Throughout the 2016 election, the American Left venomously attacked Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. He was rightly accused of diminishing freedom both inside Russia and within neighboring nations, of gobbling up Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and of eyeing the NATO member Baltic states for his next intervention.
But Putin’s real crime, in the eyes of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, was supposedly interfering in the 2016 election by using freelance contractors to hack sensitive Democratic Party communications. Indeed, that latter unproven accusation earned threats of retaliation from the normally live-and-let-live Obama administration that had not been likewise so concerned with Russian territorial aggression. Or as Press Secretary Josh Earnest framed the cyber provocation, “There are a range of responses that are available to the president, and he will consider a response that is proportional.”
During the election, progressives cast Putin, the murderous strongman, and Donald Trump, the populist bully, as kindred spirits who would forge a working alliance that reflected their respective autocratic natures—all at the expense of democratic idealism the world over. Putin in December 2015 had bragged of Trump, “He’s a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt.” Trump sometimes responded in kind, most controversially in September 2016: “Certainly, in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader. We have a divided country.” Read more →