WASHINGTON – You saw the handshake, and the resolute look on President Trump's face, and the coy little grin – or was it a smirk? – on the face of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Here's hoping you were listening, too, as the American president paid more deference to the Russian leader than to the U.S. intelligence agencies that say Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, as the leader of the free world made nice with a tyrant out to wreck it.
Not surprisingly, this caused quite a dust-up. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called Trump's performance "disgraceful." Former CIA director John Brennan called Trump's performance "treasonous." And a former New Jersey governor and U.S. cabinet secretary, Republican Christine Todd Whitman, said Trump had proved himself unfit for the presidency and that he should resign.
So this is serious – really serious. And that means we, the American people, must take it seriously.
Now more than ever, it's time to be a patriot, and that means more than supporting the troops and standing for the national anthem. It means that every one of us must focus on what's happening in Washington, distasteful though it may be, and act as our consciences direct us in response.
Admittedly, this is not easy. Whether you loathe President Trump or love him, you have to acknowledge that his omnipresence, his nonstop making of news and the news media's nonstop repeating of it, can be tiresome. Even an always-Trumper like Bill O'Reilly has conceded as much, writing back in March: "There is Trump fatigue sweeping the nation."
But as my former boss and current friend Margaret Sullivan pointed out this week in The Washington Post, Trump fatigue bears serious consequences. She noted that Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive who resigned after being accused of ignoring rampant complaints of sexual harassment, won a plum White House job with hardly a notice and hardly a whimper. News like that gets drowned in a nonstop torrent of presidential tweets and policy upheavals and foreign policy provocations.
The latest of those spilled from Trump's lips at the press conference that followed his summit with Putin, where the American president all but accepted Putin's denial of Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
"I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia's goal to interfere in the American democratic process, Trump said.
This is the president of the United States favoring a rival state over the United States. As I outlined yesterday, only three things can explain it: Either Putin has something on Trump, or Trump is incompetent, or he's somehow a victim of a "deep state" establishment bureaucracy out to destroy a president who is simply trying to make peace with a potential enemy.
All three of those possibilities are so horrid that it is now the duty of every one of us to pay close attention to this president and what he's doing and oppose or support him based on what the facts and our consciences call on us to do.
That's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. They wanted us to pay attention.
Witness the words of Thomas Jefferson, and forgive him the use of the word "shewn."
"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large," Jefferson said two years after the Declaration of Independence.
Acting upon what we learn is hugely important, too, if it is grave enough. So said Samuel Adams, another Founding Father.
“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards," noted Adams. "And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”
So there you have it: our civic instructions, from two of the patriots that wrote them.
They called on us to honor and respect the parchment that would make America the world's leading nation. They wanted us to do just what our elected leaders are supposed to do: to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
So don't avert your eyes. You've got a country to protect.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the House Financial Services Committee … The Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness Subcommittee holds a hearing on "Trade and Commerce at U.S. Ports of Entry" ... The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee holds a hearing on "The Effects of Tariffs on U.S. Agriculture and Rural Communities" … House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) discusses "how the U.S. should both prepare for a new era of great-power competition with Russia, China, and Iran and tackle the thorny problems of North Korea, Syria, and other rogue actors,'' at a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute ... Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases a National Press Club luncheon to discuss ''progress made on the development of a universal flu vaccine."
The Washington Post tells us U.S. allies are aghast at President Trump's summit with Vladimir Putin ... Meanwhile back home, The New York Times says Trump's press conference with Putin even alarmed some of the president's supporters ... The New Republic argues that Trump is not Putin's puppet ... The libertarians at Reason magazine say Trump's performance was disgraceful but not treasonous ... And on an entirely different topic, Vox details the troubles behind Sinclair Broadcasting's takeover of local news.