For several days already, Barack Obama has been an ordinary civilian, and the reins of American power have rested in the hands of President Donald Trump. Though he welcomed the end of Obama’s presidency as the start of a bright new era, Dmitry Kiselyov, the Kremlin’s so-called “chief propagandist,” quickly found himself struggling to find convincing scapegoats for the world’s problems this week.
In his Sunday news show, Kiselyov, Russia’s most-watched TV pundit, mainly parroted President Trump’s own inauguration speech, focusing on the “carnage” supposedly consuming American streets, while praising the ceremony as the best show Washington has ever staged.
The debate raging in the U.S. about Trump’s failure to draw larger crowds than Obama didn’t faze Kiselyov, whose correspondents instead mocked the Obamas’ composure during the event. President Obama had a “stone face” and Michelle Obama “bit her lip the whole time,” Kiselyov said. In a feat of classiness, the TV pundit also criticized Mrs. Obama’s appearance, saying she “looked like a housemaid without an apron, sitting next to Melania Trump.”
By contrast, Kiselyov insisted, the Trumps were perfect, including their ballroom dance later that evening, when they danced to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” — a very “Trumpovsky” choice, Kiselyov's show explained, as Trump “really did do it his own way.”
What about the president’s inauguration speech itself? It was like no other in history! Admittedly, the first bit didn’t thrill Kiselyov. “It was standard stuff,” he told viewers. But what followed was like sunshine breaking through the clouds. “The guests in the VIP seats had goosebumps,” Kiselyov said, praising Trump for never once uttering the words “democracy” or “NATO.”
Hands down, however, Kiselyov’s favorite moment was when Trump said, “People of the world, thank you.” When Vladimir Putin was watching this, Kiselyov said, the Russian president probably muttered out loud, “My pleasure.”
In a rare admission, Kiselyov told viewers that Russians probably more closely than “any other nation on Earth” followed Donald Trump’s presidential bid. “We didn’t just follow it,” he explained. “We really cheered for him,” adding that the country has also patiently awaited the end of “the American freakshow.”
An American Maidan
But television with Dmitry Kiselyov is nothing without a little blood in the streets, and so his show opened with a segment titled “America 2017: The Smell of Maidan,” airing footage of unrest in Washington on Inauguration Day, when police arrested hundreds of protesters. The segment focused on smashed store windows and clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement. “War,” Kiselyov warned viewers, “has been declared by Hollywood stars, the media, members of the Evangelical Church, and the special forces.”
Completing the metaphor, the pundit then added that Americans haven’t been so divided since the Civil War, noting parallels with Russia’s recent and more distant history. “We in Russia know what it means to be divided. We’ve felt this powerful force more than once,” he said.
In part, Kiselyov was comparing contemporary America to Russia five years ago, when large protests erupted in Moscow ahead of Putin’s return to the presidency. The pundit then awkwardly clarified that this civil unrest pitted only a small minority of the country (just two percent, he claimed) against the vast majority of people. “Even this was unpleasant,” he said, noting that Americans are more frighteningly split into two equal camps, ignoring the fact that Hillary Clinton won 2.8 million more votes than Trump.
According to Kiselyov, the millions of American who oppose Donald Trump’s presidency make entirely unfounded accusations against him, which he broke down into two fundamental misconceptions.
First, critics say Donald Trump is against women, often citing the president’s documented misogyny. “He’s committed no crimes,” Kiselyov fired back, pointing out that Trump has apologized for his “impulsive and exceptional impoliteness.”
Second, Trump’s detractors accuse him of promoting racism and bigotry, particularly against Muslims. “Trump's been called a racist, but his cabinet [nominations] are multiracial,” Kiselyov said, ignoring the fact that Trump has nominated significantly fewer minorities than past presidents. Kiselyov then replayed an excerpt from Trump’s inauguration speech, where he said, “It's time to remember [...] that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” citing the line as proof that those against Trump are obstacles to the civilized world’s campaign against radical terrorism.
“It's all very abstract, just like it was during Maidan,” Kiselyov said, referring to Ukraine's 2014 revolution. The same people who have been calling Putin a devil, he added, are now redirecting their hate at Trump.
An American Man’s Man
Despite the “riots” in Washington, Kiselyov assured his audience, Trump is powering through, working so vigilantly that he apparently sleeps only four hours a night.
The Russian pundit even celebrated the Trump White House’s move to delete online content dedicated to the defense of America’s LGBT community. “Trump never said he would support them anyway,” Kiselyov's show said, before claiming that British handwriting analysts have reviewed the “tall, elongated” letters of Trump’s signature and found it to be the mark of an “ambitious, energetic man.”
Will Donald Trump be a good president? He might, Kiselyov told viewers, before the camera dramatically swooped in for a closeup, and the host added, “IF HE ISN’T KILLED.” Despite concerns about assassination plots, Kiselyov said Trump has displayed bravery in the face of danger, even exiting his armored limousine briefly on Friday to walk alongside his wife in the Inauguration Parade.
“Trump, as we say in Russian, is a muzhik,” Kiselyov said, telling viewers that America has elected a true man’s man.