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The things people say / July 18, 2018
It has been brought to my attention that this part of your friendly community newspaper is prone to hyperpartisanship and excessive criticism of public figures — running the gamut from America’s head of state to the enablers, toadies and lickspittles who strive diligently to normalize his, um, unprecedented leadership of the United States of America. It’s sinking in that perhaps I should back off a bit in the spirit of unity and compromise. So in the spirit of high-minded bipartisanship, today we’re outsourcing this space exclusively to elected Republicans and conservative opinion leaders. Our topic: America’s head of state, and oh yeah, the other guy, Manchurian President Donald Trump.

In case the point is unclear, this is what Republicans and conservatives — not me! — were saying after Trump’s mind-boggling Monday press conference in Finland with Vladimir Putin:

“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate … No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant” — Arizona Sen. John McCain, 2008 Republican candidate for president.

“Mr #President, you should be ashamed. To deny your own country and government in favor of a foreign leader whose country has, for decades, tried to undermine the #UnitedStates is irrational and dangerous. Please step down, you are not fit to lead this great #nation. #TrumpPutin” — Christine Todd Whitman, former GOP governor of New Jersey and Environmental Protection Agency administrator for George W. Bush, writing on Twitter.

“Monday’s joint press conference was a personal and national embarrassment. On stage with the dictator whose election meddling has done so much harm to his Presidency, Mr. Trump couldn’t even bring himself to say he believed his own intelligence advisers like Dan Coats over the Russian strongman” — the arch-conservative editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch.

“By the end of the press conference, even Putin looked slightly embarrassed. He wanted Trump to go down in the third round like a bought-off boxer, but Trump kept laying it on thicker and thicker, swooning over the Russian leader, making winky-googly eyes, and repeating the worst tropes of Russia’s propaganda machine. Trump didn’t just roll over. He rolled over, stuck out his tongue, and begged Vladimir Putin to slap on a choke collar and rub his belly. An American president has never before abased himself like this before a foreign leader, and the horrified eyes of every American outside the Trump cult watched in horror” — former Republican political consultant Rick Wilson, writing in The Daily Beast.

Another Wilson zinger: “On his best day, Trump is a dopey man-child, an egomaniacal narcissist who wears his many tells on his sleeve. Written across Trump’s soft, jowly face is a catalog of his blatantly obvious weaknesses — for flattery, money, sex, and status. He’s a walking catalog of the seven deadly sins, and even if Trump weren’t a man with a history of failed negotiations, blown deals, serial bankruptcies, rampant infidelities … lousy business outcomes, and general stoogery, Putin would still be a formidable opponent.”

(And folks think that yours truly is harsh behind the keyboard. Shall we proceed?)

Here’s George Will, in a Washington Post column helpfully titled “This sad, embarrassing wreck of a man”: “America’s child president had a play date with a KGB alumnus, who surely enjoyed providing day care. It was a useful, because illuminating, event: Now we shall see how many Republicans retain a capacity for embarrassment.” (Excellent question there by Mr. Will!)

Let’s venture into the far right media ecosphere: here’s Ben Shapiro, writing in The Daily Caller: “If Trump is trying to present support for accusations that he’s bizarrely kind toward one of the worst dictators on the planet, he’s doing a fine job of it. If he’s trying to kill the ‘Trump is in bed with the Russians’ talk, this is an odd way to do it …. Trump’s tendency to repeat the propaganda terminology of foreign dictators is a bad look for the United States.”

Remember Newt Gingrich? “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected— immediately.” Sure, Gingrich is a congenital Trump suck-up, and he’ll surely validate George Will’s skepticism about Republicans expressing any lasting embarrassment towards Trump’s strange Putin fetish, but hey, Newt said it, not me …

Speaking of suck-ups, let’s turn the channel to Fox News, well-known for being the Manchurian President’s go-to source for emotional fuzzies: ““No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus,” tweeted Abby Huntsman, co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend and daughter of Trump’s Russia ambassador, Jon Huntsman (more on him in a second.) “Almost surreal at points,” opined Bret Baier, Fox News anchor. “Disgusting,” said Neil Cavuto at Fox Business.

Sure, the Fox talking heads will all fall back in line soon enough, but Fox does have a few people who take seriously their responsibility to report the news, not act as cheerleaders, such as news anchor Shep Smith: “Shameful, disgraceful, treasonous — three of the descriptions of what President Trump did today in Helsinki,” Smith said, referring to comments by McCain and former CIA director John Brennan.

Long before he became Russian ambassador, Jon Huntsman Jr. was the popular governor of very-conservative Utah. His brother owns The Salt Lake Tribune, the state’s largest newspaper. Here’s the headline that readers saw when they picked up their papers on Tuesday: “Come home, Ambassador Huntsman, your country needs you,” by columnist Robert Gehrke.

More from the friggin’ Salt Lake Tribune, for crying out loud: “Ambassador Huntsman, you work for a pawn, not a president. It’s time to come home. There is no other reasonable course of action to take after Monday’s disgraceful joint news conference with President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin …. [Your] duty is to your country and the best way now to serve your country is not by holding on to some title and being the emissary of a president who doesn’t share your values, or American values, for that matter. It’s by resigning immediately and speaking out against a president who attacks our allies, gives comfort to our adversaries and undermines our moral standing, our commitment to democratic ideals and our interest in human rights every time he opens his gaping mouth.”

We could go on and on, but you get the idea. Going after Trump is hyperpartisanship in action unless it’s Republicans and conservatives doing it. Oh well. At least there’s no shortage of material this week. Then again, it’s a long hot summer, and surely the outrage from the likes of Newt Gingrich and Fox News will melt like an ice cube as time goes on. However, this is presumably not true of all of the persons quoted above. It appears we’re in the middle of a certifiable national moment.

Of course, people said the same thing after Charlottesville and children in cages and then what happened? The Trump Defense League rose up like Pavlov’s dogs (also Russian). Sigh. Everyone enjoy their summer. We’ll talk again in November.

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