Here’s a thought experiment: What would a U.S. president do if he were for some ungodly and unknown reason trying to make Russia great again?
“In all fairness” to Russia’s leader, such a person might tell someone like, for example, George Stephanopoulos, “you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? … Now, I think it would be despicable if that took place, but I haven’t seen any evidence that he killed anybody, in terms of reporters.” He’d swear Russia would never ever go into Ukraine, even after it had, and bash his own intelligence community over its conclusion that Russia did in fact try to swing our election.
2) While disparaging virtually every other American or foreign official at some point or other, he would make Russia’s president the exception — and would always speak of that person as brilliant, strong and our moral equal. He might go so far as to say the guy was rebuilding the Russian Empire — and would mean this as a compliment.
If he got overconfident, he might even question the American exceptionalism that has been such an unassailable conservative article of faith: “I heard (Russia’s leader) saying, ‘Who do they think they are, saying they’re exceptional?’ You can feel you’re exceptional, but when you start throwing it in other countries’ faces or other people’s faces, I actually think it’s a very dangerous term to use.”
3) When asked whether he knew this KGB paragon of a Russian president personally, his answers would be as fuzzy and contradictory as his praise was consistent. “I met him once,” he might say, then later acknowledge “a relationship,” then later still claim “I’ve never met him; I don’t know who he is.”
4) He would secretly try to ease the sanctions we imposed on Russia for its illegal handiwork in Ukraine and in our election and would consider returning former Russian compounds in Maryland and New York to the motherland.
5) He would undermine the crucial NATO military alliance that has long stood against Russian aggression and refuse to affirm that of course, just as over the last 68 years, we’d protect a NATO ally under attack.
7) After an appropriately proportional response to the use of chemical weapons by Russia’s ally Syria, he’d wildly overstate the resulting tensions, describing relations between the long-time adversaries as “at an all-time low.”
8) His people would have all sorts of meetings with their people. They would fail to disclose them, even under oath, and once revealed anyway, would offer contradictory explanations about the purpose of these get-togethers.
9) He would boldly invite the Russian official at the center of probes into contacts between Russia and his campaign right into the Oval Office — because hey, the Russian president asked him to — where he would reveal highly sensitive information to them, and in a bit of showing off for his guests, would allow the meeting to be covered by Russian state media but not by American reporters.
11) He would convince supporters that the suggestion there was anything wrong with any of this was as fake as a report straight out of TASS. But he wouldn’t put it like that.