The Helsinki walk back illustrates the problem with always rushing to Trump’s defense no matter what he says or does: Sometimes he leaves you high and dry.
For instance, Sean Hannity interviewed Trump immediately after the press conference, depriving himself of an opportunity to gauge the blowback and hence calibrate his questions for the firestorm. So while Hannity’s opening monologue was calibrated to it, focusing on the media’s overreaction, his actual questions gave no hint that he saw any problem with the president’s comments. The set-up for his first question was, “You were very strong at the end of that press conference.” And then it got friendlier.
There’s nothing in the interview that suggests Trump didn’t mean what he said. What will Hannity say about Trump’s about-face? (Tonight, Tucker Carlson is supposed to air his interview with Trump, also recorded immediately after the presser. It will be interesting to see if there’s anything in it that could remotely support Trump’s new storyline.)
Others spent the day yesterday insisting that there was nothing wrong with what Trump said. Rand Paul said that Trump should be “lauded and not belittled.” Jeanine Pirro went full Pirro, immolating straw men and pointing out that the intelligence agencies got the Iraq War wrong, too. Charlie Kirk went further, insisting that the domestic intelligence community is the real threat to America.
Up next: "We must round up the November criminals!" pic.twitter.com/GiQ7GiqSc4
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) July 17, 2018
Roger L. Simon denounced the “cowards” at Fox News who criticized Trump (again with the “real men blindly follow their leader” trope) and pondered whether the Helsinki summit might’ve been Trump’s “finest hour.”
So what now? Was Trump a coward for agreeing with Newt Gingrich and Brit Hume? Is the new party line that Trump would never cast doubt on the domestic intelligence community? Or did the Deep State get to him?