Diary

Jonah is Right, But For One Thing

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Jonah Goldberg starts with this.

This [paraphrased] tweet from Donald Trump is inviting a lot of mockery this morning.

There’s just one problem: Trump has a point.

Barack Obama sold out our Eastern European allies on missile defense. He slow-walked aid to Ukraine and did little more than shrug when Crimea was annexed. He said “never mind” on his own “red line” in Syria and turned a blind eye to Putin’s intervention there, in large part because of his obsessions with getting the Iran deal. The Russian meddling in our elections started on Obama’s watch — and not just our elections but those of many of our allies. When Mitt Romney famously said Russia was our No. 1 geopolitical foe, Obama mocked him for it as did countless liberal journalists who are now converts to anti-Russia hawkery.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has made life harder for Russia diplomatically and economically thanks to revving up our oil and gas production. It hasn’t been as tough as some — including me — would like, but it’s been tougher than the Obama administration. Or at least it’s not unreasonable.

The mockery of Trump’s claim arises, I think, from two sources. The first is Trump himself. The administration has been tough on Russia, but Trump himself has not been rhetorically tough. For reasons that have launched a thousand theories, the president cannot bring himself to speak harshly about Vladimir Putin in a convincing way.

Jonah left out another important point: When Russian proxies and mercenaries attacked Kurdish positions east of the Euphrates, the US beat them back, thanks to Trump letting local commanders do their jobs in accordance with established rules of engagement. By deed, Trump went against Putin in this instance, which is commendable.

Our president may have blamed everyone except Putin after Mueller’s 37-page indictment last Friday, but Trump’s acts have been against Putin’s interests, but for one thing: Our Congress passed sanctions against bad-faith Russian actors but Trump has so far abstained. Personally, I’d be more convinced of Trump’s intentions if he went along with Congress on this one. That, and letting Mueller do his job without the politicized attacks.

P.S. Like me, Goldberg has been a consistent Trump critic, for well-stated reasons, but remains fair minded.