Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Another Day, Another Meeting: From Russia With Love

It's time to Break It Down!

We are having another frenetic news week. Welcome to 2017. To be sure, in the current environment, that’s not an unusual occurrence. Yes, of course there have been hectic news weeks in the past. And there will be more. However, a lot of people I know believe that TrumpWorld has brought us to a unique intersection in history; one unparalleled by almost any measure, except for those that are irrevocably slanted hard right.

A few of the more notable news stories to hit the airways and newsstands since the weekend include:

·      A Fox News Analyst (Shepard Smith) actually called Donald Trump a liar
·      Spicer fell behind the info curve, claimed Kushner’s meeting was about Russian adoption (a euphemism for removing sanctions against human rights abusers)
·      Trumpcare faces demise as two more senators withdraw support
·      With insufficient support for Trumpcare, Trump says let Obamacare fail
·      Tropical Storm Don weakens in the Caribbean, while Tropical Storm Hillary (one L) emerges in the Eastern Pacific
·      The GOP-friendly Wall Street Journal renders a scathing assessment of Donald Trump’s Russiagate (my term, not the Journal’s)
·      A previously unreported meeting between Trump and Putin revealed

That’s seven separate stories and the week is just halfway over. Any of them would fuel a panel discussion or a spirited debate among folks with opposing views; possibly, among even people with similar views. As for today’s post, I saved the best for last. I will elevate and discuss, briefly, the most recently disclosed meeting between Trump and Putin on July 7th during the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.

To frame this meeting, which Team Trump says was really not a meeting unto itself, but just an extension of the previous meeting of approximately two hours that has been reported. According to the White House’s official statement, it was “brief.”

In a grander context, with a different cast of characters, that characterization might just fly. But in TrumpWorld…er, I mean, today, given some of the unusual details we have logged into our consciousness, not so much.

This meeting lasted for nearly an hourly, according to a Trump staffer, and included only three people: Trump, Putin, and a Russian translator. When conceding that Trump’s source for understanding the meeting was a Russian translator, the White House source indicated that the U.S. translator at the dinner spoke Japanese. How interesting!

Now no matter how much one embraces the narrative that Mr. Trump is the master deal maker, and great communicator, it’s worth being reminded of his numerous communications faux pas when left to his own devices, whether on Twitter, or in person. Of course, this is not the first time Trump has pushed the envelope in meeting with the Russians. Back on Wednesday May 10th, he met with top Russian officials in the Oval Office. White House officials barred reporters from witnessing the moment. They apparently preferred to block coverage of the awkwardly timed visit as questions swirled about whether the president had dismissed his F.B.I. director in part to squelch the investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Moscow.

The Russians conveniently brought their own media, a largely state-run operation, in the form of an official photographer. They quickly filled the vacuum with their own pictures of the meeting with Mr. Trump, Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, Moscow’s ambassador to the United States. Within minutes of the meeting, the Foreign Ministry had posted photographs on Twitter of Mr. Trump and Mr. Lavrov smiling and shaking hands. The Russian embassy posted images of the president grinning and gripping hands with the ambassador. Tass, Russia’s official news agency, released more photographs of the three men laughing together in the Oval Office.

In explaining, and perhaps defending, the circumstances of the meeting, White House staff said the conversation took place in full view of other world leaders and their spouses at a dinner hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The White House sought to downplay the significance of the “discussion.” Their statement maintained:

It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president's duties, to interact with world leaders."

You know what? That’s true. But you know what is not perfectly normal, or heretofore considered part of the President’s duties? How about taking a meeting in the White House with Russian media, while barring the American press? Or, staying politely off camera while the Russians follow-up the meeting(s) between our two Presidents, by stating that our President accepted the denial of their President over hacking accusations, when our intelligence agencies are the source of the accusations?  Or, how about proposing a joint cyber-security initiative with the country the U.S. intelligence community unanimously concludes hacked our systems…in an effort to hurt your opponent and help you? Or perhaps, reflection on your number 1 son (chronologically), your son-in-law, and your campaign manager meeting with Russians who say they have intel that will hurt your political rival? The Russians, mind you! No, that is not normal, never was, never will be.

I know a number of individuals of the conservative persuasion. Of those I converse with on a regular basis, most of them say Mr. Trump is doing exactly what they wanted him to do when they voted for him. They not only believe he is acting in a way that is sure to Make America Great Again (MAGA), but that it’s actually happening right before our eyes. Moreover, the only people who don’t realize this are Trump-hating Democrats and liberals.

In point of fact, Democrats are resisting this administration on many levels. If you read my post last week, you know that doesn’t concern me. Many conservatives go into apoplexy, or in some cases, at least feigned apoplexy over this resistance. I must admit my cynicism is heightened whenever I can find no similar apoplectic shock at the constant derision and resistance to all things Obama that was a national constant for eight years. One of the fave responses by conservatives seems to be, Republicans were elected to obstruct Obama. Really? The hades you say!  In that case, Democrats were elected to obstruct all things Trump. Resist! And so it is, “Another Day, Another Meeting: From RussiaWith Love!”

I’m done; holla back!

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