Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Trump's speech at CPAC. Trump is not an apologist for Putin.

by Rod Williams, March 9, 2023- Thank God Mike Pence said it: "There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin. There is only room for champions of freedom."

I agree emphatically! Unfortunately, there are apologists for Putin in the Republican Party. Just as in another era we had Tokyo Rose and Hanoi Jane, we now have our own Moscow Carlson.  Tucker Carlson is the most-watched news program in America and Tucker Carlson is an apologist for Putin. His attack on America's response to Russian aggression is so favorable to Russia, that state-controlled Russian TV replays his monologues with Russian subtitles.  Unfortunately, it is Republicans who watch and cheer Carlson's pro-Russian propaganda. You can watch this pro-Russian monologue by Moscow Carlson at this link

The Washington Post recently reported that new polling shows Republicans view Putin more favorably than they do Joe Biden. What? I can not fathom that. I think Joe Biden is a terrible leader. I think he is incompetent, I question his mental acuity and I think he has all the wrong policy prescriptions.  However, I can not fathom that he is viewed less favorably than the former Russian KGB chief who wants to restore the Sovie empire.  I have little in common with Republicans who hold that view. 

While preferring a Communist KGB dictator to an American president may be new, there has always been an isolationist wing of the Republican Party. Prior to World War II, the America First crowd opposing Lend Lease and American entanglement in Europe was primarily a Republican movement. During the cold war, for the most part, it was Republicans who were for standing up to Communist aggression and Democrats who were Communist appeasers.  However, the isolationist wing of the Republican party never entirely went away. After the cold war ended, isolationism returned as a strong faction in the Republican Party In the late 1990s Patrick Buchanan led the isolationist faction in a bid for president and then ran as a Reform Party candidate in 2000 as an isolationist, sounding much like Donald Trump sounds today. 

I don't know if Mike Pence was aiming his remarks at Donald Trump or not. If so, he did not call him out by name. It is assumed by many that it was aimed at Trump. Until I actually watched Trump's speech at CPAC, I was ready to put Trump in the camp of apologists for Putin. This was based on mainstream news reports and an excerpt from the speech that had been broadcast. Not expecting a true account of what Trump might have actually said however, from the mainstream media, I withheld final judgment until I watched the speech for myself. 

In his address to the Conservative Political Action Conference recently, even after Putin had invaded Ukraine, Trump reiterated his praise for Putin as a smart man and he disparaged U.S. leadership. You need to watch the speech in context before concluding that this was a pro-Putin speech, however. Let me say right off that I am not a fan of the former president. While I do not particularly like the emphasis of Trump's speech or his style, this speech is not a pro-Russian speech. I wish he would have been harsher in his speech toward Putin but it certainly was not pro-Putin. 

You can watch the former president's speech above starting at timestamp 26.  Trump starts off the speech with appropriate remarks denouncing "the communists who are attacking our civilization," but he does not mention directly in his opening remarks support for Ukraine. He then immediately goes into Donald Trump rally mode talking of retaking the White House in 2024, alledging the 2020 election was rigged, building the wall, attacking "fake news," and the other usual Trump talking points. In the mid part of the speech he says, "we are praying for the proud people of Ukraine. God Bless them." A little later, Trump goes into an analysis of the Russian war in Ukraine. 

The line in the speech that got a lot of negative attention was this:  "The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he's smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb." Taken out of context this sounds bad. I wish Trump would have said it differently but this is not praise for Putin. One can acknowledge a bad person is smart or daring or brave or has other admirable skills or talents; that does not mean you support that person or his policies. While I wish Trump would have stated that differently, I think it is an accurate and fair analysis. 

I agree with Trump that Joe Biden mishandled the crisis.  If Biden had imposed the toughest sanctions before the invasion, maybe the invasion would not have occurred.  If Biden had not betrayed the Afghan people and exited Afghanistan in a humiliating rout, maybe Russia would have taken America's threats of serious sanctions more seriously.  I also worry that China is watching our response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and that is entering into their calculation of the future of Taiwan.

Trump says, and some Trump admirers say, that if he would have been president, the Russians would not have invaded Ukraine. There is no way to know if that is true.  I tend to think it may be. Trump is perceived as such a loose cannon, shoot-from-the-hip kind of gay that the Russian may have been fearful of provoking him.  He is just crazy enough, Russia may have not wanted to test him.  

Also, under Trump, the US was energy independent and a net exporter of oil with more potential for oil production.  Biden turned off the oil spigot, making the US more dependent on Russian oil and less able to help our allies. I think Biden made America weaker and mishandled the crisis.

While there is much in the above Trump speech I do not like, Trump does not side with Russia or excuse Putin's aggression. 


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