Donald Trump had set out to make history on his first sojourn as President of the United States. But pundits of the left had other things on their mind — Russia, Russia, Russia! The brash billionaire, who had once proclaimed that “Islam hates us”, received a red carpet welcome “beyond anything anyone has seen” in Saudi Arabia, the land of Islam’s birth. Calling it “a battle between good and evil” he had without mincing words asked leaders of 50 Muslim nations to confront the “crisis of Islamic extremism” and drive terrorists out of their “holy land” and out “of this earth”.
Then on an upbeat visit to Israel, Trump had in his quest for the “ultimate peace deal” implored both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to put aside the “pain and disagreements of the past”. Ending frosty ties with the Vatican, he also had a “cordial” meeting with Pope Francis as they discussed cooperation on “health care, education and assistance to immigrants” with Trump focusing on “extreme terrorism threats”.
But in no hurry to temper his confrontational style, the “America First” President who had once declared NATO “obsolete” and then “no longer obsolete”, also asked stony-faced allies in Brussels to pay up their fair share. As many as 23 of the 28 NATO members owed “massive amounts” from past years, Trump complained even as he vowed that “we will never forsake the friends who stood by our side” after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.
He faced more clashes at his first summit of G-7 rich nation’s club in Italy as they discussed contentious issues of climate change, trade and immigration. but agreed to hear them out before finally deciding to pull out or not from the Paris climate accord. But to the “fake news media”, as the President loves to call his left-liberal detractors, Trump might have been playing hooky as they diligently kept barking up the Russian tree.
They went to town with Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan telling a House panel that “worried by a number of contacts that the Russians had” with Trump associates he had alerted FBI as early as the summer of 2016. He had even warned the top Russian spy that Moscow’s meddling in US presidential elections would damage US-Russia relationship, claimed Brennan. But he did not say what he and other American spooks did to stop Russia.
The media also buried way down in their stories Brennan’s acknowledgment that he did not see any proof of “collusion” between Trump associates and Russia before he left on inauguration day in January. Pundits also crowed about a Washington Post story that two intelligence chiefs had declined as “inappropriate” Trump’s call to publicly deny that his team had colluded with Russia.
But when spymaster Daniel Coats told a Congressional panel that as the President’s top intelligence adviser, he could not talk about his conversations with the boss, they were quick to suggest that he had not “denied the story.” And the day Trump asked NATO allies to pay up, talking heads were still going gaga over a Post story about his son-in-law and key adviser Jared Kushner being under FBI scrutiny for his post-election meetings with the Russian ambassador.
Even as they acknowledged that Kushner was not a suspect or accused of any wrongdoing, some suggested that the Russia probe had reached too close to the White House for Trump’s comfort. And when in response to outrage in Britain over “deeply troubling” US intelligence leaks of Manchester bombing probe, Trump vowed to “get to the bottom of this”, the New York Times offered a cheeky response.
“Is there something particularly American about leaking? Some national allergy to protecting government secrets?” asked the beneficiary of spilled secrets. “Yes, in fact there is,” it asserted. “And whether you denounce that as a dangerous trait or accept it as an underpinning of democracy it is unlikely to change.”
Meanwhile, with protests going up by a massive 30 per cent since Trump’s inauguration, another “leak” industry is flush in the capital with port-a-potty major “Gotta Go Now” reporting a 40 percent growth in revenue. But it’s time pundits let the Russia story go unless they want to keep playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands!