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If David Ignatius’ new column on Donald Trump’s Russia policy thinking and leanings isn’t the low point of Mainstream Media coverage of the Republican presidential candidate, that’s only because the competition has been so cutthroat. This Washington Post pundit has just produced a masterpiece of smearing by insinuation that doesn’t even have the courage of its own convictions. Here’s what I mean.

Ignatius began the piece by directly comparing a Trump statement on the candidate’s confidence that he’d get along with Russian leader Vladimir Putin with former then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s infamous 1938 claim that he’d achieve “peace in our time” by acquiescing in Adolph Hitler’s annexation of a chunk of the former country of Czechoslovakia.

Right afterward, Ignatius admitted that “Political analogies are often unfair, especially ones that invoke the overused Munich parallel.” But in the very next sentence, he insisted that

this one is worth considering: The problem with Trump isn’t (as some critics have argued) that he’s a reckless and potentially genocidal aggressor. No, the danger is that he’s precisely what he says he is — a dealmaker who thinks he could craft agreements with despots that could bring peace and security.”

Ignatius then repeated this pattern of slinging mud even he obviously doesn’t believe – apparently in the hope that some of it will stick. First, the charge that:

Trump seems to see commitments made to smaller states as expendable in the process of making deals with the big guys. When he linked U.S. willingness to defend the Baltic states and other NATO allies to what they pay into the alliance, it was a Chamberlain-esque emphasis on national self-interest, as opposed to sticking your neck out for possibly undeserving little guys.”

Then the cover-your-butt qualification: “This idea of reaching agreements with Putin’s Russia isn’t crazy, any more than was Chamberlain’s desire to escape war in 1938.”

Ignatius did make a feeble stab at squaring this circle:

[T]rump actually deserves credit for raising this issue early in the Republican primary debates. But any such negotiation must be done carefully and unsentimentally, without the mutual self-congratulation that has characterized Trump’s comments about Putin.”

In other words, the Republican candidate’s praise of Putin has been wildly out of bounds.  Perhaps Ignatius has forgotten former President George W. Bush’s widely quoted, “I looked the man [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.”

And in case you still have doubts that Trump’s remarks are anything but unprecedented, get a load of this passage from that same June, 2001 press conference, which hasn’t been so widely quoted: “I look forward to my next meeting with President Putin in July. I very much enjoyed our time together. He’s an honest, straightforward man who loves his country. He loves his family. We share a lot of values. I view him as a remarkable leader.”

Moreover, the rest of Ignatius’ case apparently rests on his assumption that Trump would give away the store immediately – presumably as opposed to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. That would be the same Hillary Clinton who, as President Obama’s Secretary of State, was positively giggly as she sent her Russian counterpart and the world the unmistakable message – complete with corny prop – that the two countries could simply “reset” their relationship because Mr. Obama had just entered office.

In his close, Ignatius make a final attempt to tar Trump with a brush while absolving himself of any responsibility for alarmism: “We’re not in Neville Chamberlain territory, not even close. But this is a slippery slope, not just for Trump, but for the United States. ”

What couldn’t be clearer is that if anyone’s not only on but well down a slippery slope, it’s Ignatius. And it’s labeled “slander.”

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