Weeks after Russia announced it would expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats in response to a new sanctions bill, Donald Trump had remained embarrassingly silent about the matter – until today. Now that he’s finally responded, it’s enough to make Americans wish that he’d decided to remain quiet about it instead.
Trump wasn’t really in a position to say anything about the expulsion. Democrats and Republicans in Congress had passed a bill in bipartisan and nearly unanimous fashion which made it so Trump could never ease U.S. sanctions on Russia without their permission. Faced with no ability to defeat the bill through a veto, Trump reluctantly signed it into law. This left him humiliated by his own Congress and by his own party. It also left him unable to fulfill the one task that Vladimir Putin wanted from him the most. When Putin predictably retaliated by expelling U.S. diplomats, there was nothing for Trump to say. And so he tried saying nothing at all. But that ended up playing predictably poorly.
So today Donald Trump finally decided to address the matter – by publicly thanking Vladimir Putin. Reuters is reporting that Trump thanked Putin for expelling the diplomats because it means “now we have a smaller payroll” (link). This is a variation of getting dumped and then thanking the person who just dumped you, because now it means you won’t have to them a Valentine’s day gift. It’s the kind of sore loser rhetoric that impresses no one.
It also represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how government works. Does Trump honestly believe that these U.S. diplomats are magically no longer on the U.S. government payroll because Russia kicked them out? They’ll still be drawing paychecks, unless he specifically decides to lay them off. It’s no small task to make this assertion, considering just how many phenomenally dumb things Trump has said thus far, but this might actually be the dumbest thing he’s said yet.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report