Post-Helsinki fallout continues

Donald trump continues to cop a lot of flak from across the political spectrum after his astonishing assertions at the press conference in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin, and his would/wouldn’t waffling all over the place since.

Wall Street Journal: The Trump First Doctrine

Putin respects strength but Trump showed weakness.

I think that most people respect strength, as long as it is not misused.

Strong language – often ridiculously strong in Trump’;s case, especially when praising himself, does not automatically convey strength.

Donald Trump left for Europe a week ago with his reputation enhanced by a strong Supreme Court nomination. He returned Monday with that reputation diminished after a tumultuous week of indulging what amounts to the Trump First Doctrine.

Mr. Trump marched through Europe with more swagger than strategy. His diplomacy is personal, rooted in instinct and impulse, and he treats other leaders above all on how much they praise Donald J. Trump. He says what pops into his head to shock but then disavows it if there’s a backlash….

It’s still debatable whether this is incompetent uncertainty, or deliberate chaos.

Howard Kurtz at Fox News – Slamming the script: Why the press is dismissing the president’s do-over

At a minimum, President Trump deserves credit for saying what he should have said to Vladimir Putin, that he accepts the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. He may have been pressured into saying it–not just by the media furor but by Mike Pence, John Kelly, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, according to reports—but he said it nonetheless.

What drew particular skepticism was Trump’s explanation that he misspoke one word, that he meant to say “wouldn’t” and not “would,” as in “I don’t see any reason why it would” be Russia.

CNN’s Erin Burnett said Trump was making a “dog ate my homework” alibi, adding: “How stupid does Trump think we Americans are? The president’s excuse for his embarrassing press conference, where he sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence chiefs, does not add up.”

Slate called Trump’s Tuesday walkback “only a little less disgraceful” than Helsinki, under the headline: “Nothing Trump Says Can Be Trusted.”

In a more sophisticated vein, The Washington Post offered these observations:

“The way he delivered his statement of retreat was classic Trump, a dual message — a ritual statement of confidence in U.S. intelligence officials for those who insist that the president respect the nation’s systems and mores, but also winks and nods to those who like Trump expressly because he’s eager to smash china and topple tradition …

“The signals had been sent, a quick wave of a white flag for those who insist on such things, and a zesty little aside, a wink and a nod, to those who needed assurance that their renegade president would never cave to the swamp dwellers, never back away from his commitment to blow up the old, failed ways of Washington.”

So is all this the indelible stain that the sustained media outrage would suggest? The New York Times deserves credit for posing the question:

“The question was whether he had reached a genuine turning point or simply endured another one of those episodes that seems decisive but ultimately fades into the next one.”

Trump has got away with an extraordinary amount since he became a candidate, and since he became president.

Time will tell whether this would’wouldn’t debacle will become just another clusterfuck in a chaotic reign, or if it becomes a tipping point.

Cosying up to Putin and to Russia while slamming the US intelligence community and only sort of back tracking may not go down as well as his ongoing bickering against the likes of Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Whether this will increase the attrition in a White House that churns disillusioned and frustrated staff may be one of the more difficult things to deal with – but as more people get pissed off and leave Trump he may become more unfettered and feckless.

Some things have been achieved and successes should continue, but an air of incompetence won’t blow over while Trump continues stoking a chaotic cacophony.