The Wall Street Journal has an editorial critical of Donald Trump's statements about Ukraine. Here's the key passage:
Mrs. Clinton's other advantage is that Mr. Trump knows little about the world and can't be bothered to learn. In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on the weekend, Mr. Trump seemed to suggest that Russian proxies had not invaded Crimea. "He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down," Mr. Trump blustered. Last week he floated the prospect of officially recognizing Russia's annexation.
A two-page briefing document could have acquainted Mr. Trump with the Crimean reality, but that would have required doing a high schooler's amount of homework. Maybe it could have even instructed him that a Republican who wants to win an election can't let a Democrat look more hawkish toward U.S. adversaries like Vladimir Putin.
I think the Journal may be misreading it and that when Mr. Trump said "He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right," the "he" was President Obama, not Mr. Putin. Meaning that even President Obama wasn't going to send U.S. troops into Ukraine to defend it against Russia, NATO obligations nothwithstanding. Here's the transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Vice President Biden told me this week that Vladimir Putin wants to beat Hillary and Madeleine Albright said that your victory would be a gift to Putin.
And what they're pointing to is things like your statements about conditioning our commitments to NATO allies, softening the GOP platform on Ukraine, even considering softening sanctions and recognizing Russian annexation of Crimea. They fear that that's going to hurt America and advance Russia's interests.
TRUMP: They only fear one thing, losing the election. If our country got along with Russia, that would be a great thing. When Putin goes out and tells everybody -- and you talk about a relationship, but he says Donald Trump is going to win and Donald Trump is a genius, and then I have people saying you should disavow. I said, I'm going to disavow that?
But when Putin says good things and when we have a possibility of having a good relationship with Russia...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if we have a good relationship...
TRUMP: -- I think...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- his annexation of Crimea.
TRUMP: I'm not going to be mean to anybody. George, you know me pretty well. I don't bow, OK. I don't bow.
But if we can have a good relationship with Russia and if Russia would help us get rid of ISIS, frankly, as far as I'm concerned, you're talking about tremendous amounts of money and lives and everything else, that would be a positive thing, not a negative thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if that means conditioning our commitments to NATO, as you said?
TRUMP: No, because you're not going to do that. NATO is going to be just fine. But NATO countries -- we have 28 countries -- many of them are taking advantage of us because they're not paying. So we're protecting these countries and they're not paying.
And when people leave that last part in, everybody agrees with me.
I'm all in favor of NATO. I said NATO is obsolete. I was asked a question by one of your competitors and I said NATO is obsolete, because it's not taking care of terror. You understand that. And it turned out I was right. A lot of people gave me credit for that.
Then, three months ago, on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal," they said NATO to develop a terror division. And somebody who's supposed to be very extraordinary was put in charge of it.
That was all because of me. So I was right about that.
I was also right about the fact that NATO, we're being taken advantage of by NATO countries, totally advantage of (INAUDIBLE)...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Then why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?
TRUMP: I wasn't involved in that. Honestly, I was not involved.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your people were.
TRUMP: Yes. I was not involved in that. I'd like to -- I'd have to take a look at it. But I was not involved in that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you know what they did?
TRUMP: They softened it, I heard, but I was not involved.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They took away the part of the platform calling for the provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine to defend themselves.
Why is that a good idea?
TRUMP: Well, look, you know, I have my own ideas. He's not going into Ukraine, OK?
Just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right?
You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he's already there, isn't he?
TRUMP: OK, well, he's there in a certain way, but I'm not there yet. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama, with all the strength that you're talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this, in the meantime, he's going where -- he takes -- takes Crimea, he's sort of -- I mean...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said you might recognize that.
TRUMP: I'm going to take a look at it. But, you know, the people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also.
Now, that was under -- just so you understand, that was done under Obama's administration. And as far as the Ukraine is concerned, it's a mess. And that's under the Obama's administration, with his strong ties to NATO.
So with all of these strong ties to NATO, Ukraine is a mess. Crimea has been taken. Don't blame Donald Trump for that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said that...
TRUMP: And we'll do better and yet we'll have a better relationship with Russia.
And having a good relationship -- maybe. and having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.
Even the New York Times and Vox think the press is misreading these Trump comments.
Do I think Mr. Trump is terrific? No. He'd be better served by either being more clear in the first place or by having a rapid-response team that can chase this sort of thing down and set it straight before it metastasizes. But neither do I think Mr. Trump is as ignorant as the press seems to think he is.