Members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section – 170 scholars, in total – ranked every president from best to worst, and the results were released yesterday. Barack Obama was among the presidential elite, ranked #8, while Donald Trump finished dead last.
Whether Trump saw these rankings or not is not yet clear, but it was interesting to see the Republican start to publish a series of tweets last night and this morning focused specifically on criticizing his immediate predecessor. One missive, however, stood out as especially notable.
“I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama, just look at the facts. Total Fake News!”
Hmm. The president wants us to “just look at the facts.” Perhaps that’s a good idea.
It’s a fact, for example, that Trump hasn’t implemented congressionally approved sanctions punishing Russia for its attack on American elections. Similarly, it’s a fact that Trump not only has failed to criticize Russia for the attack, he’s also endorsed Vladimir Putin’s denials of responsibility.
It’s a fact that when the Russian government moved against U.S. diplomats, Trump thanked Putin. It’s a fact that when Congress approved sanctions against Russia, Trump blamed American lawmakers, not Putin, for undermining relations between the two countries.
It’s a fact that Trump has repeatedly and publicly praised Putin’s authoritarian leadership style. It’s a fact that Trump’s political operation weakened the Republican Party’s platform in ways that made Moscow happy. It’s a fact that three weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Trump complained that Hillary Clinton was being too “tough” on Putin.
It’s a fact that Trump welcomed Russian officials in the Oval Office, at Putin’s request, and during the chat, the American president shared highly sensitive, classified information with his Russian guests in exchange for nothing.
It’s also a fact that Barack Obama, after the 2016 election, imposed tough sanctions on Russia – sanctions that Trump’s incoming White House national security advisor told Russian officials not to worry about. (Trump’s aide later lied to the FBI about the conversations.)
So, when Trump says he’s “been much tougher on Russia than Obama,” we’re left with two possibilities: (1) Trump is lying; or (2) Trump is confused about the meaning of “tough.”