President Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday to congratulate him on his win in an election that much of the rest of the world considered rigged in his favor — at best.
Predictably, the mainstream media — and establishment politicians of all stripes — lost their collective minds, although Trump was also defended by at least one surprising former Obama administration official.
Arizona Sen. John McCain’s response was typical, if perhaps a bit more polite than many others.
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today on President Trump congratulating Vladimir Putin on his “election” victory:
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”
One individual who disagreed with McCain and other Trump detractors was Leon Panetta, a Democrat who has held a number of offices under former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
“Presidents talk to kings and emperors and tyrants regardless of whether or not they were elected with any kind of democratic process or not,” Panetta told Neil Cavuto on Fox News’ “Your World With Neil Cavuto. “So I think the president has a right to talk to Putin and to obviously see if there are areas that they can agree with.
“I guess my concern would be that if you’re talking to Putin, I also think it’s important to be straightforward and honest with Putin. He is somebody that you have to be very straight with. And if you try to cater to him, he’ll take advantage of it. So I would have liked the president, in addition to asking about areas where we can work together, he should also mention the fact that there are lines we’re not going to let the Russians cross, such as aggression in the Ukraine or aggression in Syria or aggression against our election process or using nerve gas to kill Russians in another country.”
Panetta, who served as both CIA director and secretary of defense under Obama, seemed to slight his former boss in his comments regarding Putin’s attitude toward the United States:
“I think Putin has read weakness into the posture of the United States for too long. And I think the result is that he thinks he can get away with anything he wants to do.”And if the president is going to try to operate with strength, he’s going to have to be very straightforward with Putin, and tell him where the lines are that cannot be crossed when it comes to the United States,” he added. “Somebody has got to make that clear to Putin. And if this president doesn’t do it, make no mistake about it, Putin will take advantage of it.”
Was Trump morally wrong to congratulate Putin for “winning” what virtually every neutral observer would describe as a rigged election? You could certainly make that argument … and I’d probably agree with you, for whatever that’s worth.
Given that Trump’s approach to both domestic and foreign policy might best be described as pragmatism,Council on Foreign Relations Visiting Senior Fellow James Goldgeier might have stated the relevant question best, at least as far as social media goes:
Without knowing Trump’s policy goals with certainly, making any definitely judgment of his actions is unlikely to prove useful — or wise.
But it’s also unwise to expect a swamp-dweller to act like anything other than a swamp-dweller … even when he lives in the middle of the desert in sunny Arizona.
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