Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) offered a detailed criticism on Twitter yesterday of U.S. President Donald Trump's recent joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among other observations, Amash argued that Trump "went out of his way to appear subordinate" and "spoke more like the head of a vassal state."
Amash's Twitter thread came two days after Trump told the world he accepted Putin's claim that the Russian government did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Widespread criticism ensued from across the political spectrum, leading Trump to claim Tuesday that he misspoke and believed Russia did interfere in the election.
Amash indicated he has no problem with U.S. presidents meeting with leaders of countries like Russia, North Kora, and Cuba. "Peace and prosperity can't be secured without communication and engagement," he wrote, adding that one of the "most of appealing qualities" of libertarianism is "the desire to seek friendship and peace whenever possible."
I believe that this aspect of libertarianism—the desire to seek friendship and peace whenever possible—is among its most appealing qualities.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 19, 2018
But while "diplomacy and dialogue are good," Amash wrote, it's a "logical fallacy" to say that Trump's performance at the press conference was good as well. Oppposing what Trump said doesn't make a person "pro-war or anti-Trump," Amash added. "No, some of us are just concerned about the bizarre behavior of our president at a press conference."
Yet, that's precisely the false conclusion some are making. I've heard it said that anyone who disapproves of what took place at the press conference is pro-war or anti-Trump. No, some of us are just concerned about the bizarre behavior of our president at a press conference.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 19, 2018
The libertarian-leaning Republican went on to argue that the press conference did not accomplish its goal of "bringing America and Russia closer." Instead, it left Amash thinking "something is not right here." That's because Trump's performance made him "appear subordinate" to Putin, Amash said.
The impression it left on me, a strong supporter of the meeting, is that "something is not right here." The president went out of his way to appear subordinate. He spoke more like the head of a vassal state.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 19, 2018
Amash said he wasn't sure what prompted Trump's embarrassing performance. But regardless, "the press conference was counterproductive to the goal of improving relations," he wrote. And though Trump later walked back on his remarks, Amash couldn't help but wonder why he didn't do so quicker if what he said was "simply a misstatement."
Even the president ultimately recognized that the press conference did not go well, as he tried to correct his remarks that exonerated Russia. Oddly, it took him more than a day to do so. One wonders why the White House didn't act more quickly if it were simply a misstatement.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 19, 2018
Next, Amash explained why it's perfectly fine for libertarians to take issue with Trump's remarks. "To suggest that anyone critical of the president's conduct opposes diplomacy is to employ a strawman argument. It's virtue signaling, not libertarianism," he said. Then, he noted that opposing how Trump is dealing with Putin does not make one "a Deep State anti-Trump neocon warmonger, etc."
The virtue being signaled is opposition to all things "neocon." If someone doesn't like how the meeting transpired, it must be because that person is a Deep State anti-Trump neocon warmonger, etc.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 19, 2018
Amash also criticized the tendency among some libertarians to defend Trump for the sake of "owning the neocons," adding that it's harmful to the libertarian movement when people connect libertarian principles to the "failings" of Trump. "When a libertarian's political prime directive becomes 'owning the neocons' (or 'owning the libs') rather than advancing libertarian ideals, then that person undermines libertarianism as a philosophy," he said.
The general public are not more likely to see themselves as libertarian when, for the sake of "owning the necons," prominent figures associated with libertarianism conflate libertarian-style governance and Trump-style governance.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 19, 2018
The Michigan representative may have been taking a shot at Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), a fellow libertarian-leaning Republican who was one of the few politicians to defend Trump in the aftermath of his meeting and press conference with Putin.
Amash also pointed out other negative effects of Trump's press conference. Not only did it "further isolate our country from Russia," he said, but it's led many people to "rally around" the FBI, despite the agency's "dubious track record and unconstitutional activities, particularly with respect to the #4thAmendment." The press conference will also likely lead to "more ineffectual sanctions bills and resolutions of condemnation against Russia," Amash added, "which will serve primarily to stunt further efforts at diplomacy and dialogue."
Amash concluded by calling on libertarians to be "smarter and more effective in our approach." Instead of "Acting like partisans," libertarians should "Stand strong on your principles; you'll find most Americans standing with you."
We libertarians need to be smarter and more effective in our approach. Acting like partisans—pushing demagoguery and tribalism—is a self-defeating proposition. Stand strong on your principles; you'll find most Americans standing with you.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 19, 2018
Photo Credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS/Newscom