putin for winning a sham election.

Vladimir Putin formally retained his grip on power this week, winning an election in which he essentially hand-picked the opponents allowed to run against him. (Even then, ballot box-stuffing occurred in plain sight.) 

What happened afterwards, during a phone call between Trump and Putin, followed a now-familiar pattern.

  1. Trump seeks Putin's approval. Trump ignored the urgent pleas of his national security team to not congratulate Putin. (This instruction was written for down him in block letters: DO NOT CONGRATULATE.)
  2. Trump refuses to criticize Putin. Trump's national security advisers also begged him to confront Putin directly over Russia's assassination attempts using banned chemical weapons on British soil. Trump refused to do so. (Needless to say, Trump also neglected to mention that Putin himself interfered in the election that brought Trump to power.)
  3. The Putin regime breaks the news of US-Russian contacts. As has happened several times before, the news of a high-level contact like this was first announced by the Kremlin. (Because Trump is widely suspected of being under Russian influence, and because so many of his campaign and administration officials have been caught lying about those meetings, the Trump White House tries not to draw attention to his meetings with Russian officials.)
  4. Trump's handlers insist that this is normal. After the Putin regime outed their conversation, Trump enthused to reporters about the "very good call" he'd had, and repeatedly hinted that there would be another in-person meeting between the two in the "not-too-distant future."
  5. Republicans and Democrats alike react with horror. The response from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was fairly typical: "An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. By doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country's future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin's regime."

Why does this matter?

  • A president who won't confront threats to the United States and its allies is no better than one who can't.