Trump-Putin chaos: Self-inflicted wound, but wildly overstated

President Trump took a firestorm of deserved criticism following his summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, including words of opposition from the region’s Congressional representatives, Tom Marino, a Cogan Station Republican, and Glenn Thompson, a Howard Republican.

We are heartened to see our representatives are not party robots who are going to back the president when he makes obvious missteps.

Russia is this country’s enemy. It has meddled in American elections to one degree or another since the early 1950s, meddled in the 2016 presidential election and is attempting to do it more in the future, perhaps this fall.

Whether Trump misspoke or simply has a blind spot, he needed to publicly, completely and aggressively back the intelligence community’s findings on Russia’s meddling. He fell short of that in the initial news conference. No matter what he did after that was not going to erase the deficit.

That said, the reaction to one unacceptable sentence from the president by politicians and most of the media was wildly sensational and hypocritical.

Former CIA head John Brennan, under whose watch Russia’s hacking into the 2016 election occurred, called Trump’s comments “treasonous.” Apparently his hatred of Trump has blurred his understanding of the definition of treason.

It has become clear Brennan and President Obama knew Russia was meddling with the 2016 presidential election. They did nothing about it, thinking their favored candidate, Hillary Clinton, was going to become president. Obama went so far as to publicly insist in the fall of 2016 that Russia was incapable of inflicting damage on our elections and lecturing Trump to “stop whining.”

They can’t have it both ways – denying Russia’s meddling and other capabilities while in power and now insisting Trump is misrepresenting the threat of Russia and its meddling.

Most of the rest of the media gives Obama, Brennan and company a free pass, but has quickly branded the president soft on Russia and unfaithful to the intelligence community.

The fact is, Trump has said countless times the work of the intelligence community is exemplary, that the only flaws rest of the immediate past leadership. We agree with him.

Remember, he has been hearing about Russian collusion with his campaign since the day he took office, the obvious end game being to delegitimize his election.

It’s a heavyhanded angle with no factual basis to date, so we understand where Trump’s resentment comes from. He needs to stop viewing it that way publicly, but we understand the roots.

These same supposedly objective media types had no problem with President Obama promising on an open microphone more flexibility toward Russia “after I am elected” to a second term.

They don’t seem to have much problem with the root of Russia’s election hacking, which is the reckless, unauthorized use of an unprotected e-mail server by Trump’s political opponent, Hillary Clinton. The free pass much of the media gives Obama and Clinton on these matters shatters their credibility.

It would be well to judge Trump’s attitude toward Russia based on actions. In the past year, 60 Russian diplomats have been thrown out of this country, Trump has pushed for NATO to get stronger, he has criticized energy purchases from Russia and has fortified American military presence in Eastern Europe and warned Russia against military aggression in those areas.

These actions represent a tougher approach toward Russia than the Obama-Clinton partnership. While Russia is this country’s enemy, we don’t see what good a public rebuke of Putin would have done, given the reality that Russia could be helpful to our long-term diplomatic goals on several fronts.

We also don’t know that Trump wasn’t much sterner with Putin in their private, four-hour session, a distinct possibility.

Most of the over-the-top criticisms of Trump came from people whose diplomatic style and decisions of the past two decades regarding Russia have failed to bear fruit or from people who simply criticize everything Trump does.

Before we jump out of windows over Trump’s relationship with Putin, let’s remember that Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama have all tried the traditional diplomatic approach and failed to improve the United States-Russia situation.

We understand Putin is a glorified thug who cannot be trusted. But, as with North Korea and China and other questionable regimes, a relationship with unsavory types may be necessary to move the diplomatic needle and avert larger disasters.

A misguided sentence in a news conference does not change that.

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