Two anti-Trump talking points falter in one day

A month ago, liberals were claiming that Donald Trump would be a tool of the Russians. After all, they hadn’t brought about his election, via WikiLeaks, for nothing.

To be fair, it wasn’t just liberals who expressed concern about what Trump’s Russia policy might be. As a candidate, Trump took a softer line on Vladimir Putin than many, including me, liked. But it was the left that claimed something sinister — perhaps even a “Manchurian candidate” or a president controlled by Moscow through blackmail — was afoot.

But yesterday at the U.N., President Trump’s ambassador, Nikki Haley, blasted Russia for its aggression against Ukraine. She did so in a speech that the Trump administration reportedly (and almost surely) cleared.

Haley stated:

The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea. Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine.

Haley did not confine her condemnation to Crimea. She also said:

We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.

The sudden increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine has trapped thousands of civilians and destroyed vital infrastructure and the crisis is spreading, endangering many thousands more. This escalation of violence must stop.

The Russians were not amused. Russian Senator Alexey Pushkov went so far as to tweet: “It looks like the new U.S. representative at the UN came with remarks that were written by [Samantha] Power.”

Yet Haley’s speech didn’t get the coverage it deserved. For example, more than half of the stories in the first ten pages of the Washington Post’s front section today were about Trump. Yet, Haley’s U.N. speech was not covered anywhere in the front section of the newspaper delivered to my house, not even in a story about U.S. sanctions against Russia.

Instead, the mainstream media touted a story about the Trump administration supposedly lifting certain sanctions against Russia. Though not quite fake news, the story was highly misleading. It turns out that the adjustment in sanctions was simply a “technical fix” or, as the Washington Post eventually described it, “a nothing-burger.”

But the casual consumer of news easily could come away believing that Trump was easing sanctions on Russia and might well not know that the U.S. had blasted Russia, and affirmed the need for ongoing sanctions, at the U.N. For the casual consumer, the liberal narrative would have been reinforced, not cast into doubt.

The Trump administration also cast doubt on a second liberal narrative yesterday — the idea that the new president will give Israel free rein to build wherever it wants on the “West Bank” and that he sees no merit in a “two-state” solution. This line, which replaced the claim that Trump was running an anti-Jew campaign, took hold when the president selected David Friedman as the U.S. ambassador to Israel and gave his Orthodox son-in-law a prime policy-making position on matters pertaining to the Jewish state.

But yesterday, the White House told Israel that new settlement construction “may not be helpful” in achieving Middle East peace. Its statement was:

While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.

Take out the first clause and the “may” in the second, and this statement too could have been written by Samantha Power or John Kerry.

Is there a tension between the two clauses? I don’t think so. What the White House seems to be saying is that settlements aren’t currently an impediment to peace (presumably because the Palestinians aren’t serious about negotiating peace), but constructing new settlements and expanding new ones beyond their borders might become an impediment if the parties ever get down to serious peace talks.

Though there may be some validity to this hypothetical, I’m not thrilled about the White House’s statement. My purpose here, however, is not to debate its merits, but rather to note that, for the second time in one day, a left-wing anti-Trump talking point turned out, at a minimum, to be vastly overstated.

And don’t get me started on the bogus claims about Trump’s immigration order.

In reality, no one on the outside knows what Trump’s Russia policy and his Israel policy will be, or what he will decide to do after the 90-day and 120-day periods in his immigration order elapse. It’s not clear that anyone on the inside knows for sure either.

In this situation, the rational move, consistent with the way new presidents traditionally have been treated, is to wait and see — not to assume and condemn, starting even before the president is sworn in. But such rationality is out of the question for liberals these days, especially those in the mainstream media.

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