Originally appeared at Russian.Rt; Translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
Written by Kyril Benedictov, Political scientist, author of the political biography of Donald Trump “Black Swan”
Americans love football. Of course, theirs, American –as is well knows, it does not really look like the one we are used to, which in the States they call “soccer”. The game of American football champions, called “Super Bowl”, is one of the most spectacular and expensive shows in the world. Tickets at the stadium, where the final game is played, cost no less than two thousand dollars, and 112 million Americans watch the television telecast of the match. That day tonnes of pizza and hamburgers are swallowed in front of the television throughout America, a sea of beer and colas is drunk. At the Houston stadium, where the 2017 Super Bowl is held, prices are not cheap: a bottle of beer costs $12, a hamburger, $16. But no one is complaining: Super Bowl Sunday is the real national holiday, although not official.
Yesterday before the beginning of the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons telecast, the Fox News channel showed Americans fans another show – the interview of the new President the USA Donald Trump hosted by “The O’Reilly Factor”. It is curious that, although the network telecast the interview itself [Tr.: full interview, segment about V.V. Putin from 2:09 to 2:49] only at four o’clock in the afternoon, East Coast time, already on Sunday morning the American MSM had a lively discussion of one fragment, immediately becoming public. The talk was about respect that Trump had for Vladimir Putin, “even in the face of accusations of Putin and his henchmen in the killings of journalists and dissidents in Russia” (this, of course, is O’Reilly’s interpretation).
“I respect him, Trump declared confidently. Well I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with them.”
“It’s not really important what Trump will say, wrote the fans on the National Football League’s website on the eve of the game, this in any case will be very informative. The President and O’Reilly are good friends and that means the interview will be interesting.”
The interview truly was very curious notwithstanding what O’Reilly said to the President, obviously hardly expecting to hear from a “dear friend”. Hearing that Trump still treats the Russian leader with respect and wants to cooperate (although he is not sure if he will get along), O’Reilly declared, “Putin is a killer”. It is surprising that such an experienced journalist forgot that in a legal state to call anyone in such a way is allowed only after a verdict of a court of law. (In place of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs I would have asked, incidentally, if O’Reilly is ready to defend his point of view in a court of law, but the discussion is not about this.)
Trump’s reaction was unexpected. He did not defend himself, possibly, as O’Reilly expected but went on the offensive himself. “We got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” he came down on the journalist. And he chose not to take the slippery slope. Perhaps remembering that only in the last year in the USA a series of strange murders (and even stranger suicides) of journalists and political activists, crossing Hillary Clinton’s path or her husband (Seth Rich, Victor Torn, Shawn Lucas, Joe Montano, John Ash, just a Clinton “death list” of 33 names).
And Trump, taking the initiative, sat on his favourite horse, declaring that for the USA it is better to work together with Russia instead of against: “If Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS*, which is a major fight and Islamic terrorism all over the whole world, that’s a good thing”.
Even if Donald Trump has not yet managed to “drain the swamp”, the rock that he threw there in his interview with Bill O’Reilly, created a significant commotion among the respectable inhabitants of the hill and duckweed covered swamps of the District of Columbia.
The Vice-President of the USA Mike Pence spoke last weekend on the need to establish relations with Russia. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC Pence made clear that the main task for the Trump administration is the destruction of the “Islamic State”, Russia can provide to the USA essential help and if “there is a possibility for cooperation, then the President will study the prospects for renewing relations”. But mainly, Pence added, Donald Trump is not the person that will “look in the rear view mirror”. He is determined enough to not allow “arguments from the past” to prevent cooperation between Washington and Moscow.
The message, not addressed so much at the masses, as to the political elites of the USA (“The O’Reillly Factor” and Stephanopoulos’s programmes are must see for the professional American political ringside), were totally clear: Trump is not going to give up on his election campaign promises of establishing relations with Russia, measures will be taken for cooperation, regardless of all attempts to derail this. In this, both the President and his Vice-President (whom was considered as an agent of “moderate Republicans” under Trump) are united, which means that there exists in the administration a consolidated position on this question.
Of course something similar was expected of him. Journalists, as predatory birds from the Hitchcock movie, circled a long time over the new administration, ready to momentarily to dive on the heads of the victims, as soon as sacramental words were uttered on the need of establish contacts with Russia. Manuals have been learned by heart, at least, the questions that all Sunday were asked of American politicians on the controversial Trump interview (and it, I remind you, was supposed to be telecast in four nights), were written like a blueprint.
“How can the President of the USA defend the bloody ruler of Russia?”, this from a CNN questionnaire, but also from other media who did not spoil us with a variety of questions.
The elite also reacted predictably. Perhaps only the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell limited himself with mild reproaches addressed at Trump: “I’m not going to critique every utterance of the president, but I do think America is exceptional, America is different. No, I don’t think there is any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does.”
Other politicians were not shy about their statements. “When has a Democratic political activists been poisoned by the GOP, or vice versa? wrote Florida Senator Marco Rubio on Twitter (“little Marco”, as Trump called him during the primaries). We are not the same as #Putin!” And pathetically promised, “If we someday remove the sanctions from Putin, this is when he will fulfill all our terms and conditions and cease violating the sovereignty of Ukraine!”
Trump’s words were harshly criticised by other fellow party members, the senator from Nebraska Ben Sasse. “Is the US at all like Putin’s regime? Not at all! he declared in an interview [Tr.: full interview, segment about Russia and V.V. Putin from 3:30 to 5:26] on ABC. The US affirms freedom of speech; Putin is no friend of freedom of speech. Putin is an enemy of freedom of religion; the US celebrates freedom of religion. Putin is an enemy of the free press; the US celebrates free press… There is no moral equivalency between the United States of America — the greatest freedom loving nation in the history of the world — and the murderous thugs that are in Putin’s defense of his cronyism.”
Let us pay attention to the expression “moral equality”, it did not appear in the senator’s talk by chance. Trump’s words about American, the country is not innocent, struck a chord of the American MSM and the American elite. And when Vice-President Mike Pence appeared in the programme “Face the Nation” on the CBS channel, he was mostly asked about this. “Listen, fought Pence, I consider that the President simply expressed his desire to begin anew relations with Putin and restart relations with Russia. I do not agree that there was something about moral equality in the words of the President…”
Here the pushy and leading CBS should stop, but not likely, the journalist continued to press Pence if he believes that the United States is morally superior over this horrible Russia. But the Vice-President of the USA, would you believe it! did not answer him.
That is not exactly nothing. Pence said that he believes American superiority of ideals above all others. But about moral superiority he did not utter a word. Ideals are, of course, excellent. However everyone understand that the agitated Washington swamp did not want to hear at all about ideals. But it wanted to hear about the “old song about the main thing”, that is, to face the citadel of freedom and democracy and not keep company with the brutal dictatorship, packs of killers of journalists and human rights defenders, taking down civilian airplanes and hacking computer objectionable politicians by them. But they did not hear anything like this.
And it is unlikely that they will hear it in the near future.
The question of moral superiority of the USA over Russia is a kind of litmus test. Liberal democracy for the longest time was teaching the world that it is sinless and always right (even when it drops bombs on civilian towns and cruise missiles turning schools and hospitals into dust), that it sincerely believed in its sanctity. Hypocrisy, elevated to the rank of state ideology, of course, is not new, but in America it became a real brake for the resolution of vitally important problems for the country.
After all, indeed, what does Trump offer? To establish relations with Russia so that with joint efforts to end ISIS, because Islamic terrorism directly threatens the security of the USA. No, the American elite tells him, we cannot even for an inch get closer to Moscow, because over there bloody Putin is there, who kills his enemies with a gun, strangles freedom of speech and invades peace loving Ukraine. And the hell that Islamic terrorists will come to our house and kill our children, we, wonderful liberal knights in white clothes will not compromise our principles. OK, says Trump, I will not claim that Russia is a role model, but please look in the mirror. You see on your white clothes these ugly red stains? Here, and here and here. I do not want to upset you, guys, but this is not ketchup. And you need not tell me about morality, your morality, is blatant hypocrisy, and you all are Pharisees. Politics is about the other, it is the hard realism, and as much as I am a realist, I will be friends with whom I must.
The relinquishment of the state hypocrisy policy, which Trump clearly offers the elite, indicates, in part, that in the short term many established myths of recent years will be revised, such as the Malaysian Boeing was brought down by these “angry Russians”, and not the brave fighters for freedom and independence of Ukraine. Of course, this one will not go in good faith, because for many, many people it means to put an end to the so painstakingly hard-won career. But, from Trump’s point of view, there is no other way.
The elites, thus, have only two choices. Either to fight to the last drop of blood with Trump, defending their right to black-and-white, the Manichean picture of the world. Or, reluctantly, admit that his realistic approach, which makes them nauseous, after all may be effective. I will risk suggesting that each of these two variations will have their supporters. And the inevitable confrontation between these groups of elites will be so much more violent and dramatic than the Sunday Super Bowl match.
*The “Islamic State” (IS) – a terrorist group, outlawed on the territory of Russia.