Stephen Cohen on Tucker Carlson praises Trump-Putin meeting as most important summit since World War II
A familiar feature of Tucker Carlson's nightly prime-time Fox News channel program is for Carlson to debate – and usually one-up – a representative of the political left. On occasion, he has welcomed a liberal who seems to agree with or at least to buttress his own conservative position.
One such guest, who has been on the program a number of times in recent months, is Stephen F. Cohen, Ph.D., an American scholar and professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University. Cohen, 78, is an unabashed liberal. He is a contributing editor to The Nation, according to Wikipedia "the most widely read weekly journal of liberal/progressive political and cultural news, opinion, and analysis." Since 1988, Cohen has been married to Katrina vanden Heuvel, the longtime reliably left-of-center editor of The Nation.
On the occasion of President Trump's first one-on-one meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Hamburg on July 7, Carlson welcomed Cohen as the second guest on his program the same evening. Cohen is "an actual expert on the subject and a Russian speaker," Carlson noted in his introduction. In the four-and-a-half-minute-long segment, the experienced and independent-minded Cohen shredded many of the arguments put forward by the "resist" commentators and academics who were quick to dump on the Trump-Putin meeting as they have similarly jumped on the unproven Russia-Trump-collusion bandwagon since it took off last fall.
The video of the Carlson show segment with Cohen is highly recommended viewing.
Tucker Carlson: Professor, the first thing you notice is just how much the press is rooting for this meeting between our president and the Russian president to fail. Why would they want it to fail?
Stephen Cohen: It's a kind of pornography. Just as there is no love in pornography, there is no national interest in this bashing of Trump and Putin. As a historian, let me tell you the headline I would write instead, about what we witnessed today in Hamburg. "Potentially New Historic Detente Anti-Cold War Partnership Begun by Trump and Putin but Meanwhile Attempts to Sabotage It Escalate."
You said I was an expert. I actually do have one expertise. I've seen a lot of summits, as we call meetings between American and Russian presidents. I was present at some, and even participated in the first George Bush's summit preparation. When he met with Gorbachev, he invited me to Camp David to debate before his team.
In that context, I think what we saw today was potentially the most fateful meeting between an American and Russian president since the war time [WW II]. The reason is, is that the relationship with Russia is so dangerous and yet we have a president who might have been crippled or cowed by these Russiagate attacks on him, and yet he was not. He was, I think, politically courageous. It went well. They did important things. And this will be astonishing to be said, I know, but I think maybe today we witnessed President Trump emerging as an American statesman. I think it was a very good day for everybody.
In reply to Carlson's follow-up question, Cohen noted:
You've got three major actors being demonized in America: one is of course Putin, second is Trump, but then the leader of Syria, President Assad, is demonized here.
Cohen went on to cite the major achievement of the Trump-Putin summit:
They formed an alliance and that means that we will side for now with Russia with Assad. That will be assailed in Washington because he's [Assad] loathed in Washington almost as much as Trump and Putin.
Why is Assad so loathed? Carlson asked.
Cohen: When the Syrian civil war began five or six years ago, there were a lot of dirty hands in that mix, including American ones. Everybody was arming somebody. So we have a monstrous war going on there with so many groups being armed by so many different states. The thing about Assad for me has always been – and maybe this is parochial – but he has been the protector of the Jews, of the Christians, and of the non-Jihadist Islamic population in Syria – at a time when the main threat there, the Islamic State, ISIS, chops off the heads of these people. It seems to me that we should stick with Assad until we defeat these people [ISIS].
Cohen wrapped up his interview with these comments:
Focus if you will [on] something that both Trump and Putin said today. They said we are meeting, we have agreed, and we promise positive things to come. In other words, they have formed a political partnership and now it goes forward. But it will be viciously attacked and already is if you look at the press today here.
When I set out to write this article, I didn't intend to transcribe and quote so much of the Carlson-Cohen interaction. But once I got started, it was hard to know when to stop. Cohen, in my opinion, illustrates his impressive intellect and communications skills by filling the entire time given to him – only about three and a half minutes total when Carlson's three questions are subtracted – with eminently quotable comments.
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care. His bio with links to a number of his writings can be accessed here.