Max Boot has made a relatively tidy visibility boost these last few years, all thanks to NeverTrumpism. Just last month, the CNN global affairs analyst wrote an article titled “I was a member of the Republican Party before Trump — now I want the Democrats to take over.” He’s said that Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, who recently threatened war against the United States, seems “more stable and rational” than Donald J. Trump. Trump has even got him thinking about race; the most guffaw-inducing headline on anything he’s written is almost certainly “2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege.”
In other words, he fits right in at CNN.
Alas, the Blitzer Network isn’t entirely a safe-space for Mr. Boot. Last week, Boot appeared opposite Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at both NYU and Princeton, on “Anderson Cooper 360.” In just a few short minutes, Cohen managed to tidily destroy his argument on Trump and Russia (or, as Boot might say, exercised the privilege of being an arrantly un-woke white male).
The exchange was over Trump’s statement that he “had a great meeting, in my opinion — of course, the fake news didn’t cover it that way — but I had a great meeting with President Putin of Russia.”
Cooper noted that they didn’t cover it because he didn’t say what they discussed. However, Boot was of a more conspiratorial bent.
“Although he’s willing to threaten North Korea, he’s willing to threaten Iran, he never threatens Russia,” Boot said. “And that’s why a lot of American intelligence officials think that there is something highly suspect in the relationship between Putin and Trump.”
“I have no idea what Mr. Boot is talking about,” Cohen said. “He wants Trump to threaten Russia? Why would we threaten Russia? You’ve got two nuclear superpowers–“
“Because they’re attacking us!” Cohen, literally screaming, interjected. “Russia is attacking us, Professor Cohen! Russia is attacking us right now, according to Trump’s own director of national intelligence.”
Not content just to use the privilege of the un-woke white male, Cohen then decided to exercise erudition privilege.
“I’ve been studying Russia for 45 years,” Cohen said. “I’ve lived in Russia and I’ve lived here. If Russia was attacking us, we would know it.”
Boot was talking over Cohen, which prompted him to ask, “Excuse me, what did you say to me?”
“I said you’ve been consistent in apologist (sic) for Russia in the last 45 years,” Boot said.
“All right, I don’t do defamation to people,” a visibly piqued Cohen said. “I do serious analysis of serious national security problems. When people like you call people like me — and not only me, but people more eminent than me — apologists for Russia because we don’t agree with your analysis, you are criminalizing diplomacy and detente, and you are the threat to American national security. End of story.
“Why do you have to defame somebody you don’t agree with? They used to do that in the old Soviet Union. We don’t do that here. Well, we used to — but we need to stop it.”
Boot could only manage a laugh to all of this. Meanwhile, Cooper decided to ask Cohen whether he believed Russia was actually attacking the United States.
“I know what you’re talking about: During the 2016 election, Russia attacked the United States,” Cohen said. “Yes, I don’t think Russia attacked the United States. “
“OK, and you just denied being an apologist for Russia,” Boot interrupted. “You’re apologizing for Russia as we speak.”
“Will you ever let me finish? You don’t know what I’m going to say,” Cohen said. “The meddling began right after the Russian Revolution when Woodrow Wilson sent American troops to fight in the Russian civil war against the communists. The meddling began on the Soviet and Russian side … when the communists formed the Communist International in 1919. Ever since then, Moscow’s meddled in our politics, we’ve meddled in theirs.
This is low-level stuff, what went on. It is not an attack. It is not 9/11. It is not Pearl Harbor. It is not Russian paratroopers descending on Washington. This kind of hyperbole — ‘an attack on America’ — suggests that we need to attack Russia. So you’ve got Mr. Boot saying that we should threaten Russia. With what? Does he want to attack?”
“Yes, actually,” Boot responded.
“I think Mr. Boot would have been happy if Mr. Trump had waterboarded Putin at the summit and made him confess,” Cohen said in response to that. “Trump carried out an act of diplomacy fully consistent with the history of American presidents.”
Pointing out that Boot is criminalizing diplomacy? What privilege. I don’t know what kind of privilege, but I’m sure Mr. Boot can find some.
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