A standard exchange of niceties has left many people apoplectic — but they’re missing a pivotal point.
“The mainstream media and their allies went into a full-fledged tizzy,” said Fox News host Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle” Tuesday night. “The double standard is so obvious, it’s pathetic.”
“My message to the peanut gallery — let the president deal with Putin. He just might surprise you again. Not that you’re going to give him any credit when he does.”
On Tuesday, as is standard, President Donald Trump called to offer congratulatory niceties to Vladimir Putin after the Russian president’s re-election to another six-year term, as The Washington Post reported.
President Obama, of course, did the same thing in 2012. In former President Obama’s call, the congratulations were directed to “the Russian people on the completion of the presidential elections,” rather than to Vladimir Putin himself, The New York Times reported.
Other world leaders who placed similar calls to Putin this week included Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France, according to The Guardian. Those leaders chose words amounting to the wishing of success in lieu of congratulations per se, the outlet noted.
What is not standard in all this is the press coverage that followed the U.S. president’s offhand remark that he’d congratulated Putin. The Post’s headline, for example, read: “Trump’s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Putin. He did it anyway.”
Predictably, all manner of politicians (including some Republicans), media figures, celebrities, and others proceeded with expressions of utter disbelief that the president would do such a thing.
They did not, it is important to note, attend to the only bit in the story that really matters: How did the media get their hands on the briefing notes, on which was allegedly printed, in all caps, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE”?
Per “officials familiar with the call,” the briefing materials also allegedly contained instructions directing the president to “condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent,” according to The Post’s coverage.
Trump may or may not have read the materials, which The Post described as “notecards.” The outlet also noted that “a senior White House official emphasized that national security adviser H.R. McMaster did not mention the issue [of congratulating Putin] during a telephone briefing with the president” prior to the phone call.
Democrats certainly seized on the opportunity to slam the president — but Republicans weren’t far behind.
Of the call made by the leader of his party, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said that it “would have been like me calling Fidel Castro and saying, ‘Congratulations on your election victory,'” according to The Weekly Standard.
“The president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a statement, according to the same outlet.
Other Republicans joining in the dressing down included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Calling out McCain for his comments, Ingraham offered a few reminders to the senator from Arizona.
Former President Obama, for example, congratulated the Islamic Brotherhood’s candidate on winning Egypt’s presidential election in 2012. The year after that, Obama congratulated the winner of the Iranian presidential election, breaking three decades of precedent. And in 2014, Turkey’s President Erdoğan was the recipient of Obama’s congratulations. But the icing on the hypocritical cake, of course, is that the Left’s favorite poster boy for well-behaved presidents congratulated none other than President Putin in 2012.
And on the manner by which The Washington Post obtained the alleged notes on which much of this hubbub was based?
The President calls Putin — not to condemn him for using a nerve agent in Britain or interfering in our election — but to congratulate him on winning an election in which his top opponent was prohibited from running. No way to lead the free world. https://t.co/vx1wBwJKDO
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 20, 2018
President Trump under heavy fire for calling Putin to congratulate him on election victory. It was supposedly a terrible thing to do.Please don't let them find out that Obama did EXACTLY the same thing: https://t.co/anMV2zoPOF . #TrumpDerangementSyndrome
— MARK SIMONE (@MarkSimoneNY) March 20, 2018
Why would officials leak that Trump's national security staff told him in all caps DO NOT CONGRATULATE Putin? Because folks in the White House are beginning to realize that the American President seems to have been compromised by the Russians.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 21, 2018
Oh look…Obama called Putin in 2012 to congratulate him on his "election victory."
I wonder if the same media ripping Trump today for congratulating Putin will mention Obama's call. https://t.co/9tH9HZUnK1
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) March 20, 2018
Good question: Trump called Putin to congratulate him. Did he call Angela Merkel? Sarah Huckabee Sanders will have to get back to us on that, apparently.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) March 20, 2018
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.