President Trump's Putin schmoozapalooza in Helsinki last week sent jaws dropping around the world, and--in a very rare occasion--even within the friendliest of Trump circles.
For good reason. It was the geopolitical equivalent of standing in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shooting someone.
With the world watching, and Vladimir Putin standing right next to him eating up his every fawning word, the president of the United States essentially accused his own intelligence community of lying about Russia's meddling in the 2016 elections, insisting instead that he believed Putin, a murderous dictator and professional liar.
"My people came to me . . . they said they think it's Russia," Trump said at the now infamous press conference. "I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be." (Amid the firestorm of reaction, Trump declared Tuesday afternoon that he had misspoken at the Helsinki news conference and meant to say "wouldn't" instead of "would.")
Some have called his original words a defining low point of his presidency, others treasonous, and others still cause for impeachment.
But surely no one is defending him, right? Wrong, of course, because 2018.
Just when you think there's nowhere lower for Trump defenders to go--no plausible way to defend the indefensible--they arrive on cue to prove you wrong.
For the professional and political Trump addicts, whose livelihood or ego depend on finding creative ways to justify any and every infantile, disturbing or unconservative thing he does, this is what officially hitting rock bottom looks like.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vice President Mike Pence sounded particularly delusional, praising Trump's "deeply productive" dialogue and insisting: "What the world saw, what the American people saw, is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first."
That's the literal opposite of what we saw.
Then there were Trump's biggest cheerleaders, Fox News' Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro and Fox Business' Lou Dobbs.
For Hannity's part, instead of defending Trump outright he turned his fire on the rest of us.
"I'm watching all of these Republicans and I'm thinking none of them, none of them, have the ability to lead anything. The Senate couldn't even repeal and replace Obamacare . . . The only thing that either the destroy-Trump media, the Democratic Party, or, frankly, Never-Trump, weak, pathetic, visionless, feckless, spineless Republicans--the only thing they seem to care about in life is being loved."
That, coming from Trump's bedtime phone-call buddy, is rich.
Jeanine Pirro, expectedly, was extra ridiculous, asking Tuesday morning, "What was he supposed to do, take a gun out and shoot Putin?"
But Lou Dobbs, afraid to let anyone appear more pathologically obedient to Trump, took defending him to performance-art level: "I think that the president handled himself perfectly. What would it have taken to satisfy the morons on those [television] clips? And what is his name, [John] Brennan? He's the biggest joke I have seen. What is he supposed to say? We're settling this now, toe-to-toe with the Russkies, we'll see whose ICBM gets to which city the fastest? This is stupid stuff, this beyond the pale, as far as I'm concerned."
Then there was one brave Republican senator who offered a truly bizarre defense, for reasons only he knows.
One-time vocal Trump opponent Sen. Rand Paul, whose libertarianism seems to come and go like seasonal allergies, used the Trump apologist's favorite trope to defend his performance: "I think there's a bit of Trump Derangement Syndrome and people that hate the president so much that this could have easily been President Obama early in the first administration setting the reset button and trying to have better relations with Russia and I think it's lost on people that they're a nuclear power."
What's he got on you, Rand?
From Newt Gingrich, who said this "is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected--immediately," to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who tweeted his support for our intelligence agencies, there was plenty of cover for others to have an honest moment of reflection and preserve both some dignity and credibility.
If this is the lowest moment of the Trump presidency--and I believe it is certainly a contender--then it's also the lowest moment for those who've decided to defend it. The good news is, when you hit rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up. Usually.
S.E. Cupp is the host of S.E. Cupp Unfiltered on HLN.
Editorial on 07/23/2018
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