On Sunday, Bill O'Reilly will have a special Super Bowl pre-game interview with President Trump...."What do you think? Our country's so innocent?" Reaction on the right to this critique of America: crickets.
In a special preview, Trump revealed his plans for dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
O'Reilly asked Trump whether he "respects" the former KGB agent:
"I do respect him, but I respect a lot of people," Trump said, "That doesn't mean I'm going to get along with him."
Trump said he would appreciate any assistance from Russia in the fight against ISIS terrorists, adding that he would rather get along with the former Cold War-era foe than otherwise.
"But, [Putin] is a killer," O'Reilly said.
"There are a lot of killers," Trump responded, "We've got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country's so innocent?"
Remember, these are the same people who said that Barack Obama went on an eight-year "apology tour" as president. Washington Free Beacon: "Five Times Obama Has Apologized for America." The Heritage Foundation: "Barack Obama's Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower." Mitt Romney, you'll recall, wrote an entire book keyed to the notion that if we elected him president there'd be no more claims that America ever did anything wrong.
Here's what Romney wrote:
"Never before in American history has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined," Romney writes. "It is his way of signaling to foreign countries and foreign leaders that their dislike for America is something he understands and that is, at least in part, understandable. There are anti-American fires burning all across the globe; President Obama's words are like kindling to them."I eagerly await a similar criticism of Trump from Romney, Heritage, or the Free Beacon.
Obama might give compliments to America here and there, Romney adds. "But what makes his speeches jump out at his audience are the steady stream of criticisms, put-downs, and jabs directed at the nation he was elected to represent and defend...."
The "apology" that really stuck in the right's craw was Obama's speech in Cairo in June 2009, in which he said:
Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.The message is clear: We've done regrettable things, but we'll do better from now on.
We can debate whether the Obama administration lived up to the ideals it expressed in this and other statements regarded as "apologies." (From the liberal-hating leftists in the audience, I hear a cry of "Drooones!") But Obama's "apologies" were an attempt to define principles that America should live up to. Trump is making a completely amoral realpolitik argument: America has acting immorally, so we may as well give up altogether on morality, even a compromised morality, in foreign policy.
It's being argued that he's doing this to justify his own amorality and authoritarianism:
When Trump says America is a nation of killers, he’s not making a principled critique of US misdeeds. He’s JUSTIFYING more killing.— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) February 5, 2017
Trump's "But US is bad too" is not aimed at reducing state violence in the US but using Russia as an excuse to make US state violence worse— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) February 5, 2017
I think that's giving him too much credit for sophisticated strategizing. He's saying this simply because he wants a better relationship with Putin, as an end in itself. We're not certain why he wants this -- he's being blackmailed? he'll benefit financially? he has a mancrush? -- but he does. He says it's because he seeks Russia's help in the fight against ISIS, but that's clearly an excuse or a rationalization. He wants this relationship, period.
If Trump wants to "make US state violence worse," he's just going to do it -- he's not going to say, "Hey, Vladimir Putin does this, too." He's not going to be on the defensive. What he's most defensive about is his desire to get closer to Putin. He and his brain trust can't plausibly justify it. So he says things like Authoritarian violence -- hey, everybody does it, amirite? He's struggling to put lipstick on this pig. I think that's all this is.
UPDATE: Well, here's a mild critique of Trump from National Review ("A Peculiar View of America"), and one tweet from Marco Rubio ("When has a Democratic political activists been poisoned by the GOP, or vice versa? We are not the same as #Putin"), which was followed up, an hour later, by Rubio's Super Bowl pick (the Pats). That's all I can find from the right so far.
... Oh, there's this reaction:
"I can speak for myself, and I already have about Vladimir Putin and the way the Russians operate. I'm not going to critique every utterance of the president. I obviously don't see the issue the same way he does," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said when asked about Trump's remarks.Could that possibly be more mealy-mouthed?