News & Politics

Trump Should Have Handled Putin Differently... But...

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, tosses a soccer ball to his wife first lady Melania Trump after Russian President Vladimir Putin presented it to him during a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Like many who watched the Trump/Putin press conference in Helsinki, I would have liked to have seen things play out differently. I would have liked to have seen Trump take a harsher tone regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Just because it wasn’t successful doesn’t mean it should be ignored. There were plenty of reasons to be frustrated with Trump’s handling of his press conference with Putin, but I’m more frustrated with the reactions from the media.

There’s plenty of legitimate criticism from the media. Even Fox News, Trump’s favorite network, was overall critical of Trump’s performance. Neil Cavuto called Trump’s performance disgusting. “I’m sorry, it’s the only way I feel. It’s not a right or left thing to me, it’s just wrong,” Cavuto added. And there has been ample criticism from both sides of the aisle. But, we’re also getting a lot of hyperbole from Trump’s opponents that is so over the top I feel it necessary to call them out.

Senator John McCain called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.” Maybe his memory is failing because I can think of quite a bit. While we expect Democrat partisans to be apoplectic over Trump’s actions, it’s safe to say any action he would have taken would have been met with criticisms similar in tone and faux rage. Obama’s former CIA director (and former Communist Party support) said in a tweet that the conference “rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’”

Seriously? Of course this tweet has received plenty of coverage, and Business Insider even published a piece today citing expert opinions on whether Trump really did commit treason. Newsweek also posed the question of whether Trump committed treason, with their own experts weighing in. Media reaction has ranged from fair to hyperbolic, but it has been overwhelmingly negative.

I don’t mind Trump being criticized when he does something wrong. That’s what the media is supposed to do. But it seems like everything Trump does is immediately branded in the worst possible way, with words like “treason” and “impeachment” getting thrown around willy-nilly over almost everything he says and does. Before people had Helsinki to ponder, my Facebook feed was flooded with stories about how terrible Trump is for breaking protocol during his visit with the queen of England. There is a bottom pit of rage from Trump haters, be they in the media, Congress, or elsewhere.

Again, I’m not trying to defend Trump’s actions in Helsinki, but where was the rage from the media when Obama went on his Global Apology Tour, or was caught in a hot mic moment in 2012 telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, “This is my last election… After my election I have more flexibility”? Or when Obama approved the sale of Uranium One to Russia in 2010?

Many suggested the mere meeting between Trump and Putin was treasonous. But, as the  Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell noticed a couple months ago, there’s a clear double standard when it comes to meeting with enemies and dictators. Under Obama, it was “historic diplomacy” but under Trump it’s written off as a “dangerous and disgusting sign of his lack of respect for human rights.”

I don’t know if Trump has a strategic reason for appearing to be soft on Putin with regard to election interference, but the outrage and hyperbole by media seem hypocritical considering how easily the media chose to write off Obama’s hot mic comments about missile defense to Medvedev as inconsequential.

CNN’s John King referred to it as a “candid chat” to which Erin Burnett responded that Obama “did obviously make a bit of a gaffe.” A bit of a gaffe? Jay Leno spoke of the incident on the Tonight Show with guest Mitt Romney and said, “That doesn’t seem that weird to me… That seems like politics as usual…”

Politics as usual? Could you imagine if anyone in the media described Trump’s performance in Helsinki as “politics as usual”? It’s alarming to consider how the media’s default position during the Obama years was to give him the benefit of the doubt, while Trump gets automatic antagonism. Trump’s position since the campaign was to improve relations with Russia, which is really no different from what the Obama administration tried and failed to do. Remember in 2009 when the Obama administration tried to “reset” relations with Russia, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov with red “reset” button as a symbol of the hope of improving Russian/U.S. relations? That really worked out well.

Still, the media fawned over Obama’s foreign policy despite numerous blunders, while Republicans were treated skeptically. When Mitt Romney called Russia America’s number one geopolitical foe during a debate with Barack Obama, Obama mocked, “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” And the media joined in with the mocking. Guess who was right?

Meanwhile, who remembers when a month ago, Obama’s former cyber-security coordinator revealed “that proposals he was developing to counter Russia’s attack on the U.S. presidential election were put on a ‘back burner’ after he was ordered to ‘stand down’ his efforts in the summer of 2016.” This should have been a huge story, but the media reserves its massive outrage coverage for Trump.

This is why Trump calls the media the “enemy of the people” — not because they are aggressively holding him accountable, but because they have a history of selectively holding leaders accountable based on partisan loyalties. Did you know that neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post (the nation’s two leading newspapers) has a single pro-Trump columnist? Do you really think that’s by accident?

After eight years of Obama throwing America under the bus with the approval of the media, Hollywood, and the Democratic Party, it strikes me as disingenuous for these institutions to be expressing outrage about Trump by calling him treasonous. For eight years I was never convinced that Obama was looking out for America’s interests. While often I don’t agree with Trump’s words, I have never doubted that he’s putting America first with his actions.


Matt Margolis is the author of the book, The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the forthcoming re-release of the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack ObamaYou can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis