September 4, 2017


How the GOP became the party of Putin (James Kirchick, July 27, 2017, Brookings)

Contrast Rubio's principled stand with that of current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who, while now appropriately calling WikiLeaks a "hostile intelligence service" that "overwhelmingly focuses on the United States while seeking support from antidemocratic countries," was more than happy to retail its ill-gotten gains during the campaign. Today, just one-third of Republican voters even believe the intelligence community findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, no doubt influenced by the president's equivocations on the matter.

I was no fan of Barack Obama's foreign policy. I criticized his Russian "reset," his Iran nuclear deal, his opening to Cuba, even his handling of political conflict in Honduras. For the past four years, I worked at a think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, that was bankrolled by Republican donors and regularly criticized the Obama administration. Anyone who's followed my writing knows I've infuriated liberals and Democrats plenty over the years, and I have the metaphorical scars to prove it.

What I never expected was that the Republican Party--which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union--would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin's Russia. My message for today's GOP is to paraphrase Barack Obama when he mocked Romney for saying precisely that: 2012 called--it wants its foreign policy back.

I should not have been surprised. I've been following Russia's cultivation of the American right for years, long before it became a popular subject, and I have been amazed at just how deep and effective the campaign to shift conservative views on Russia has been. Four years ago, I began writing a series of articles about the growing sympathy for Russia among some American conservatives. Back then, the Putin fan club was limited to seemingly fringe figures like Pat Buchanan ("Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?" he asked, answering in the affirmative), a bunch of cranks organized around the Ron Paul Institute and some anti-gay marriage bitter-enders so resentful at their domestic political loss they would ally themselves with an authoritarian regime that not so long ago they would have condemned for exporting "godless communism."

Today, these figures are no longer on the fringe of GOP politics. According to a Morning Consult-Politico poll from May, an astonishing 49 percent of Republicans consider Russia an ally. Favorable views of Putin - a career KGB officer who hates America - have nearly tripled among Republicans in the past two years, with 32 percent expressing a positive opinion.

Ultimately, the fact Putin is an enemy of Obama/Clinton matters more to the Right than that he is an enemy of America.

Posted by at September 4, 2017 8:16 AM