It’s not as easy to sympathise with Donald Trump, as it is (or perhaps used to be) with Jacinda Ardern. But sometimes it’s worth pushing yourself.
Take for example the coverage of his exclusive appearance on the – wait for it – Clay and Buck show.
It was reported in the Daily Beast as:
“This time, the twice-impeached ex-president lauded the authoritarian leader’s “genius” invasion of Ukraine as “very savvy.””
You probably need to listen to Clay and Buck to pick up the sarcasm.
For a more balanced – and more useful – critique of the ex-President’s remarks, try this in the National Review:
“Trump was nothing like a “Russian asset” or “Putin’s puppet,” and if he was, it’s awfully inconvenient that Putin seized Crimea just before Trump became president and moved on the Donbas just after Trump ceased to be president. Nevertheless, Trump has no principle or sense of allegiance that isn’t flexible when it comes to naked self-interest, hence his praise of Putin at the 2018 Helsinki summit for backing up Trump’s complaints about the FBI. Trump takes the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend thinking to breathtaking extremes.”
It matters, not least because bad reporting might force you to keep on listening to Clay and Buck.
True – you would get some interesting nuggets. Like the reminder of Trump’s plan to fill up the US strategic oil reserve when prices were at rock bottom. (Spoiler alert – it didn’t happen)
Accuracy in coverage would also make the great political reset, which is underway and moving fast, a bit less surprising.
Trump himself elaborated on his remarks a few days later, opining that Putin’s “appalling” actions wouldn’t have happened on his watch.
Public opinion polls suggest 62% of Americans might agree with him.
But perhaps the most impressive handbrake turn was executed by Germany’s left-of-centre coalition government. Per the Daily Telegraph, it has gone from quasi-neutralism to:
“ … dropping German opposition to sending weapons to Ukraine, [giving] in on expelling Russian banks from international transaction system SWIFT, and [putting] approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany on indefinite hold”.
There is a commitment to end reliance on Russian natural gas imports and even one (albeit dubiously weasel-worded) to reconsider the phasing-out of nuclear power.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock “ … admitted her country – and party – was in the middle of a “180-degree turn” in policy.”
With the justification: “When our world is different, then our politics must be different as well”.
More conventional and elegant than Donald Trump – but also begging a similar interrogation.
A week ago we suggested that Vladimir Putin had made two significant misjudgements: the first was in his understanding of Ukrainians; and the second in his understanding of Russians.
It looks like there might be a third misjudgement – one not limited to Putin – in understanding Europeans (this includes the Anglosphere by the way).
There appears to be a consensus – not directly articulated but no less strong for that – that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in Europe anymore. And logically therefore, whatever it takes to stop it.
That consensus did not exist when the Russian armed forces flattened Grozny or Aleppo. Worth pondering that one too.
And, despite the weaknesses exposed in Russian military capability, it will surely be tested in the months, if not years, to come.
Because despite the great reset, normal politics are also continuing.
Lest we get too carried away with the aggression / freedom thing, Democrat party heavyweight Robert Reich reminds us in the Guardian, that wars “deaden reform … legitimate huge military expenditures … [and] create fat profits for big corporations”.
We need to be aware of the constant temptation to bend the Ukraine narrative to support what we were already fretting about (although the reminder that “Putin very much benefits from white privilege” shows some can bend much more than others).
But there is no escape from what is happening. Noted Christian apologist CS Lewis imagined a correspondence between two demons in his book The Screwtape Letters:
“We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone”.
Pray he is right.