Last week was a veritable lovefest between President-elect Donald Trump and Russian
dictator, autocrat, Czar, President Vladimir Putin.
Going into Putin’s marathon annual press event, Trump had already telegraphed his intentions to overhaul Washington’s fraught relationship with the Kremlin. The brazen billionaire not only questioned US intelligence that implicated Russia in the hacking of the DNC, he also selected Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson (who won Russia’s 2013 Order of Friendship award) as Secretary of State and left Moscow off a list of top “defense priorities.” Oh, and don’t forget the Christmas card.
Well, if there were any lingering questions about how the new administration feels about Putin they were answered when, in response to a quip the Russian leader made about Democrats to the press, America’s incoming commander-in-chief responded as follows:
Yes, “so true.” Or maybe it wasn’t so much a case of sour grapes as it was the kind of response you give when you’re utterly shocked (not to mention thoroughly dismayed) that so many people can be duped so easily by a textbook narcissist.
And it wasn’t just Hillary that was a bit surprised. Here’s an excerpt from an interview The Atlantic conducted with President Obama who bemoans the extent to which America’s electoral process has become more about painting the opposition in a negative light than it is about presenting the people with a set of coherent policy proposals.
Coates: The first thing I would ask is, we had this conversation very early in our session, and you talked about the belief that what the American people most want from a candidate is an optimistic vision. And I believe you were referencing Donald Trump at the time, and it was your thought that it was hard to get elected with a gloom-and-doom message. And I just wonder what you take from this election given what happened, and how your theory reconciles with that.
Obama: Well, look, I think I am absolutely, you know, surprised like everybody else with the outcome. So, you know, I don’t want to pretend like I was anticipating the results. I do think, though, that when you look at the specifics of this race, it is hard to, I think, draw a grand theory from it, because there were just some very unusual circumstances. We ended up having a situation in which both candidates had very high negatives. I think the caricature of Hillary Clinton that developed as a consequence of all kinds of stuff, compounded in that last week with more news about emails, meant that people never really got to hear a positive, optimistic message. Hillary Clinton had all kinds of terrific policies, but that was just not the focus of coverage. And as a consequence, you ended up having not just a polarized electorate, but a fairly dispirited electorate. It meant that a lot of the people who voted for me didn’t turn out to vote—that a lot of people who, if the surveys are correct, approve of my work and my presidency didn’t vote or decided, You know what, let’s just shake it up this time. And you know, it’s just an indication of the structural challenges that progressive politics have always faced in this country.
You know, we are a country that makes it harder to vote than most countries. We are a country in which the campaigns are so long and so expensive that by the time you get to the end of it, negative campaigning dominates as opposed to a proactive set of proposals. We have an electoral college that mirrors, you know, the states’ power that was preserved in the design of the Senate, where, you know, small states, or more rural states, or states with, you know, large rural or less diverse populations have significantly more influence in some cases than massive states like California. And so, you know, you add all that up and you ended up getting the specific result that we got.
But hey, who cares about policies, right?