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Paul Albaugh / September 13, 2016

Trump’s Putin Praise in Perspective

The real story is how Obama and Clinton have enabled Russia’s resurgence.

Donald Trump once again managed to confuse a pretty straightforward issue in his comments in the recent “commander in chief forum.” Trump restated his previous adoration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying, “Well, he does have an 82% approval rating.” Furthermore, he said, “It’s a very different system and I don’t happen to like the system. But certainly, in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”

In a sense, Trump has a point. In fact, Rep. Steve King probably explains it best, highlighting that Putin has been able to stoke the fires in his own country and has brought forth a surge in Russian nationalism. Putin is doing what he thinks will make Russia the great power it once was, and Trump appreciates it.

Trump’s running mate Mike Pence also defended Trump’s statement, asserting, “It’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.”

To be clear, we agree that Obama has been a terrible leader for America. But to be equally clear, Putin is an evil man who has spent his time in office advancing his version of Russia’s interests at all costs. Putin kills journalists and political opponents who disagree with him. He essentially has all of Russia under his thumb, which may very well be why his “approval” rating is so high. Moscow’s propaganda machine is at full force and Russians are once again literally frightened to be considered dissident.

Recall that Putin wants to regain Soviet-style control over Eastern Europe and has made gains in doing so. He annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine. He also supports Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, is on good terms with Iran (to whom, it’s worth noting, Obama has freely given billions of dollars), and generally has been undermining U.S interests abroad for years (as has Obama). Putin’s goons are the main suspects in the hacking of the DNC’s emails. Putin is a former KGB agent, and, as the saying goes, you can take the man out of the KGB, but you can’t take the KGB out of the man.

The bottom line is that Putin is a fascist strongman, so it is troubling that Trump would heap so much praise upon him — even as bad as Obama has been for America. Compare and contrast, but don’t praise.

The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein sums up the flawed moral equivalency argument nicely:

> “Trump is dismissing actions Putin took threatening neighbors and working against U.S. interests by essentially saying, well, Obama has done a lot of things that were just as bad. This is exactly the type of moral equivalency that conservatives spent decades fighting against — when those on the far left tried to portray the U.S. and Soviet Union as morally the same, or slam U.S. as being the real terrorists in the Middle East. Imagine the reaction on the right if, in 2008, candidate Obama said Hugo Chavez was a great leader, and when confronted with his human rights violations, said, ‘Well you could say the same about what George Bush did in Iraq.’

> "This is very important. Trump is not merely saying that Putin has been more effectively advancing his nation’s interests than Obama, but he’s saying that none of the evil actions he’s taking have been any worse than Obama. And that is reprehensible and indefensible. And nobody on the right should be defending him.”

Trump is missing out on a golden opportunity to point to the reason why Putin has brought back a Russian resurgence. It’s in part a result of the failure of the Obama administration to recognize the geopolitical threat that Russia is to American interests and global stability. It was Obama and the Leftmedia who in 2012 scoffed at then presidential candidate Mitt Romney for stating that Russia was our greatest geopolitical foe.

Furthermore, it was none other than Hillary Clinton who miserably failed at her much-ballyhooed “reset” of relations with Russia. It was Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation who asked his Hillary’s State Department for clearance to meet with Russian oligarchs. And it was Hillary who facilitated a lucrative uranium deal for Moscow.

Trump needs to focus on defeating Hillary Clinton, and making these kinds of statements only enables her to turn the tables and argue that Putin wants a Trump presidency but fears a Clinton one. Nothing could be further from the truth. In addition, Trump needs to be more focused on Liberty, pointing to America’s past leaders who have guided us to greatness. If Trump wants to make America great again, he should look there, not to Vladimir Putin.

In any case, the real story here is Clinton’s failure and corruption as secretary of state and Obama’s malfeasance as president. It was the weakness of their leadership that has enabled Russia and Putin to get to where they are today. Trump’s praise for Putin is dumbfounding, but it also pales in comparison to the Clintons’ pay-to-play behavior with the Russians or Obama’s “Make America Not-So-Great” policy.

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