The Trump campaign continues its bizarre defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Even Mike Pence, who often tries to distance himself from Donald Trump’s more idiosyncratic outbursts, has joined in the effort. “I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Pence said Thursday, and I guess there are ways in which that is true.
If your definition of “stronger” includes invading and intimidating much-smaller neighboring countries, imprisoning those political opponents whom you do not outright assassinate, shutting down media outlets that might question your actions and stealing most of your country’s wealth for yourself and a close circle of buddies, then yes, I guess Putin has been a strong leader.
Trump not only refuses to criticize Putin for any of that, he holds him up as a model of leadership. He has further suggested that if Putin were to invade NATO allies such as Latvia and Lithuania, President Trump might just sit back and watch, despite our ironclad treaty obligations to defend those nations. And he continues to excuse Putin’s brutality by claiming that hey, the United States does things that are just as bad.
Such utterances aren’t mistakes. Trump hasn’t been consistent about much in this campaign, but his clear pining for Putin’s affection has been rock steady throughout. And you have to know that if any Democratic politician had made similar excuses for Putin, Republicans would reconstitute the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, appoint U.S. Rep. Jason “Javert” Chaffetz as its chair, issue subpoenas, bring in the TV cameras and commence with the national show trials.
Instead these remarks are coming from Donald Trump, so they make him their presidential nominee. Even in an era when the bizarre has become commonplace, this is bizarre.
As Sen. Lindsey Graham put it, “I think this is the biggest miscalculation since people thought Hitler was a good guy.”
Here’s some pretty stunning evidence of how easily and eagerly the GOP bends its principles to accommodate itself to Trump:
PUTIN Net-Favorability (YouGov/Economist Poll) among…
July 2014: -54
Aug 2016: -54
July 2014: -66
Aug 2016: -27