Democratic charges that President Donald Trump was obsequious toward Russian dictator Vladimir Putin during the press conference after their Helsinki summit Monday ignore the reality of how sternly the president has dealt with Russia.
If, as some have charged, we are witnessing a president caving in to Russian blackmail, Trump has a strange way of caving in.
Unlike President Barack Obama, Trump has approved the flow of lethal weapons to Ukraine to repel the Russian invasion. Obama had limited U.S. assistance to "humanitarian" equipment.
Trump has sanctioned Russia repeatedly, approving sanctions against specific Russian oligarchs who played a role in the murder of Kremlin whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.
He ordered U.S. troops to fire on and kill a force of several hundred Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria.
Trump ripped up the nuclear accords with Iran that Russia signed, sponsored, helped to negotiate and praised. Iran, long a quasi-satellite of Moscow, is feeling the full force of American ire.
And even now, on this swing through Europe, the president is hectoring European NATO allies to increase their defense spending to — what else? — contain Russian interventionism.
Trump is berating German Chancellor Angela Merkel for agreeing to build a pipeline for Russian gas and oil under the Baltic directly to Germany, thus increasing Berlin's dependence on Moscow for energy.
Are these the actions of a puppet, suborned into docility by blackmail or bribery?
And what is it that Russia is alleged to have done to swing the 2018 presidential race in Trump's direction, the central charge at issue?
The sum total of the charges so far involve the placement, under fraudulent auspices, of $100,000 of internet ads underscoring divisions in the U.S. and calling attention to racial tensions.
This paltry intervention, for which 12 Russians have been recently indicted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, is portrayed as so significant that it is seen to have been a significant factor in Hillary Clinton's defeat.
And then there is the phantom charge that Russia has Trump under its thumb by holding blackmail compromizmat over his head, a prospect raised by Sally Yates, former deputy attorney general under Loretta Lynch, when the anti-Trump dossier was financed by Hillary Clinton's campaign.
How to account for President Trump's firmness in dealing with Putin. Did he "speak softly but carry a big stick" in Helsinki?