Flanked by our military’s wokest ranks, President Biden gave a rundown of his G7 schedule upon arriving in Europe last week, climaxing with, “Then to meet with [President] Putin, to let him know what I want him to know.” The uniformed crowd erupted in cheers.
So it was counterintuitive when Mr. Biden dealt with Mr. Putin statesman-to-statesman, agreeing to return ambassadors to their posts, and offering this takeaway: “We agreed today to launch a bilateral strategic stability dialogue to work on a mechanism that can lead to control of new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons … that reduce the times of response, that raise the prospects of accidental war.”
“Madman!” concurred left and right, including broadcast news’ last bastion of sanity, Fox News Channel. Deflated that Mr. Biden seemed to be without any urgency to assassinate Mr. Putin or level his country, these American patriots and their think-tank guests started the cheap politicking about Mr. Biden’s “weakness,” a return favor for five years of Democrats calling former President Trump “Putin’s puppet.”
On “Fox News @ Night,” the network’s resident spook Daniel Hoffman had the ubiquitous take of the day: “It enhanced his stature … Putin had to make no concessions whatsoever and he’s looking essentially at resetting our relationship.”
God forbid the two biggest nuclear powers should dial back the Doomsday Clock. Later, on “Hannity,” Mr. Hoffman called the press “the heroes of the summit” — for being on the same page as the State Department, the Pentagon and both major parties, thumping our collective chest at an easy target.
One clip played ad nauseum was of CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins asking her ‘bold’ question, “Why are you so confident [Mr. Putin] will change his behavior, Mr. President?” Over at Fox News, Laura Ingraham — apparently unaware that browbeating Russia and non-enemies thereof is the lowest common denominator — remarked, “Shockingly, Kaitlan Collins posed a common-sense question.”
Sean Hannity had a similar learning curve, also quoting a mainstreamer with pleasant surprise: “As the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation put it today, even on [MSNBC], Putin got what he wanted.”
“Even” on MSNBC? Mr. Hannity doesn’t know the right is selling us on what the left started? When Mr. Trump was in office, the Democrats were goading him toward war with Russia. Now that Mr. Biden is, the Republicans are upping the ante, becoming just as unhinged as they regurgitate a more supercharged version of the Dems’ script.
“We are not rooting for that hostile actor, that murderer, that killer from that hostile regime,” Mr. Hannity continued. “He’s a killer. He’s a thug and frankly he’s evil.” The usually level-headed Ingraham echoed the words “killer” and “evil.”
After repeating the mantra about the Russian leader getting “a massive platform in exchange for zero concessions,” Mr. Hannity said Mr. Putin “mocked and trashed us at length,” using “that platform to take shot after shot at our country.”
What form did these “shots” and “trashing” take? At Mr. Putin’s post-summit news conference, he “batted away a question about his crackdown on political rivals … by saying he was trying to avoid the ‘disorder’ of a popular movement such as Black Lives Matter,” Reuters reported. “As for who is killing whom or are throwing whom in jail,” Mr. Putin continued, “people came to the U.S. Congress with political demands. Over 400 people had criminal charges placed on them. They face prison sentences of up to … 25 years. They’re being called domestic terrorists.”
Nor is his take on BLM dissimilar to America’s sane: “What we saw was disorder, destruction, violations of the law … We feel sympathy for the United States of America, but we don’t want that to happen on our territory.”
It’s arguable whether freeing activist Alexei Navalny would result in upheaval, but why does the network’s own take on American turmoil suddenly become trash talk if it comes from Vladimir Putin? Never mind that you’d have to come up with a whole new term for “trashing, mocking, and taking shots” to describe what we’ve been doing to Russia for the better part of a decade.
Just days before the summit, American Greatness senior contributor Julie Kelly correctly referred to the arrested Capitol rioters as political prisoners. She was a guest on “Life, Liberty and Levin,” whom Mr. Hannity refers to as “The Great One.” Unfortunately, Mark Levin — who used to have a hard time seeing Russia as some great threat — has come around to his admirer’s view, instead of the other way around, and now puts Mr. Putin’s Russia in the same category as China, the Soviet Union, and totalitarian regimes generally.
Even Donald Trump forgot the point of Donald Trump when he weighed in on Mr. Hannity’s show to say, “I think it was a good day for Russia.” With that, four years of Trumpism — not starting new wars, and exposing ravenous NATO’s obsolescence — fall into the memory hole, as Mr. Trump recruits himself into the Bush-Cheney-McCain league that worked against him. It was more important to criticize his successor in thrall to partisanship. The RNC topped it all off with a cringe-inducing ad saying, “It’s morning again in Russia.”
Should it always be night there? Why should only we win and Russia lose — even when there doesn’t have to be a loser? Even when we count as our win something completely self-destructive, just so Russia loses too? (See our Syria policy.) It’s this anarchic and nonsensical imperative that got relations to where they are.
As part of an expert military panel on Martha McCallum’s “The Story,” former Pence adviser Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg said that what keeps him up at night about the new administration “is the question of will. One thing that President Trump had, he had the willingness to … go after you and he wouldn’t take time doing it. And proved that with Soleimani, Baghdadi … the thing that keeps me up at night is, does this administration have the will to protect America by going after someone really hard?”
Realize we’re talking about fixable — not to mention avoidable (don’t click on that link!) — malware and ransomware attacks by criminal hubs, which we’re told are frequent but vary in scope. Not only are we supposed to take at face value from Cold War dinosaurs that the hacking emanates from Russia, but that the government can control them.
(So do cartels operate with the “implicit approval” of the Mexican president? How about every time an American is kidnapped there? Isn’t our government derelict in not aiming nukes at Mexico?) They’re using these isolated cyberattacks that are law-enforcement issues to drag us into all-out war — and calling it protection. Potentially trading cyber insecurity for nuclear winter.
“The only thing Putin is gonna respond to is actions,” Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall blustered on “Making Money with Charles Payne.” “…The president should have canceled the meeting. Our secretary of state ought to be over there beating the tar out of Russia right now….It’s time to stand up to Russia, and we need our NATO allies to help us.”
Stand up to Russia, as opposed to kicking it in the face for 20 years and conducting NATO drills on its borders. Until it finally started standing up for itself — which we now call “aggression,” and give ourselves a green light for war.
On this point host Charles Payne recalled a reporter question to Mr. Biden about a possible military response to ransomware attacks. Mr. Payne asked Mr. Marshall what the response should be. “Let’s shut down their entire internet! I really think we could do amazing things….we’ve got to step up the pace.”
As an increasingly dysfunctional country clamors for war, only its figurehead puts on the brakes, making the cognitively struggling president look mentally sound. To know that everyone wants to see you threaten the Russian leader, and yet to thumb your nose at them instead of at Russia this time takes something. At least for this month, it’s Mr. Biden’s lone prudence — however fleeting — that’s actually protecting us.
• Julia Gorin was a child refusenik, and is editor of the humor volume “Hillarisms: The Unmaking of the First Female President.”