(July 18, 2018 / JNS) No matter what U.S President Donald Trump does, the knee-jerk reaction of the haters and his political opponents will always be uncontrollable, obsessive rage.
But the hysterical reactions of politicians and journalists to what Trump did or didn’t say at the press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the conclusion of their joint summit in Helsinki reached new heights. They accused Trump of betraying his country and neglecting the national interests of the American people, and once again brought up the conspiracy theories, according to which the U.S. president fawns over Putin in public because the Russian leader has incriminating information about Trump or his associates. Worse still, they say Trump would rather attack U.S. intelligence agencies than Putin for his crimes, foremost among them Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump’s critics very nearly accused the U.S. president of colluding with the Russian enemy.
The announcement just three days ahead of the Helsinki summit that 12 Russian intelligence officers had been indicted for hacking Democratic officials cast a shadow over the meeting between the two leaders, the first such talks in a decade. While there were many reasons Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, avoided meeting with Putin during his second term in office, the absence of a personal relationship between the leaders of the two biggest world powers for such an extended period of time did nothing to straighten Putin out. The opposite is true: This approach bolstered the sense in Moscow that Washington was interested in conflict and preparing for a new cold war. Trump sought to break with this perception and prevent an unnecessary escalation. He wanted to look for ways to increase cooperation between the two countries, including those that would serve the U.S. economy.
After all, Trump is first and foremost a businessman who wants to “make America great again.”
From the little Trump and Putin revealed about their meeting, the two clearly discussed many important topics. But these matters were not the focus of their joint press conference. Instead, the two leaders were forced to contend with the provocative questions of mainly American journalists, who sought to instigate a public spat between Trump and Putin. But neither leader had come to Helsinki to fight. They simply wanted to try and forge a new dynamic between their countries.
One statement Trump made that did not get enough attention—probably due to the fact that it did not relate to Russian subversion—says a lot about what happened in Helsinki: “I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.” Trump, who knew that even if Putin gave him the keys to Moscow, his opponents and the media would ask why he didn’t demand St. Petersburg while he was at it, preferred to take the heat for not crucifying Putin on the subject of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections and not reveal the issues he discussed with Putin. One can only hope the attacks on Trump did not serve to distract their attention from the issues that really matter.
In their uproar over the Helsinki summit, the hypocrisy of Trump’s critics is all the more evident. The same liberal left that tells us we should talk to Hamas and Hezbollah, makes pilgrimages to the grave of the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, fiercely defends the Iran nuclear deal and crowned Obama for renewing ties with Cuba now lashes out at Trump for “selling his soul to the war criminal and human-rights violator” Putin.
In Israel, too, Trump’s obsessed critics chose to ignore the historical significance in the superpowers’ commitment to ensuring Israel’s security and instead invest their energy in laying into Trump once more.
Eldad Beck is an Israeli journalist and author.