Hi there, Dear Reader. It is mid- to late morning (depending on how you define your morning, anyway) here in Lithia, Florida. It is Wednesday, January 26, 2022, and it is a cold, gray, wet winter day here in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, the temperature is 56˚F (14˚C) under cloudy skies. With humidity at 96% and the wind blowing from the northeast at 9 MPH (15 KM/H), the wind-chill factor is 56˚F (14˚C). Today’s forecast: It’s going to rain, folks, and the high will be 65˚F (19˚C). Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies. The low will be 56˚F (14˚C).
So yesterday I happened to come across a news story on the Internet about a disturbing trend among Republicans: American conservatives are now sympathetic toward Vladimir Putin and Russia and are unsympathetic about Ukraine, which may be the target of a Russian invasion soon.
That’s right. You did not misread what I wrote. The GOP and right-wing pundits, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson leading the pack, are taking the side of authoritarian Russian leader (and former KGB agent) Vladimir Putin and backing Russia in its festering quasi-war with Ukraine.
Per a Yahoo News article by Andrew Romano published yesterday and retransmitted on its sister Verizon company AOL.com:
With at least 100,000 Russian troops massing on the border of Ukraine, more than 6 in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents (62 percent) now say Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a stronger leader” than Joe Biden, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.
Fewer than half as many Republicans (25 percent) decline to take sides, saying neither leader is stronger than the other.
And just 4 percent of Republicans say Biden is stronger than Putin.
“Shame on them,” John Sipher, who worked in Moscow and ran Russia operations during his three decades in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, told the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast Tuesday when asked about the results. “Vladimir Putin hates the United States. He wants to do everything he can to weaken the United States around the world. He’s attacked our troops in Afghanistan. He’s undercut every foreign policy issue, [including] foreign policy issues that Republicans have supported for years around the world. He’s assassinating people around the world.”
“That’s incredibly, incredibly myopic, political, silly kind of thinking,” Sipher added.
Romano also elaborates on Tucker Carlson’s pro-Moscow stance:
The survey of 1,568 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Jan. 20 to 24 and includes 500 self-identified Republicans and Republican leaners, also found that the number of GOP respondents who believe Putin is stronger than Biden rises to 71 percent among those who name Fox News as their primary source of cable news — and falls to 54 percent among those who prefer other cable-news channels.
In recent weeks and months, Fox’s top primetime anchor, Tucker Carlson, has repeatedly favored Russia over Ukraine, asking on Nov. 10 why the U.S. would “take Ukraine’s side and not Russia’s side” and arguing in December that Putin was justified in building up troops along the border.
Ukraine is “strategically irrelevant to the United States,” Carlson added Monday night. “No rational person could defend a war with Russia over Ukraine.”
One can make a case that Joe Biden is not exactly the most confidence-inspiring President we have ever elected; he is probably too old (at 79) to be a Commander in Chief in a situation which may turn Cold War II into World War III, but to favor Vladimir Fuckin’ Putin and claim that he is stronger (which is a trait proto-fascists seem to like in their leaders) than our duly elected President?
I remember a time when Republicans would have considered a pro-Russia stance (even after the collapse of the Soviet Union) tantamount to treason and anti-American.
I also remember a time when Republicans would never have said they thought the leader of a hostile rival nation, be it Nazi Germany, Castro’s Cuba, the Kim family’s North Korea, or Russia’s dictator-of-the-times was “stronger” (and therefore cooler and more admirable) than our own President, regardless of who was President and which party he led.
Unfortunately, this is not a new trend. For several years, and even decades, the extremist wing of the Republican Party has been quietly (and not so quietly) fostering alliances with Russian right-wingers and Russian state-owned media outlets such as RT. That’s how Maria Butina, a Russian political activist and Putin ally, was able to infiltrate powerful U.S. bastions of conservatism such as the National Rifle Association and aspired to convince the Trump 2016 election team to create a back channel of communication with the Kremlin.
And ever since Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017, the GOP’s public stance on Russia reflected Trump’s close ties with Putin. The party that gave us McCarthyism, the John Birch Society, and the “Better Dead Than Red” slogan is now the “Russia is America’s BFF – I’d Rather Be Russian Than Democrat” party.
Or, more succinctly, “The Party of Lincoln” has become, via Donald Trump’s fondness for authoritarian regimes, “The Party of Putin.”