Where is the President of the United States?
When it comes to Russia, Donald Trump is just not there. Yesterday, in his first public comments since Russia expelled 755 American diplomats, the President offered no condemnation. Instead, he cracked a joke about how it will save the government money. It sends the signal to Vladimir Putin that the United States is weak and won’t stand up to those seek to do harm.
Since the first days of his presidency, President Trump has refused to stand up to or even hint the slightest displeasure at Russia or Vladimir Putin. Trump’s actions have made the United States weak and been a setback to the cause of freedom throughout the world.
For decades, the United States has represented freedom and democracy for the rest of the world. Though imperfect, America has stood up to tyrants and injustice, while being a beacon of hope. The oppressed have fought and died for the rights that we Americans enjoy and take for granted. Yet, to Donald Trump, these are not values worth lifting a finger for.
From day one of his presidency, Trump has refused to stand up for the United States. In an interview two and a half weeks after taking office, Bill O’Reilly presented the President with the opportunity to call Vladimir Putin what he is: Evil. Yet Trump flubbed it. O’Reilly said to Trump, “He’s a killer though. Putin’s a killer.” Which came after his noting how Putin assassinated journalists, his political rivals and other enemies.
The President’s reply? “We have a lot of killers, got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?”
Shorter Trump on Russian sins: ¯\_(?)_/¯
Donald Trump did not take the moment to say such actions were wrong. Nor did he ignore change the subject. Instead, the President of the United States drew a false moral equivalence by saying that somehow the United States of America was just as bad and therefore unable to render judgment.
So too is the President silent on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He has readily dismissed the findings of the U.S. intelligence community who stated that Russia launched a complex and sophisticated influence campaign designed to create turmoil in the election. Trump’s standard response is to equivocate and say it could have been perpetrated by other actors.
As worry grew that Trump would relax and remove sanctions against Russia, the House and the Senate voted overwhelmingly for new and tougher sanctions that could not be removed by the President alone. Last week, Trump grudgingly signed the bill and took to Twitter to voice his displeasure. “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!”
In a single tweet, President Trump blamed the United States Congress for our bad relations with Russia. He ignored Russia’s numerous sins, including election meddling in the U.S. and world, invading neighbors, targeted assassinations, and attacking our allies.
And does Russia extend him the same courtesy?
No. In recent weeks, the Russian government and its state-controlled media outlets have begun to criticize President Trump. In the wake of the sanctions bill become law, these attacks have increased. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, called the President “weak” and said that Congress humiliated him. Over the weekend, Russian state TV used a clown emoji to refer to Trump.
Despite this, Trump still will not criticize Vladimir Putin or Russia.
Certainly, the President would extend the same courtesies to other world leaders and countries, right? Of course not. In May, Trump publicly attacked NATO leaders to their face in a speech at the new NATO headquarters. He lambasted them for not paying their full dues and seemed proud of its undiplomatic nature. As revealed by the Washington Post last week, Trump behaved impertinently toward the Australian prime minister, a staunch ally of the United States, by abruptly ending a late January phone call after becoming frustrated.
On multiple occasions, Trump has attacked China on Twitter, most recently saying he was “very disappointed” with them and that they do “NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk.” China’s response? The official Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, responded by accusing Trump of “emotional venting” and said that such criticism does not solve the North Korea nuclear crisis.
Yet Trump remains silent on Russia and refuses to hold them accountable.
The job of holding Russia’s feet to the fire has fallen to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. The Ambassador has repeatedly been the voice of moral clarity in the Trump administration, particularly with regard to Russia. In April, she attacked the Putin regime for enabling Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s chemical attacks of his own people. She has criticized Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, its behavior toward Ukraine and other transgressions.
Unfortunately, her strong and clear leadership with regard to Russia is not being adopted by President Trump. Instead, the President has either contradicted Ambassador Haley or been silent. Such silence and contradictions have not benefited the United States or the world.
President Trump’s refusal to be even remotely critical of Russia has had a chilling effect on American foreign policy and leadership, as it makes us weak. Our moral authority has been eroded by silence and false moral equivalencies.
What does it say to the rest of the world when the president of the United States won’t stand up for the integrity of our democratic process, our allies, or nations under siege?
It tells them the United States is weak and does not stand up to what is wrong. When the world looks toward the beacon of hope that the United States has always provided, all they see is its absence.
Evan Siegfried is a Republican strategist and commentator.
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