ANDERSON – While other networks were covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Fox News host Laura Ingraham was interviewing Donald J. Trump.

The conversation took a wrong turn when the former president apparently misunderstood Ingraham’s announcement that Russia had launched an invasion. “It’s a very sad thing, but you know what’s also very dangerous is you told me about the amphibious attack by Americans,” he told Ingraham. “You shouldn’t be saying that because you and everybody else shouldn’t know about it. They should do that secretly, not be doing that through the great Laura Ingraham. They should be doing that secretly. Nobody should know that, Laura.”

Ingraham moved quickly to clear up the confusion. “That was the Russians,” she said. “No, no, no, no, no, that would be news.”

As the interview continued, Ingraham suggested Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, had been weak in his response to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I think you’re exactly right,” Trump said. “I think that’s what happened. He was going to be satisfied with a peace, and now he sees the weakness and the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration, and, as an American, I’m angry about it, and I’m saddened by it.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, our nation’s 45th president traced the problem back to a single cause. “And it all happened because of a rigged election,” he said. “This would have never happened ...”

Ingraham cut him off. “President Trump, we actually have …” she said. “Just, hold on, I’m so sorry to interrupt you … We’re going to the Pentagon, I believe? Ukraine, sorry. Ukraine is speaking at the U.N.”

Some have suggested the network cut away precisely because the former president had begun spouting his all-too-familiar lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Network representatives, though, pointed simply to Fox’s ongoing coverage of the invasion.

In a normal world, an interview with a former president might seem an appropriate part of that coverage. With Trump, though, things are never quite normal. If you’re looking for an example of how a former president from the opposite party ought to act in a situation like this, George W. Bush offered one the very next day. He issued a statement condemning the invasion and calling for Americans to stand united.

“Russia’s attack on Ukraine constitutes the gravest security crisis on the European continent since World War II,” he said.

He voiced support for the international effort to push back against an “unprovoked and unjustified invasion.” “We cannot tolerate the authoritarian bullying and danger that Putin poses,” the former president said.

Donald Trump’s reaction couldn’t have been more different. During an appearance on a radio program the day before the invasion began, the former president made headlines by praising the Russian leader’s decision to send troops into Ukraine to support Russian-backed separatists.

“This is genius,” the former president said. “So Putin is now saying it’s independent – a large section of Ukraine. I said, how smart is that? And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace, all right.”

The next day, during a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, the former president again praised the Russian leader’s strategy. “I mean, he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” Trump said. “I’d say that’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country – literally a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in.”

Maybe the problem is in Trump’s hearing. Maybe our former president thought he heard someone say Vladimir Putin was on our side. That has to be it. Surely our former leader wouldn’t intentionally line up on the wrong side of an international conflict. 

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana.