The unhappy track record of happy talk.
President Donald Trump likes to claim that he represents a break with the past, veering away from the failed policies of his predecessors in an “America First” direction. Yet as shown in vivid detail by his meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, President Trump’s handling of rogue regimes is eerily reminiscent of President Barack Obama’s approach to America’s foes.
While Democrats may want to deny it now, talking to antagonists was a key tenet of the Obama doctrine. As Ben Rhodes writes in his new memoir, “It. Is. Not. A. Reward. To. Talk. To. Folks.” Rhodes recounts candidate Obama pounding “his open palm on the table as he spoke” to enunciate the point during a strategy session for his 2008 run. During that campaign, Obama chastised the Bush administration for its standoffish approach toward rogue regimes, saying “the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them—which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration—is ridiculous.”