On Monday, President Trump proved once again that when it comes to his rhetoric, at least, ego trumps good sense. In a joint press conference with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, Trump proceeded to bash his own intelligence agencies and side with Putin on the question of election interference. He even lent credence to Putin’s ridiculous “offer” to allow American government officials inside Russia to watch interrogations, in exchange for American interrogation of people like Bill Browder, an anti-Russian activist. He went so far as to blame both the United States and Russia for the increase in tensions.
Why would Trump do this?
The accusation from the Left: he did it because he’s working for Putin. Thus, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) suggested that Trump’s performance “proves that the Russians have something on the president, personally, financially, or politically.”
The real reason: Trump is an egomaniac. And he’s peeved – as he has been for two years – that people are casting aspersions at his election victory based on supposed Russian interference. Thus, Trump fired former FBI director James Comey for refusing to state publicly that Trump was innocent of collusion. He’s been deeply angry at the Mueller investigation, which has been looking into allegations of collusion. He’s repeatedly attempted to deflect from the possibility of Russian election interference itself, even crediting an unnamed 400-lb. loser in his mother’s basement for hacking the Democrats.
And we know Trump is a creature of ego. We know that he treated Kim Jung Un with punctilious sycophancy, crediting him as a powerful leader and a “1 in 10,000” star, and suggesting that their summit had ended the North Korean threat. We also know that when Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau had the temerity to attack Trump’s tariffs, Trump turned on him in brutal fashion and dressed him down publicly on Twitter.
Putin, however, has always been nice to Trump. That simple fact, combined with the fact that Trump cannot stand implications that his election was in any way illegitimate, explain his behavior today.
None of which excuses that behavior.
Foreign policy is not about getting along with foreign leaders. It’s not about personal proclivity. It’s about confluence of interest, and defending America’s national interest against enemies foreign and domestic. Trump’s language today undermined our foreign policy and our national security. And a wounded ego is no excuse for such behavior.