President Trump is attempting to walk back his baffling denigration of US Intelligence agencies by insisting that he had gotten tripped up by a double-negative.

His previous statement in front of the world stage had been “[US Intelligence Agencies] said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this — I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

He claims that he meant to say “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be.”

With this correction, the Presidents words shift from an unambiguous affirmation of an antagonistic autocrat to a lukewarm endorsement of the capabilities of US intelligence. That is, provided that one is charitable enough to believe that the one-word correction somehow manages to override the context built up by the sentences preceding it and reaffirmed by those following.

Even if were one was so charitable, the single correction doesn’t address the numerous other statements and actions that sparked the political conflagration the President finds himself immersed in.

  • There’s the fact that he seems to place more stock in Putin’s “powerful denial” than the words of his CIA director.
  • There’s the fact that he insisted that “both sides” (here meaning the US and Russia– as opposed to last time when it was literal Neo-Nazi’s and Anti-Fascist protesters) were at fault for poor relations.
  • There’s the fact that even in his heavily-scripted apology he still felt it prudent to cushion the condemnation of Russia by saying, yet again, that there may have been others interfering in the 2016 election.
  • There’s the chillingly Orwellian fact that the White House’s official transcript of the event omits a key moment from the exchange between the two leaders.
  • There’s fact that before the summit he unflinchingly stated that the European Union was one of our greatest adversaries. He mentioned the EU before Russia and before China–the latter of whom the United States is currently embroiled in a full-on trade war thanks to the President’s inchoate protectionist ideology.

Presidential historians are claiming that the President’s performance shattered a number of norms. Norms that had helped maintain the US’s position in international affairs.

Lest some say that this controversy is over-dramatized, let me say this: It says something that experts and citizens alike (on both sides of the political spectrum) are condemning the President’s statements in the arena of foreign policy— a place where he and his predecessors are relatively well insulated from criticism due to the importance of the office for international relations. His performance was that bad.

The President campaigned on a promise of improving tarnished US prestige abroad. International polling data shows that global opinion of the United States has steeply decreased. If this press conference was any indication, we have not yet reached the floor.

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Peter Licari
Peter is a PhD student in American Politics and Political Methodology at the University of Florida studying political behavior, elections, and polling. He identifies as an ideological moderate and a center-left Republican. While he departs from the party line on a handful of salient issues (Gay Marriage, Climate Change, and Abortion), he tends to identify strongly with many of the party's core values including equality of opportunity, empowering individual liberty, the importance of state and local governance, and the power of a fair market. He firmly believes in the necessity of limited government intervention on those issues enumerated by the constitution and by legal precedent but is leery at expansion beyond that sphere. He also blogs at www.awildpoliticalnerd.com and doodles web-comics at www.p05comics.tumblr.com. What little spare time remains is dedicated to long-distance running, reading, playing video games with his ever-patient fiancee, Stephanie, and to oddly productive one-sided conversations with his cat, Asia.