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Today the God-King rejected U.S. intelligence and the DOJ’s indictments and sided with Vladimir Putin in denying that Russia attacked our 2016 election. Senate Armed Service Committee chair John McCain was unsparing in his condemnation:
Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.
President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.
It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.
Axios’ Jonathan Swan was flummoxed:
I just have no words. As press in this room, we are all sitting in here speechless and stunned. Trump cast doubt over the U.S. intelligence community and endorsed Putin’s denial. Trump was given an opportunity to denounce the meddling and he didn’t; he just pivoted to lines about the missing server and Hillary’s emails. While Putin spoke forcefully, lying, Trump nodded along. There’s no way of sugar coating or spinning this.
It was press conference as national nightmare, summed up succinctly by the BBC on its home page minutes later with this headline: “Trump Sides With Russia Against FBI.”
Almost superfluous in the moment, the news media’s job became crucially important in the immediate aftermath.
What happened on that stage needs to be made undeniably clear to every American citizen who isn’t hopelessly lost in denial. (And clearly, many are.)
That job will fall, in part at least, to the American press, which will find itself in the uncomfortable position of calling a spade a spade, with none of the usual recourse to false equivalence or “both sides with equal weight” coverage.
Clarity of purpose and moral force are called for. They are not always in ample supply by a too-docile press corps.
[James] Fallows called Monday’s news conference a “moment of truth” for Republican lawmakers.
So, too, for American journalists.
Will our media rise to the challenge?
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