Why set the bar high? You’ll only fall short and leave people disappointed.
Donald Trump made his share of missteps on his way into today’s one-on-one with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the one-on-one part being only one of them. But the usually boastful American president certainly made no grand promises.
“I go in with low expectations,” he assured CBS News’ Jeff Glor, before saying exactly the same thing a slightly different way: “I’m not going with high expectations.”
Now, that’s some Trumpitude! No goal is the one goal that anyone can achieve!
Jon Hunstman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, tried to help his boss — the president — further dampen expectations by insisting the get-together with Putin isn’t even a summit. “I’ve heard it called a summit,” Huntsman said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This is a meeting … really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation.”
But Trump being Trump, he immediately went on Twitter saying the not-a-summit really is a summit, even employing a trademark-Trump capital-S. “Unfortunately,” he typed, “no matter how well I do at the Summit—” blah, blah, blah.
Surely, there’s a grand strategy in here somewhere. It’s just that no one has been able to find it yet. “He’s been very nice to me the times I’ve met him,” Trump told reporters last week in Brussels, previewing his Putin face-to-face. “I’ve been nice to him. He’s a competitor. … He’s not my enemy. And hopefully, someday, maybe he’ll be a friend. It could happen.”
Got it? Didn’t think so.
But when Glor asked Trump to identify America’s “biggest foe,” the European Union was the first name off the president’s lips.
Before Russia. Before China. Even before the news media, who he would soon be tweet-slamming again as “indeed the enemy of the people” along with “all the Dems.”
So, no. Trump won’t grill Putin on Russia’s hacking plans for U.S. midterms in November. He won’t demand Putin back off in Syria, where Russian forces are making a catastrophe even worse. And, no, he won’t demand the extradition of 12 Russian Intelligence officers just indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for trying to hijack the 2016 presidential election and quite possibly succeeding.
Expectations are low.
Metro columnist Ellis Henican is the author of a dozen books including “TRUMPITUDE: The Secret Confessions of Donald’s Brain.” Join Ellis on Twitter @henican.