Brian Hamilton: Asked and answered, indeed | TheUnion.com

Brian Hamilton: Asked and answered, indeed

Brian Hamilton

Katrin couldn't speak much English when we first met, and I know just enough German to order a beer, so our conversations were pretty limited when my buddy Flo first introduced me to his future bride.

Growing up on the west side of the wall, Flo studied English as a second language.

Katrin, being from East Germany, learned Russian.

But no words were necessary to recognize the universal language of love.

I love their love story, not only because I love them but also due to the fact their story was only possible after a historic shift in the world, when the wall came down about a decade before they met.

Flo was attending my high school as an exchange student when the first chunks of concrete came crashing down. It was an amazing moment, one he helped put into perspective for a wide-eyed Hoosier with a limited world view through the cornstalks of his northern Indiana backyard.

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Of course, it was two short years earlier that the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, stood at the Brandenburg Gate and uttered those words that seemed to shake the world awake.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

That moment made Americans swell with pride.

And when the sledgehammers finally broke through to the other side, we celebrated right alongside the rest of the Western world as the "Evil Empire" came crashing down along with that wall.

That moment came to mind, as I watched the press conference. Of course, you know what happened; there's been no shortage of coverage.

Even as the White House moved into full damage control Tuesday, with President Trump saying he misspoke, there is no mistaking what he said nor what he meant, while standing before the world and next to the "president" of what's left of that Evil Empire.

Although every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded Russia interfered with the 2016 election, despite the dozen Russian intelligence officers indicted Friday by the Mueller investigation and nevermind Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warning America's digital infrastructure is "literally under attack," Trump shrank in the moment.

He said all he could do was ask the question. Asked and answered, he said.

Instead of affirming his own intelligence reports, condemning the Kremlin and demanding Putin extradite those involved, President Trump not only took Putin's word that Russia wasn't involved but said Putin's offer to have Russian intelligence work with Mueller's team to investigate the matter is "an incredible offer."

Unbelievably incredible, indeed.

For a "law and order" president who talks tough and seemingly has no problem criticizing anyone — even our closest allies, as well as his own justice department and intelligence officers — he can't seem to find the strength to press Putin on what the rest of our government considers an attack — an act of war — against our country by the Russians.

The fact that, in this case, the outrage over Trump's words has been a bipartisan affair could lead to congress taking some actual action to help right his wrong. As bitterly divided as our people have been in the wake of controversy that has come with this presidency, Americans should stand united in the belief that words do matter and those that Trump has uttered in the past week — to both our allies and this adversary — can have a lasting impact.

Our elected representatives should use this as an opportunity to not only affirm their own support for our intelligence agencies, and the men and women in the trenches doing the work each day to keep our nation safe, but also support those working with the Mueller team to complete their work and follow this investigation wherever it leads.

Trump's inability to stand up for America as he stood before the world, and the very person our intelligence officers say likely ordered the attack, is a far cry from the strength it took for the United States and the rest of the Western world to win the Cold War.

"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace," Reagan said that day in Berlin. "There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Monday's summit was another moment that clearly called for such a strong stance from the president of the United States, as the aggression of Putin and Russia has been apparent in the invasion of Crimea, in their support of the Syrian dictator Assad and with these very attacks on our electoral process and democracy.

Trump demands loyalty, but where does his rest?

What on earth would Ronald Reagan be saying today?

And how many Americans did our president leave swelling with pride at this moment in history?

Asked and answered, indeed.

Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at bhamilton@theunion.com or 530-477-4249.