WASHINGTON – The fake news media is full of accounts about how President Donald Trump’s standing is slipping among his “base” – his most loyal supporters.
There is absolutely no reason to think Trump’s support has slipped in the slightest among those who like him best: the 144 million men, women and children of the Russian Federation. A poll released by the Pew Research Center end of June found that fully 53 percent of Russians have confidence in Trump, 67 percent there think he’s a strong leader and 62 percent find him charismatic and well qualified.
The poll was conducted earlier this year, but there’s every reason to think Trump’s numbers in Russia have held steady or improved. (Vladimir Putin has had plenty of time to send those who disapprove of Trump to Siberia.) Trump is performing almost 20 points better in Russia than in the United States, which, of course, only proves true the biblical aphorism: A prophet is not without honor except in his own country.
Unfortunately for Trump, most Russian nationals are not (yet) eligible to vote in the United States. But Trump’s eastern base nevertheless has ways of boosting his popularity at home, and not only by hacking the Democratic National Committee and doing other things of interest to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
As The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip reported, “a virtual army of accounts identified as having ties to a Russia-backed disinformation campaign targeting the U.S. political system zeroed in on efforts among Trump’s supporters to attack his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, over the firing of two Trump loyalists.”
That’ll teach the national security adviser to cross Trump’s Kremlin cohort.
Phillip noted that Trump, on his golf vacation, retweeted with thanks a tweet Saturday from the subtle handle @Protrump45, an account that “bears a lot of signs of a Russia-backed disinformation campaign.” Though there are conflicting reports about the nature of this account, there are undoubtedly many Russian “bots” that boost Trump’s line and blast his critics, often with misspellings and odd grammar.
But while it’s generous of Putin to put his bots to work for Trump, this White House is perfectly capable of importing Russian-style propaganda without help from Moscow.
Trump’s White House has been churning out so much that it literally overloaded the system. Rapid-response director Andy Hemming had been sending out positive stories about Trump to so many journalists that, Politico reported, “the White House IT system could not handle an email going out to such a big list, and all of his emails were being blocked by a firewall.” The glitch was fixed.
This week, meanwhile, saw the debut of Trump TV: a Web-based broadcast of “real news” by Kayleigh McEnany, a pro-Trump pundit formerly of CNN. In the first installment, she announces, in front of a Trump-Pence campaign backdrop in Trump Tower: “President Trump has created more than 1 million jobs. … President Trump has clearly steered the economy back in the right direction. … President Trump is finally putting the American worker first. … President Trump is dedicated to honoring these men and women who fought valiantly for our country.”
Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tweeted: “Wow. Feels eerily like so many state-owned channels I’ve watched in other countries.”
We hardly need Trump TV, though, because we already have “Fox & Friends,” the Fox News morning show. Vox this week analyzed transcripts of 17 months of the show and found some extraordinary changes since the election: They started using “we” statements with much more frequency (“we need to,” “we are going”), referred to the occupant of the Oval Office as “the president” far more often than under President Barack Obama, and had many more statements instructing or advising Trump and predicting actions.
Then there’s “the president” himself, a one-man propaganda machine. This week he has, among other things, gone after Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who had spoken on TV about Russia’s election meddling.
Trump attacked Blumenthal for lying about serving in Vietnam. (He served in the Marine Reserve during the war but not in Vietnam.) Trump said Blumenthal “cried like a baby” when caught. This was similar to Trump’s attack on ABC News’s Martha Raddatz, claiming she was “crying” and in “tears” after Trump won. Neither appears to be true.
Happily, the Trump White House has not yet borrowed all forms of propaganda employed by the Putin regime. Russian state media released several photographs this week of a shirtless Putin boating and fishing on a Siberian lake. If the White House follows suit and releases photos of a shirtless Trump golfing in New Jersey, it will be time to talk seriously about impeachment.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.