At brunch today with a friend, discussing local (the NYC mayoral outcome) and world (what to do about Syria) events, it occurred to me that what Russian President Vladimir Putin had done was somehow hire the fictional crisis manager of the television hit Scandal.
His now infamous and irritating Op-Ed in the New York Times had Olivia Pope’s handiwork all over it. In plain American-speak, the world leader who defends the despot Assad, had called our Secretary of State, John Kerry, a liar–and who was still now harboring leaker Edward Snowden– was lecturing the people of this country about justice, fairness, and what our president should or should not do. In our leading newspaper “of record,” no less.
It is clear that Putin had an expert crisis “fixer” at his disposal. The piece read well. It made him seem completely rational, if wrong. Someone had been paying very close attention to President Obama’s speech to the nation: Putin even, or especially, assailed the president’s use of the phrase “American exceptionalism”–okay, even I bristled at that when I heard it–I thought it an unnecessary provocation, since most people interpret it as “Americans think they’re better than everybody.”
As fans of Scandal and Olivia Pope (as played wonderfully by Kerry Washington) know, at the highest reaches of government, anything is possible–the President of the United States can strangle a dying Supreme Court Justice and get away with it (so far). There are no purely good guys, only the less bad guys–or the guys on your side, and that can change moment to moment.
With Putin’s surprising–some would say “amazing, unbelievable” brokering of a deal with Syria to destroy its arsenal of chemical weapons, we are deep in Scandal territory–the “red line” between the good and bad guys is suddenly blurred. God help President Obama–and let’s pray that he is busy looking for his own Olivia Pope. A great communications “fixer” may be the only “strike” he really needs.