Trump kowtows to Kremlin. Does the Alaska delegation shudder or shrug it off?
Based on what Sen. Dan Sullivan said Sunday on "Meet the Press," the Alaska senator should have been quick to denounce President Trump's toadying Monday with Vladimir Putin.
Trump painted Putin as an ally and the U.S. justice system and U.S. intelligence agencies as enemies. Trump sided with the Kremlin, not with the U.S. government and claimed that he sees no reason why Russia would have attacked the U.S. election system two years ago.
A statement from Sen. John McCain called the Trump-Putin press conference, "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."
But Sullivan, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, goes to great lengths to avoid calling out Trump. Their political instincts are to praise the leader of their party, except in instances where the world realizes Trump has stepped in it. In such cases, the Alaska delegation does some hand-wringing and shows concern, annoyance, disappointment, worry and displeasure, almost always stated in ways that do not trigger a Trump tirade.
Sullivan released a statement on Twitter Monday afternoon that fits this pattern: "I disagree w/president's remarks following Helsinki summit. Specifically, do I believe the professional and patriotic men and women of our intelligence community, including the Director of National Intelligence, or a mafia regime leader like Putin? It’s not even a close call."
Saying "I disagree" is a baby step in the right direction.
Murkowski took a real step in the right direction., She said she was "stunned" that Trump failed to confront Putin about Russia's effort to interfere in U.S, elections and demand that it stop. Trump "validated" Putin by giving credence to the Kremlin's claims.
She said Trump should have declared his support for the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies.
The problem is that Trump does not believe in the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies and has sided with his pal Putin. The Senate needs to start defending American institutions with actions and words, fighting this betrayal.
On Sunday, Sullivan defended Trump's behavior toward Russia, suggesting Putin is being held accountable by Trump with his actions, and that "actions speak louder than words."
The steps against Putin, according to Sullivan, are the increase in U.S. military spending, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, and giving the Javelin anti-tank system to Ukraine.
Sullivan did not mention the action Friday of indictments against 12 Russians for their attack on the 2016 election. Or the folly of a Trump-Putin meeting with no agenda, no preparation and no clue.
Sullivan said the agenda of the Trump-Putin meeting should have been to inform the Russian leader that it is up to Putin to improve relations with the U.S.
But Trump clearly didn't approach Putin in that manner, which ought to be clear to the junior senator from Alaska and everyone else.
Sullivan, Murkowski and Young—who appear to have taken a vow of silence about ever attacking Trump—ought to be horrified at this unprecedented situation.
The practice of keeping quiet about Trump in Sullivan's case was clear two years ago with his straddling in the summer of 2016, when he supported Trump but would not endorse him.
After Trump made false and racist remarks about a judge born in Indiana who handled the Trump University fraud case, Sullivan tied himself in knots on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" trying to avoid responding.
When asked if Trump's claims about the "Mexican judge," were racist, Sullivan refused to answer the first three times. “Look, I’ll let you guys label it,” Sullivan told the hosts.
But the fourth time the question was asked, Sullivan surrendered. He said he believed that Trump's remarks were racist.
Aside from the brief period after the Hollywood Access tape, when Sullivan said Trump should drop out of the presidential race, Sullivan has usually found ways to praise the leader of his party or change the subject.
On Sunday, Sullivan refused to say whether he agreed or disagreed with Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner that Russia should be named a state sponsor of terrorism.
Sullivan also refused to say whether he agreed or disagreed with Nick Burns, a former Bush administration official, that Trump's trip to the NATO summit was the "single most chaotic and destructive of an American president," and that it has diminished the credibility of the nation.
Sullivan said he likes Nick Burns.
Sullivan did say a bit later that the "NATO summit turned out pretty well." He also praised Trump for talking about Germany's energy imports from Russia. Trump claimed that Germany is "captive" to Russia and exaggerated how much gas it imports.
Asked by Chuck Todd what the agenda should be for the summit with Putin, Sullivan said Trump and his administration should tell the Russian leader "it's up to you" to improve relations.
"If you want for example, sanctions to be lifted, it's got to be up to you. What do I mean by that? Don't invade your neighbors. And move out of the countries that you've invaded. Don't align yourself with the world's biggest sponsors of state terrorism, in terms of Iran. Don't back regimes like Bashar al-Assad. And certainly don't meddle in the elections of democracies like the United States and our allies."
That didn't happen. What happened is that Trump sided with Putin, against the interests of the United States.