They’ve copped to this sporadically since the election but the past week of Juniorgate seems to have brought some of the bigger names out of the woodwork. Hillary Clinton’s campaign spokesman, for one:
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) July 13, 2017
Another: Barack Obama’s head speechwriter, Jon Favreau, who allowed in a recent podcast, “Look, I’m willing to say that in 2012 when we all scoffed at Mitt for saying that, gee, Russia was our No. 1 geopolitical foe, think we were a little off there.” He and Fallon learned a lesson the hard way.
Will the right end up having to re-learn this lesson too?
Mr. Putin is no archvillain in this understanding of America-Russian relations. Rather, he personifies many of the qualities and attitudes that conservatives have desired in a president of their own: a respect for traditional Christian values, a swelling nationalist pride and an aggressive posture toward foreign adversaries.
In this view, the Russian president is a brilliant tactician, a slayer of murderous Islamic extremists — and not incidentally, a leader who outmaneuvered and emasculated President Barack Obama on the world stage. And because of that, almost any other transgression seems forgivable…
Sarah Palin, for one, questioned Mr. Obama’s “potency” [after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014] and added that no one had any such doubts about Mr. Putin. “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil,” she told Sean Hannity on Fox News.
“He’s looking like a real man,” Mr. Limbaugh declared approvingly in 2014.
In the Times’s telling, a lot of Republicans started drifting towards Putinist authoritarianism circa 2014 when he showed Obama how a “strong,” assertive leader behaves abroad. Is that true, though? Compare the 2014 partisan numbers for yourself:
Following G20 meeting with Trump, still a big partisan gap in views of Vladimir Putin. (Republicans: -19, Democrats: -60) pic.twitter.com/t38tK4VBJo
— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) July 12, 2017
Not only were Republicans more sour then on Putin than Democrats were (although both parties were very sour), they were about as anti-Putin after the Crimea invasion as Democrats are right now despite months of revelations about how Russia tried to defeat their nominee last year. The sea change in the right’s views of Putin began last summer after Trump became the nominee, when suddenly the party was wedded to his vision of Russia as a potential ally against ISIS and his earlier whitewashing of Putin’s sins.
I’m not sure how to explain the recent volatility, though. It looks like GOP opinion of Putin surged late last year, possibly in exuberance over Trump’s election win, only to drop precipitously and then slowly start to rebound again. Maybe that’s a reaction to Trump’s Russiagate fortunes. When it seemed in March and April like the investigation wasn’t doing Trump much damage, it was safe for righties to turn negative on Russia again. As the investigation’s picked up, though, Republicans have had to circle the wagons around Trump — and, by extension, Putin. If that’s what’s happening, though, how to explain the slight upturn in opinion of Putin among Democrats too? Shouldn’t their favorability ratings of him be declining as Russiagate turns more serious?
While you mull that over, two golden oldies for you via the Blaze.