So yesterday a wily former KGB agent got over two hours to have a crack at a simpleton who knows the nation’s most prized state secrets. What could go wrong?
Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard says, a lot went wrong. Indeed, he says that Trump caved to Putin yesterday.
Hayes complains that Trump let Russia skate entirely on its efforts to interfere with the United States presidential election. But where Hayes really hits home is in his criticism of the meeting as it related to Syria:
The embarrassment wasn’t limited to interference in U.S. elections. There was Syria, too, where Tillerson claimed that American and Russian “objectives are exactly the same.”
It is absurd to claim that our objectives in Syria—where the United States has called for the end of the Assad regime that Russia is supporting—are exactly the same. Forget being identical; in most cases, they aren’t even coincidental.
. . . .
[I]n April the U.S. government accused Russia of complicity in an unprovoked chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. And on Friday, the secretary of State claimed that America and Russia have exactly the same objectives in Syria.
And then Tillerson went even further. On matters where the United States and Russia have different views, he said, it may be that the Russians (who are actively backing a dictator slaughtering his own people) have got “the right approach and we’ve got the wrong approach.” Imagine for a moment the reaction from Republicans if John Kerry had made such a claim.
At PowerLine, Paul Mirengoff says that Hayes’s “Trump caved” characterization is “unfair.” I found Mirengoff’s argument less than fully convincing, though — especially this part:
Hayes also complains about what he thinks went down between Trump and Putin regarding Syria. He cites Tillerson’s statement that American and Russian “objectives are exactly the same.”
The statement is, as Hayes says, absurd. But there’s little reason to think that Trump, or even Tillerson, believes it.
Color me skeptical when your argument is: don’t worry about the “absurd” thing our Secretary of State just said. Probably neither he nor the President actually believes it.
But there’s a ceasefire! Isn’t that a good thing? Sure — if you think Vladimir Putin is a honest fella. Garry Kasparov, who knows a thing or two about Putin, has this to say:
Bingo. Few wars are as deadly as a ceasefire announced by Putin! Unless everyone he wanted to murder is already dead. https://t.co/CFyeLDsGVZ
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) July 7, 2017
To Hayes’s analysis above, I would add the shameful spectacle of a man who has ordered journalists to be murdered pointing at a group of journalists and asking Trump: “These are the ones who insulted you?” Not only is this apparent confirmation of the prediction before the meeting that Trump would whine to Putin about “FAKE NEWS!!” but it is also, to put it mildly, creepy and chilling given Putin’s history. Putin might have Trumpers fooled — but he knows that at least some of the journalists know what Putin did to journalists like Anna Politkovskaya.
I know many will say: hey, but Trump said tough stuff and took tough action regarding Russia before the meeting. Well, sure. Trump is fundamentally a coward who caters to his audience. He talks about “radical Islamic terrorism” in Warsaw, but not Saudi Arabia. He says in Warsaw: “We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression” — but when he speaks face to face with Putin, a man who kills journalists who engage in free speech and expression, he tells him he won’t meddle in Putin’s domestic affairs.
This cowardice sends a message to someone like Putin, who has sized up American leaders before. Putin determined that Bush and Obama were weaklings, and he has no doubt come to the same conclusion about Trump.
Expect aggression from Putin during Trump’s presidency. Yesterday’s meeting assured it.