When more than a dozen Russians were indicted for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump wanted to make something perfectly clear to the American people.
That he wouldn't tolerate such an attack on our democracy?
That he would impose heavy sanctions on the Russians for what they did?
No such luck. Instead the president took to Twitter to say, "The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion."
That was more than two weeks ago and so far he still hasn't expressed outrage at such an audacious attack on the country he now leads. Donald Trump's concern then, and his concern even now, centers on — what else? — Donald Trump; on personal vindication. This raises a question: Are there no limits to this man's insecurities and narcissism?
Even as his own national security advisor said that evidence of Russian intrusion was "incontrovertible," all we get from the president is a version of: "See, I didn't do anything wrong."
This is more than a little interesting because here we have a man who if they handed out Nobel prizes for Humiliating Perceived Enemies, he'd be on his way to Oslo.
During the primary campaign, he had dopey names for just about everyone he ran against. Marco Rubio was "Little Marco." Ted Cruz was "Lyin' Ted." There was "Low Energy" Jeb. And, of course, "Crooked Hillary." And now that he's president he humiliates his poor attorney general anytime the mood strikes him.
But the man who makes Don Rickles sound like Mother Teresa can't find a bad word for Vladimir Putin. Strange, no?
For what it's worth, I don't believe in conspiracies. I don't think anyone was firing a weapon from the grassy knoll that day in Dallas. But I'm starting to wonder: Is Donald Trump hiding something?
Why not confront Putin? He'd have Democrats and Republicans cheering him on if he did. And Trump likes nothing more than people cheering him on. Yet we get nothing. You don't have to be a never-Trumper to wonder what the heck is going on.
None of this means that his administration is asleep at the wheel when it comes to Russian interference in our elections. I'm sure the intelligence community is taking the Russian threat seriously. But as The New York Times has reported, "the administration has been left to respond without the president's leadership."
Congress passed a law last year giving the president authority to impose new sanctions on Moscow. But Trump, for whatever reason, has not taken action. Why not?
Instead of confronting Putin, he focuses attention on himself. Somebody needs to tell the president this makes him look weak — here at home, in Moscow and in places that matter around the world. His loyal base of fawning admirers may not care, but just about everybody else that matters does.
There was a written statement, issued in the president's name, that expressed concern. "We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord and rancor to be successful," the statement said. "We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections."
Those words would have carried a lot more weight if they were uttered by the president and not merely put on paper and handed out to reporters.
So we keep coming back to the same questions: Why won't he confront Moscow? Why go easy on Putin when it's become clear that Putin tried to disrupt our democracy? Is he hiding something?
Let's stipulate that there's no evidence that there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Who knows what tomorrow may bring, but as of now, there's nothing. And let's also acknowledge that well-thought-out diplomatic silence from the president might lead to better relations with the Russians. But after an attack on American democratic institutions, silence from the commander in chief may not be the best signal to send. A better one might be for the president to make clear to Putin that if this doesn't stop right now, there will be consequences — serious consequences that will hurt.
It's not exactly a state secret that Donald Trump bristles at the suggestion that he didn't win fair and square, that because of Russian interference he's not a legitimate president. But why would a man who has achieved so much in life let the progressive left be the judge and jury regarding his legitimacy? Why let them define him? Maybe it's because narcissists can't help themselves.
But there's something this president, who has told us more than once that he's really smart, doesn't quite seem to grasp: As president, he has to put his insecurities and his narcissism aside for the sake of the country — if that's even possible. He has to understand that there's something more important than wasting time proving his legitimacy to people who hate him. And what's more important at this point is making sure Putin understands that Donald Trump is no pushover. And showing the rest of us that he has nothing to hide.