The quintessential moment in President Trump’s second trip to Europe occurred at a Warsaw news conference where he was asked about Russian hacking of the U.S. election. See if you can follow his answer:
“I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries. And I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure. I remember when I was sitting back, listening about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction; how everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what. That led to one big mess. They were wrong and it led to a mess. So, it was Russia, and I think it was probably others also. And that’s been going on for a long period of time. But my big question is why did Obama do nothing about it from August all the way to November 8th? He did nothing about it.”
To simplify Trump’s convoluted mass of rhetoric, he seems to be saying that the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community, that Russia was solely responsible for hacking and leaking Democratic Party emails last year, is wrong — but that President Obama should have acted on this faulty intelligence anyway.
This bears no relation to reality, because there is no information to contradict the intelligence community assessment and Obama did act upon it — the intelligence community findings were published, some Russian diplomats were kicked out of the country and two Russian compounds were confiscated. That’s not as much as Obama should have done, but it is a lot more than Trump himself has done.
Trump delivered a rip-roaring defense of “Western civilization,” saying “our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph.” Yet, does anyone think the president could possibly pass an undergraduate Western Civilization course? He probably thinks that Thucydides is some rich Greek guy who bought an apartment in Trump Tower and that Plato was the owner of a sex club in Manhattan.
Trump also said, “We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success” — pretty rich, coming from a president who bragged about grabbing women by their private parts and who insults them in the most graphic, demeaning terms possible. Just a couple of weeks ago he savagely attacked Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC as “low IQ Crazy Mika” and claimed that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” over New Year’s.
“We value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom,” Trump said. Yet he has embraced notorious human-rights abusers such as Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Abdel Fattah el-Sisiof Egypt, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. And, lest we forget, he brutally mocked a disabled reporter in 2015.
“We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression,” Trump claimed, yet just minutes later he attacked the “fake news” media. Previously he called the press “the enemy of the American people.” Such vitriolic rhetoric will only embolden dictators bent on repressing their own media.
Trump also said that “a strong Europe is a blessing to the West and to the world,” even as he was exulting in the warm embrace of Poland’s far-right Law and Justice Party, which is feuding with other members of the European Union over its anti-democratic practices.
The president’s greatest offense against common sense occurred when he said, “We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere,” just before flying to Hamburg where he positively purred during the course of a lengthy meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump may have raised the Russian hacking of the U.S. election last year, but he did not threaten Putin with any repercussions, which means we can expect more destabilizing activities in the future. Incredibly enough, Trump even promised to form “an impenetrable Cyber Security unit” with Russia. This makes about as much sense as forming a crime-fighting unit with the mafia.
Summing up this summit, Trump tweeted: “Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” That’s not usually how we respond to a country that is engaging in “destabilizing activities,” itself a euphemism for Russia’s aggression against its neighbors and the West.
Any Europeans who might have been reassured by Trump’s commitment to NATO’s Article 5 mutual-defense provision should beware that Trump’s words mean little. His lies are matched only by his contradictions. One of the few things Trump appears to be consistent and sincere about is his admiration of, and desire to work with, Putin.
Everything else is just gibberish.