Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Max Boot and Stephen Cohen Face Off on CNN

If you don’t watch CNN you missed all the fun. You missed the brawl between Russia expert Stephen Cohen and NeverTrump neo-con Max Boot. We have reported on Cohen’s views of Trump’s Helsinki Summit extensively on the blog. Just yesterday I posted a link to an extended conversation between Cohen and fellow Nation writer, Adam Mate.

Today, we turn to the Cohen-Boot showdown on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show. Via Zero Hedge.

Boot works at the Council of Foreign Relations, so we assume a certain level of intellectual gravitas. Thus, we are slightly surprised to read that he opened up by accusing Cohen, who has studied Russia for 45 years, of being “consistently an apologist for Russia.”

To which Cohen responded:

I don’t do defamation of people, I do serious analysis of serious national security problems. When people like you call people like me, and not only me, but people more eminent than me, apologists for Russia because we don’t agree with your analysis, you are criminalizing diplomacy and detente and you are the threat to American national security, end of story.

Why do you have to defame somebody you don’t agree with? They used to do that in the old Soviet Union.

Of course, Tyler Durden remarks, Cohen is a recognized authority on Russia and the Soviet Union. Boot is a scholar, but most prominently a public intellectual. Evidently, Durden adds, people would prefer opining talking heads to serious academics.

Cohen then reiterated the analysis that he has been offering ever since the summit took place. Namely, that there was nothing strange about the event, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing very different from what past presidents have done.

Anderson Cooper joined Boot in taking Cohen to task. Nothing quite like having a talk show host impugn the judgment of an expert:

Cohen said he doesn't find anything "unusual" about the Helsinki summit — especially nothing worth the level of broad 24/7 media push back that Trump's private meeting with Putin received. Cohen and Boot sparred over what exactly the two leaders may have discussed, including possibly a resolution related to Russia's annexation of the Crimea.

Anderson Cooper posed the following question with an incredulous look on his face: "You're believing Vladimir Putin on this?"

Cohen responded, “You have to take Putin’s word this is what they talked about,” and added, “I don’t want to shock you, but I believe Vladimir Putin on several things.”

Of course this was too much for the Cooper and Boot — the latter which promptly charged Cohen with being a "Putin apologist".

Ah yes, back to the name-calling. If you do not believe that Putin ever told the truth you are an apologist for evil.

Boot continued, citing intelligence figures who believe that something strange is going on between Trump and Putin. One can only wonder which intelligence figures he means. Is he thinking of the appalling John Brennan or the pathetic James Clapper? Is he thinking of Obama administration flunkies?

Boot said elsewhere in the interview that “a lot of intelligence officials think that there is something highly suspect in the relationship between Putin and Trump” based merely on the supposed unwillingness of Trump to level personal criticism against the Russian leader the he does others.

Cohen responded, “I have no idea what Mr. Boot is talking about... He wants Trump to threaten Russia? Why would we threaten Russia?”

Boot followed with, “Because they’re attacking us, Professor Cohen. Russia is attacking us right now according to Trump’s own director of national intelligence.”

After an intense back-and-forth in which Boot again lazily accused the scholar of being a Putin apologist, Cohen concluded, "I think that Mr Boot would have been happy if Trump had waterboarded Putin at the summit and made him confess." He said, "Trump carried out an act of diplomacy fully consistent with the history of American presidency. Let us see what comes out of it, then judge."

What was Boot insinuating when he suggested that unnamed intelligence officers believe that something strange is going on between Trump and Putin? At the least, it was a slanderous insinuation, suggesting that Trump was some kind of Russian agent.

Boot was especially torqued, along with many other commentators to see that Trump had not called Putin a liar to his face and had not criticized him openly.

As noted on this blog, such actions would have been undiplomatic and counterproductive. If you want to conduct diplomacy you need to have a baseline good relationship with your negotiating partner. If you insult him in public, you will make diplomacy impossible.

You and I know that if Trump had uttered the least harsh word to Putin’s face, the people who are trashing him for being soft on Russia would have been out in force accusing him of being an incompetent diplomat and a thug.

Cohen’s final point is salient and deserves emphasis. We will only know how successful the diplomacy was when we see what develops.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suspect that one of the reasons Boot does not like Trump is that Trump probably does not get his suits from "Men's Warehouse." One knows that it is a sin to spend money that you have earned on what might be a better quality of attire. Damn those Ostriches.
It is the old "damned if you do and damned if you don't." I would posit that many of the people who dislike Trump do so because they are "globalists" and stand to lose large sums of money if Trump succeeds in improving the lot of American worker vice the cheaper labor outside the US. Just where are the elites going to get their cheap slaves that they can treat like dirt and also feel superior to the average American.