So for Democrats to now invoke the ghost of Joe McCarthy and cry treason at Trump’s efforts to improve relations with Moscow has more than a whiff of hypocrisy. Besides, do they want relations to get worse? Should the United States purposely freeze out the second (or maybe first) largest nuclear power in the world? Yet if Trump took a hard line with the Kremlin, his critics would say he was trying to conceal his collusion, so it’s a no-win situation.
The easiest thing to do politically would be to avoid Russia. The president did not have to attend this summit meeting, especially with the midterm elections months away and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s expected report looming. He could have simply avoided both the issue and the optics.
But Donald Trump did not become president by doing the easy or expected thing. His political M.O. is to disrupt the opposition by owning the downside. A summit with Vladimir Putin is the perfect Trumpian way to say to his frantic critics that he couldn’t care less what they think. And it may force some of the more thoughtful ones to begin to consider the possibility that President Trump is right, and the entire Russian collusion narrative has been a lie.