CSotD: Covering the Summit

We’re going to start off with a cartoon that Kevin Kallaugher did for the Economist nearly a week ago, because this is one we know was drawn before Biden and Putin sat down in Geneva for four hours yesterday.

The others may not be as clear, and it’s not unusual for both cartoonists and reporters to come to a story with their own sense of what it is.

Kallaugher offers less of a prediction than an analysis and it’s hard to disagree with his take on the meeting: Biden likely went into it as “the new guy,” offering not so much an olive branch as the chance to reset things.

And Putin remained Putin, which Kal also brought out in this


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Kal Kallaugher)


(Tom Stiglich – Creators)

To begin with, this was more of a sparring session than an actual boxing match, which is the case in most summits, at least since the end of World War II, when the heads of the US, USSR and UK met to determine the outcome of the war in Europe and strategy for the war in Japan.

When there has been something specific on the table — Soviet missiles in Cuba, for instance — the crisis has called for back-and-forth diplomacy, not a largely ceremonial sit-down session.

That doesn’t mean nothing substantive can come out of a summit meeting, only that it’s unrealistic to expect it and certainly unfair to demand it.

What’s interesting in this Juxtaposition is that both cartoonists view Putin as a fearsome competitor, but Kallaugher sees Biden as restoring the US position post-Trump, while Stiglich trades on partisan 2020 campaign images of an incompetent, over-the-hill Biden.

Who, it might be pointed out, just completed a rapid-fire trip that included meetings of the G-7 and NATO prior to the Geneva Summit, while his predecessor had to cop out of events at single conferences, sparking speculation that, even at 70, he couldn’t maintain the pace.

Conservative media have been highlighting any misstatement by the president as proof of his incapacity, which reminds me of how Chevy Chase created the bumbling image of Gerald Ford out of whole cloth, though SNL did that simply to be wiseasses, not for any partisan advantage.


Similarly, John Darkow (Cagle) has declared that the old gaffer lost his pants to Putin at the summit, suggesting that his administration is not competent to monitor Russian cyberantics.


Meanwhile, other cartoonists — like Steve Sack — have echoed Kal’s suggestion that Putin had a much easier time of things dealing with Trump, who, at the Helsinki Summit, famously took Putin’s assurances that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 election over the analysis of US intelligence agencies.


It’s not the first time a Republican president appears to have misunderestimated Putin — Ann Telnaes recorded George W. Bush’s fatuous appraisal of the man at the 2001 summit in Slovenia.


But, in the essay accompanying his cartoon, Clay Jones lists the way Trump’s fealty to Putin far outstripped W’s foolish choice of words, and it’s worth remembering that W not only listened to his advisors, which Trump rarely did, but was accused of being a figurehead, which puts some of his make-the-pie-higher rhetoric into the category of amusing irrelevancies.

By contrast, as Jones notes, Trump welcomed Russian diplomats to the White House and disclosed top secret information to them which compromised intelligence sources and operations. He was no harmless figurehead.


Indeed, as Pat Bagley suggests, working with Trump was a whole lot more fun for a former Soviet Intelligence Officer.


Matt Davies (AMS) lays out the difference and suggests Putin’s reaction. We do know that Biden challenged him on human rights in general and, specifically, on a pair of US citizens held on what are believed to be bogus spying charges.

So what was accomplished?


Patrick Chappatte suggests it was only a photo op, which gave Putin some needed attention and global credibility, but didn’t provide Biden with a whole lot that he didn’t walk into the room with.

Well, scroll back to the top of the page where I said that summits aren’t expected to produce large, specific outcomes.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s how the president summed up his meeting at the press conference that followed:


Deb Milbrath sums it all up in few words. It’s not just that Trump is gone but that Biden has doubled down on St. Ronnie’s famous dictum, and, if you doubt it, catch the sharp edge in this exchange with reporters:

And if “it was just pure business” brings echoes of Sal Tessio apologizing for having betrayed the Godfather, I’m not hearing it.

What I’m hearing, from the same movie, is a calm, solid voice laying out what needs to be laid out, politely but without offering alternatives.

Not challenging Putin’s denial of cyberhacking, for instance. Simply naming 16 things that they would certainly agree had better not get hacked.

Thank you for the dinner and a very pleasant evening.


The burr under the saddle — and I respect CNN’s Kaitlin Collins generally — became that there’s always some reporter who wrote the questions before the press conference and is determined to ask them even if they’ve already been addressed:

Sigh. However you speak to the Russian head of state behind closed doors, you have to make nice-nice with the press, and the White House press corps jumped on Biden’s snappish response, calling it a good question despite what Biden had said:

It was a dumb question that suggested she hadn’t been listening, and, while the press is unlikely to forgive him for snapping, he was at the end of a very long week.

He later apologized and held a second meeting with reporters before getting on Air Force One to come home.

It’s very much worth a read. He even answered a few more questions, including a couple about domestic affairs:


Which must surely have made Kevin Siers smile to himself.

And should have made Mitch put an extra lock on the stable door.

Anyway, this is the only summit I care about, and, yes, great things came of it:

3 thoughts on “CSotD: Covering the Summit

  1. Good grief, Steiglitz pretty consistently reaches Ben Garrison levels of unquestioning propaganda, although maybe he stops just short of drawing TFG with the physique of an MMA fighter. The fact that this guy has a job while Rob Rogers got fired from his will make it hard for me to buy into the whole “conservatives have it soooo much harder” nonsense.

  2. Hi Mary, just asked Tom if he’d gotten a new staff job since his position was eliminated at JRC PAPERS twenty years ago. He has not – neither has Rob nor myself. He’s a steel hauling dispatcher.

    To clarify I’ve not said ““conservatives have it soooo much harder”. I have said / pointed out mathmatically there are fewer of us because media is largely liberal and we don’t win awards because our political views are not liberal. Thanks.

  3. Ah, yes, the ever-present “liberal media”, as if it’s all one big monolithic entity just stacked squarely against you. Would this be the same “media” that plasters Tucker Carlson’s ignorant mug over every McDonald’s dining room across my state? Or maybe the same “media” that lets my nimrod of a congressman get softball questions lobbed at him for an hour after Rush Limbaugh reruns instead of asking why he doesn’t have a town hall in his own district? Maybe it’s the same “media” buying up all the local papers and running them into the ground, or is it the one turning all the local TV news into Sinclair stations with built-in required scripts for the anchors?

    Maybe political cartoonists skew left because artists in general do. But on the ground as a mere consumer in a largely red state, I don’t see the specter of the big evil liberal media all that much. Thanks.

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