ANALYSIS: Why Republicans won’t stand up to Trump, after he failed to stand up to Putin
There’s a longstanding theory that Vladimir Putin only respects one thing: strength. On Monday, Donald Trump hand-delivered exactly the opposite.
Before the eyes of the world, Trump was given the opportunity to publically condemn Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. This could have been his Ronald Reagan “tear down this wall!” moment.
Instead, he cowered.
The American president was asked flat out, “Whom do you believe?” — Putin or your own intelligence agencies — and the best he could muster was to say, “I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia].”
Mr. “Art of the Deal,” a man who has repeatedly claimed that “nobody has been tougher on Russia,” seemed unable, or unwilling, to confront the leader of a government that launched a coordinated effort to manipulate and influence American democracy.
It was an abject failure of leadership that will surely haunt Mr. Trump for the rest of his presidency.
Some have even argued it’s equivalent to America failing to respond to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor.
Not only did Trump fail to stand up for the interests of all western democracies, including his own, he appeared feckless at a time when he’s trying to play hardball on trade, and strike a deal with the North Koreans.
One might wonder what world leader would take him seriously now.
You see, even if Trump wanted to send a stern message to Putin, he has proven time and time again that he is incapable of doing that kind of thing in person.
Just look at how he’s treated Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel or even North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Trump has shown he has no problem insulting people and talking tough from afar. As soon as he sits down with them, he lavishes praise and acts like their best friend. It often falls apart again as soon as he leaves the room.
Of course, the difference with Putin is that Trump never really talked tough to begin with, and he’s not likely to start doing that now, which is why no one should have expected him to deliver a rebuke in the first place.
WATCH: Republican Senator defends Trump, says meeting with Putin a good thing
Yet as Republicans huff and puff about the president’s conduct, they find themselves doing the exact same thing.
No one is likely to resign from the Trump administration out of principle, and few of the concerned conservative voices speaking up now are likely to deliver any kind of rebuke of the president in person.
That will allow conduct, described by some as “treasonous” and “disgraceful,” to blow over, and in the end, Republicans will have enabled the president, in the exact same way the president is accused of enabling Putin: by not speaking up.
WATCH: Former U.S. CIA director calls Trump’s words at summit with Putin ‘nothing short of treasonous’
We learned long ago that this is no longer a game of standing up for the values America claims to hold dear — arguably the Reaganesque principles that Trump claims to espouse.
It’s now all a political calculation, and right now polls show more than 80 per cent of Republican voters support the president.
In short, there is no upshot to standing up for the republic, if it means standing up to Trump. Instead, they’ll have to find a way to work around the president, if they want to confront Russia.
Jackson Proskow is Washington Bureau Chief for Global National.
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