Peter Lemiska
The Helsinki huddle -- red meat for Trump's critics
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By Peter Lemiska
July 22, 2018

Immediately after President Trump's private meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the two held a press conference that appalled Americans across the political spectrum. It was there that Trump suggested America's intelligence community was wrong and that the Russians had not actually meddled in our election. To make matters worse, he also trumpeted Putin's proposal to assist in the Mueller probe, calling it an "incredible offer." We later learned that part of that suggested deal included the reciprocal interrogation of a former U.S, Ambassador and other Americans by Russian officials in connection with one of their "investigations."

Clearly under intense pressure, Trump quickly reversed himself on the meddling issue, and ultimately rejected Putin's offer of joint investigations.

Nonetheless, Trump's jaw-dropping comments were music to the ears of his critics. They wasted no time accusing him of betraying our intelligence community and coddling our enemy. Some even used the word "treason." They called him Putin's puppet, and argued that his comments proved that Putin was holding something over him.

One of those Trump haters, former FBI Director James Comey, had previously testified before congress that during his private meeting with the president, Trump questioned him repeatedly about the allegations in the infamous and dubious Steele dossier. We'll never know what transpired during the meeting in Helsinki, but even without Comey's testimony, Trump's enemies are convinced that the dossier must have been discussed. Now they're making unprecedented demands for testimony from the translators in attendance.

Predictably, Trump's loyalists immediately sprang to his defense, talking about his accomplishments as president, the many things he's done that benefit conservatives and the country as a whole – those Supreme Court and lower court appointments, increased border security, the vast improvements in the job market and the economy. They cited quotations from past presidents that also seemed disturbingly conciliatory to our adversaries, most notably Barack Obama's cagey promise to be more flexible with the Russians after his re-election.

They pointed to Trump's tough dealings with Russia. It was he, not Obama who expelled those Russian diplomats, imposed sanctions against the Putin regime, armed the Ukrainian people, and bombed elements of the oppressive Syrian regime, killing scores of Russian troops during the attack.

They contrast that with Obama's utter indifference to Russian meddling in our election – that is, until his chosen successor was defeated. As of early September 2016, Obama's most decisive action against Putin was his stern warning to "Cut it out."

Those are all facts that Trump's frothing-at-the-mouth enemies refuse to acknowledge, as they franticly search for something, anything, to damage his presidency.

So we know where the left stands and where Trump's hard-core supporters stand, but what about the rest of the country?

Most people, objective Americans, agree that, as our duly elected president, Donald Trump has earned the support of the people. They share his pride in our country, our military, and our law enforcement communities. They support his stance on national sovereignty and strong borders, and they applaud his economic policies. They've shown time and again that they're not concerned about this or any president's private affairs, as long as they do the job they were elected to do.

But still, there was that bizarre press conference.

There are additional meetings planned between Trump and Putin. Trump's enemies are salivating for more red meat, while his loyalists already know they will be beautiful meetings.

More objective observers will be watching with some trepidation.

They know that evil empires really do exist, and that we cannot be friends with every nation in the world. With some nations, the best we can hope for is co-existence. They also know what "constructive dialogue" sounds like, and they understand the difference between compromising and kowtowing. They understand that America can be great only if our leaders project strength without recklessness in the face of international adversaries.

For now, most are willing to chalk up Trump's Helsinki gaffe to fatigue, miscommunication, or diplomatic inexperience. But if they see this president veering away from his promise to make America great again, if they believe he is being manipulated by an adversary, or somehow jeopardizing American interests, they will hold him accountable. Despite his many accomplishments, he will be left with only his sycophants to sing his praises and stroke his ego.

© Peter Lemiska

 

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Peter Lemiska

Peter Lemiska is a freelance writer and former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service... (more)

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