The President’s inability to deflect flattery undermines the nation
If you left your bed yesterday, you were likely overwhelmed by a seemingly non-stop torrent of events. Even in the ADHD-News cycle of 2017, the past 48 hours seemed like a particularly heavy barrage of big stories. Comey was fired! Subpoenas were filed! DeVos was booed! Yates testified! Sean Spicer hid in the bushes! Anderson Cooper found Kellyanne Conway! Not to mention the ad nauseam analysis and commentary, and the confused and sometimes contradictory statements from the President himself.
And while most outlets definitely reported on the President’s absurdly ill-timed meetings with both Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Henry Kissinger (respectively representative of the foreign government he’s suspected of colluding with and the disgraced president he’s been recently compared to), little attention has been directed at a certain quote by Lavrov during the (Russians-only) photo-op:
“It is clear that in its final days, the Obama administration took petty action against our diplomats and our property. They ordered our diplomats out in 24 hours. Everyone in the Trump administration understands that these were illegitimate actions.” (source)
Here’s what strikes me: This is a foreign diplomat, from a nation with which we have long had a strained, if not antagonistic, relationship, directly attacking the former President, in front of —or worse, in service of — the current President.
A foreign diplomat criticizing the policy of the US is not an uncommon event. But consider the message it sends to the rest of the world when the President himself essentially invites a foreign agent to badmouth a prior administration in order to make himself look better.
This is yet another example of how little regard the current President has for the Office of the Presidency. The one constant in the past hundred-ish days of flailing, panicked incoherence is that Trump holds himself above any one and any thing. Lavrov’s plainly insincere flattery of Donald Trump —offered only to lure him into adopting a Russia-approved position — signals instability to our allies, and exploitability to our adversaries.
This should go beyond politics. The continued legitimacy of the institutions of the United States — regardless of the humans who inhabit them for a given time — are what make it The United States. Think of it like a family. I can insult my brother, you can insult your brother, but you do not insult my brother. Among the house, we are free to disagree, debate, and fight. It’s one of the best aspects of our society. But, as a house, we are a house, and we should set aside petty differences in the name of a bigger unity.
Our current president is not capable of this, and the rest of the word — especially Russia — knows this and knows how to play him like a fiddle. I rarely use this term because I usually find it unsettling and authoritarian, but I think in this case it’s very appropriate: This is Un-American.