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How Trump made summits a joke

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When I was a kid, at the height of the Cold War, U.S.-Russia summit meetings were a big deal. Whenever Eisenhower and his successor, JFK, met with Krushchev, the nation waited with baited breath to learn what happened. LBJ summitted with Brezhnev in 1967; Nixon did the same six years later; and when Reagan met with Gorbachev, in Reykjavik in 1986, the world was on tenterhooks: would it be peace or war?

These events were the ultimate drama. As Fortune Magazine noted, summits “garner[ed] much interest and excitement” because they were “a high-politics version of a well-scripted…unpredictable reality show in which two powerful men…discuss the interests of their countries.”

The idea of summits between leaders isn’t new. Moses’s confrontation with Pharoah could be described as a summit. Probably the most famous summit of the 19th century was the meeting, in 1807, between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I of Russia, to determine the fate of Prussia (unless you count the Grant-Lee meeting as a “summit”).

Summits, in other words, really did resolve, or revolve around, important issues. With this Trump regime, however, summits have devolved into made-for-reality-TV spectacles. Trump’s much ballyhooed “summit” with Kim Jong-Un, as we now know, resulted in nothing but Trump’s boasts, mainly to his base, that he “denuclearized” the Korean Peninsula, when in fact North Korea continues to enrich the uranium needed for thermonuclear bombs.

And now we have the bread-and-circus summit of Trump meeting with Putin in Helsinki today. What does anyone really expect will happen from this charade? There will be a communiqué afterwards, and plenty of tweets and on-air statements, but the real agreements will be secret. Trump is a pathological liar, so anything he says must instantly be distrusted. What he will do is to again boast that he is improving U.S.-Russia relations, a statement that will quickly be disproved by the march of real events.

Russian-American enmity is a century old. The two countries have been at odds ever since the Russian Revolution turned that nation Communist, in October, 1917. America and the then-Soviet Union collaborated for a brief period during World War II to beat their common enemy, Hitler (talk about strange bedfellows!), but even before VE Day, the old tensions resurfaced, and by the time of Truman’s re-election in 1948, the Cold War had begun in deadly earnest, with both sides arming to the teeth.

It’s hard to imagine Russia, especially under Putin, and America entirely burying hatchets both have wielded for more than 100 years. It would be nice, but History doesn’t seem to permit such startlingly casual turnarounds. More importantly, the summit takes place in the immediate aftermath of Mueller’s spectacular indictment last week of 12 Russian military intelligence officers, an event that utterly devastates Trump’s persistent claims that Russia did nothing to meddle with the election. Nobody I’m aware of expects Trump to do anything to hold Putin personally accountable (as he is). Trump himself has said his actions are limited to a feeble query. “All I can do is say ‘Did you?’ and ‘Don’t do it again.”

Which pretty much makes this summit a nothingburger. We used to be able to believe the communiqués. No more: not when they’re given by a pathological liar like Trump and a master spy like Putin. And given the fact that Trump will permit no outside observers (except for translators), we won’t even know the actual content of their secret conversation. For all we know, the chat will be about the sex videotape Putin likely has of Trump in that infamous hotel room with those Russian prostitutes.

There will be breathless coverage of this “summit.” Trump’s base—until now the fiercest anti-Russians ever, but overnight turned into Russophiles by their Svengali—will buy whatever crap he’s selling. It’s just one more distraction from the Distractor-in-Chief, to get the Mueller heat off himself and rev up his base. Add to Donald Trump’s other dubious achievements that he has made summit conferences a joke. This isn’t a “summit,” it’s a mafia Apalachin meeting,  in which gangsters meet in secret to hatch nefarious plans, hoping they won’t get caught. History suggests they will.

  1. Bob Henry says:

    “And now we have the bread-and-circus summit of Trump meeting with Putin in Helsinki today. What does anyone really expect will happen from this charade? . . .

    “There will be breathless coverage of this ‘summit.’ Trump’s base — until now the fiercest anti-Russians ever, but overnight turned into Russophiles by their Svengali — will buy whatever crap he’s selling.”

    Well, the UNexpected happened.

    Ripped from tomorrow’s headlines:

    Wall Street Journal:

    “Trump Questions Finding of Russia’s 2016 Meddling as He Appears With Putin”

    — and —

    “Republicans Reproach Trump on Russian Meddling”

    New York Times:

    “Trump-Putin Summit Leaves Wake of Confusion, Outrage in US”

    — and —

    “Republicans Rebuke Trump for Siding With Putin as Democrats Demand Action”

    Boston Globe:

    “‘Treasonous,’ ‘disgraceful’: Reaction to Trump’s press conference with Putin”

    Chicago Tribune:

    “‘Bizarre.’ ‘Shameful.’ ‘Disgraceful.’: Republicans join Democrats in condemning Trump’s remarks”

    Los Angeles Times:

    “Trump slams Russia probe and blames U.S. for bad relations with Putin as the two leaders meet”

    — and —

    “‘Disgraceful’: Republicans sharply criticize Trump’s behavior at news conference with Putin”

    CNN:

    “Top Republicans in Congress break with Trump over Putin comments”

    MSNBC:

    “In disastrous press conference, Trump defended Putin, blasted Americans”

    Fox News:

    “Trump faces bipartisan criticism over press conference with Putin”

    — and —

    “Media slamming Trump after Putin summit: ‘One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president'”

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