Trump’s Cheerleaders Forget How Weak He Was With Putin

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You would think that given the fact Donald Trump was impeached for illegally withholding congressionally approved aid to Ukraine, his supporters might take the current crisis as an opportunity to have a seat.

You would think that since Trump in June 2020 advocated for drawing down U.S. troops in Germany, and after having spent years weakening NATO with his attacks and criticisms, that the current urgent need for strength within the Western alliance would have Trumpists hitting their own mute buttons.

You would think that with Russia threatening the international order over the possibility of invading a sovereign neighbor, the Trump-cheering section would dial it down a bit given the 45th president’s signature public toadying to Vladimir Putin, the man who singlehandedly created the current crisis.

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You might even think that since the response of the Biden administration to the current Russian threat has been dramatically more robust than the responses of the last three administrations to Putin’s aggressions, incursions, and violations of international law, that Team Trump might even offer up a little praise for the current president. After all, even Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell did, for goodness sakes. There are vital national security interests at stake, after all.

This is precisely the sort of moment when, historically, America’s political parties have tried to tone down their partisan bickering and present a united front to the world. But no, not this GOP.

Even with Trump not occupying the White House, Republicans and the warped cogs in their giant message machine continue to see their mission as strengthening not the U.S. and our allies, but Russia; and serving not the national interests, but their own political self-interests.

Drawing on the Trump playbook, their approach is not only facts be damned, but that history never happened. It is once again: “Who are you going to believe, us or your lying eyes?”

They are taking short-term memory loss and turning into a movement, making cognitive dysfunction a requirement for admission into a MAGA fairyland in which rivers of Fox News disinformation continue to flow from the well-springs of Russian propaganda, in which heroes are magically transformed into villains, friends into enemies, and good into evil.

(Remember the hubbub in 2020 about science possibly having discovered a parallel universe in which key laws of physics were reversed? Sorry, science, but we did not need a complicated experiment in Antarctica searching for high-energy particles from outer space to find it. All you had to do was watch Tucker Carlson, the top-rated Fox News host who has gone so far off the deep end with his pro-Kremlin rants that even Russian media is worried his lunacy reflects badly on them.)

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty</div>

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019.

Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty

The frozen seafood heir turned human fountain of anti-American bullshit is not, however, the only Republican seeking the limelight these days to spew indefensible nonsense that only draws attention to their own past failings.

Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, wrote an op-ed for Fox News headlined: “Russia-Ukraine conflict puts Biden administration’s weakness on full display.”

It opens with a giant self-inflicted wound, making the case that the current administration is showing “abject weakness” by arguing that Biden was weak with Iran—ignoring the Trump administration’s gift to Iran of pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear treaty, thus freeing Iran to ramp up their region-destabilizing nuclear program, as has happened. Pompeo also says Biden was weak in Afghanistan for finally pulling the U.S. out of its longest war—an act that was hastened by Pompeo’s own negotiations with the Taliban and Trump’s decision to cut and run at an earlier date in a manner that would have been even more devastating. And Pompeo slams Biden for failing to be tough with China—a country with which Trump and his kids canoodled for profit even while he was in office.

But reality ain’t no thing to Pompeo, a man who all by himself is the answer to the question, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?

So, let’s go to the tape. What has Biden done?

Reject Putin’s demands? Check.

Prepare massive, multi-tiered sanctions against Russia that are ready to go into effect the minute Russian troops cross the border? Check.

Guarantee to support Ukraine? Check.

Rally the allies? Check.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Donald Trump as he arrives to attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Nov. 11, 2018.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty</div>

Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Donald Trump as he arrives to attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Nov. 11, 2018.

Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty

Not noted, of course, in Pompeo’s prescription, were the steps the Trump team took to cozy up to Russia, undercut relations with Ukraine by firing an effective ambassador and withholding aid in exchange for help with a domestic political agenda, regularly criticize NATO, and—as noted above—withdraw US troops from Europe that are now central to Biden’s strong response to this crisis.

Pompeo is not alone.

The “Biden is weak” chorus in Foxlandia has been strong and incorporated many of those who, along with Trump, dramatically weakened America’s standing in the world. (If you don’t think Putin’s current threat to Ukraine was based in part on his calculation that Trump’s divisiveness and assault on U.S. democracy has weakened us, then you are not paying attention.)

Human weathervane Nikki Haley—who, like her colleagues, does not seem to remember Trump’s shameful display of kissing up to Putin at the expense of the U.S. intelligence community in Helsinki—stated: “Russia smells blood in the water because we have never had a president as weak as Joe Biden.”

Former Trump Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who undermined the U.S. intelligence community by turning his post atop it into a political operation regularly contradicting the findings of his own people, also had the audacity to criticize Biden—who has been put into the position of spending much of his term undoing the damage done by Trump and his team.

Who else chimed in? None other than disgraced former Speaker of the House turned crackpot-for-hire Newt Gingrich. He not only repeated the canards about Biden and Putin, but also argued that Biden was weak on China.

The reality is: Biden pulled out of Afghanistan to complete the pivot to Asia that others have discussed but not made a reality, elevated the core Pacific alliance known as the Quad with its first leaders summit, created a new security alliance in the region with AUKUS, and brought a new realism to U.S.-China policy, framing the strategic competition between the two countries in tougher terms than any of his modern predecessors.

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The reality also holds that Trump’s record on Russia—and the damage he did with our allies and at home—set the stage for the crisis that Biden and his team are expertly managing today. Don’t forget Trump said on the campaign trail that he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia and recognizing occupied Crimea as Russian land. His rationale? “The people of Crimea,” Trump said, “from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”

Gingrich is worried Biden’s not being tough enough on Russia and China? Trump lobbied to have Russia be allowed to rejoin the G7—which had previously booted Russia from its membership after the theft of Crimea from Ukraine. Trump even blamed the invasion of Crimea on Barack Obama, rather than Putin, saying it was Obama’s fault “because Putin didn’t respect President Obama, didn’t respect our country.”

In other words, not only are the GOP critiques of Biden’s handling of this crisis completely out of place, they are stunningly hypocritical and stunningly craven—even for this group of compulsive liars. It’s all part of a calculated disinformation campaign designed to both inflame the GOP base while also providing cover for the manifold errors and betrayals of the Trump years.

Finally, the GOP slanders are proof that, once again, the Trumpist GOP’s initial response to almost everything is projection. In their accusations that Biden is weak they reveal not only their fear that he is actually strong, but are projecting their own desperate weaknesses in bearing the impossible burden of having to defend their records as part of the worst of any American administration in history.

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