Donald Trump Softened the GOP on Russia—At Least for Now
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For every presidential campaign’s press corps, there comes a point when the weary road warriors have the candidate’s go-to jokes, cadences and pet peeves down cold. Most joke that they’re playing a game of bingo among themselves, racing to complete their card first as the equally exhausted candidate rushes to hit as many swing states and donor dinners as is possible.
By the time Election Day 2008 arrived, John McCain’s traveling press corps had often heard a famous line that set the Arizona Republican apart from the deeply unpopular incumbent Republican President he was looking to follow. George W. Bush was then President Described his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin as looking into his counterpart’s eyes and seeing his soul. McCain loved to make that the premise. Kopf: “I looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes and I saw three things: a K, a G, and a B.” It always drew a chuckle from the crowds and a begrudging groan from those of us who were hearing it for the hundredth time.
This was Republican doctrine for most of the postwar era. Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1950 described the former Allied powers in Moscow as “those people, behind and beyond the Iron curtain, [who]I have witnessed so much political corruption and cold-blooded betrayal. It has been a terrible experience to see such Godless government depravity. Richard Nixon was the then-Vice President Faced offThe Kitchen Debate is a 1959 mock-up of Nikita Chrushchev’s American home. Ronald Reagan believed that the Soviet Union was “the” unquestioned “evil empire.” When Mitt Romney was the Republican nomineeIn 2012, President Obama had no pause: “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe.”
The Republican Party did a spectacular job in the following election cycle. pivot. Rather than treat Putin’s Russia as a rival worthy of caution and distrust, many in the GOP followed the lead of the party’s biggest new voice, Donald Trump. The former reality-show host seemed not to understand Russia’s attempts To meddleIn the 2016 presidential election. Trump certainly didn’t recognize Putin’s looming threat to Eastern Europe, which is now manifesting into reality. Trump observed strength in Putin and his ruthlessness, traits that the New York realty mogul loved.
From this new ground many Republicans in Congress want to Navigate this week’s start to a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Gone are the days of McCain’s reliable zingers, replaced by a party whose members are embracing “America First” isolationism. The constant Messages coming from Fox News—especially its opinion hosts—is that Ukraine is of little U.S. interest and Russia might be justified in its invasion. (One such host even RecommendedBiden administration was exaggerating Ukraine’s ability to shield Hillary Clinton from an indictment by conservative media outlets. Obsessed over.) It seems that the base is responding positively to the Russian apology slide already underway for six years.
It’s an early test of where lawmakers and those who hope to become them in the Republican Party need to be. J.D. was the Ohio Senate candidate. Vance is essentially It was a complete flop: “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another.”
This might not be the most politically intelligent stance in the GOP, which is still following Trump’s lead. Republican voters tell Surveysters they’re less eager than Democrats to dispatch forces to fight Russia—a 15-point difference in YouGov’s latest polling. While Republicans have been viewed as the promilitary, hawkish side of the country for many years, the two-decades of wars in Afghanistan has left them weary. Trump knew this before any other member of his party.
Specifically on Russia, Trump’s rhetoricThis has been instrumental in bringing about seismic changes. Shift. Gallup found that Republicans have had a longer history of distrusting Russia than Democrats. But as Russia’s interference came to Trump’s benefit in the 2016 election, the script FlippableWith JustAccording to Gallup, one in three Republicans considers Russia a threat.
Hence, Trump’s assessment of Putin’s latest moves towards Ukraine as “genius” and “savvy” this week sent the foreign policy establishment into Was He Really Saying That? mode, but didn’t wreck his chances in another potential presidential run. Trump’s respect for Putin isn’t outside the mainstream any longer. YouGov SurveysIn January 62% of Republicans, and Independents, who are inclined that way, find Putin to be a better leader than Joe Biden.
If polling holds, Trump is positioned as the GOP’s favored candidate to win the presidential nomination in 2024. And if he doesn’t, plenty of his heirs are ready to adopt his stance: former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has his own presidential AspirationsPutin has been praised in some cases by a number of people Interviews, calling him at turns “a credible, capable statesman” in one interview and proclaiming “enormous respect” for the former KGB agent.
Trumpism is not the only thing that has subjugated Republicans. Some, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, remember traveling the globe at McCain’s side provoking Moscow. Graham is now Pushing for “a sanctions regime from hell” against Putin—a package that lawmakers last week couldn’t pass.
This year is an election and all votes and expressions are counted FodderFor Republicans with primary rivals, this is particularly important. That’s why even in criticizing Putin, the House Republicans’ Leadership team Indicted Biden of adopting a policy of “appeasement” and cast the true perpetrator as the team in the White House and not the Kremlin. Others argue that Russia’s invasions of Crimea and eastern Ukraine were committed under the presidency of Barack Obama, and vice president Biden. Not all Republicans have adopted Trump’s zeal for Kremlin-led autocracy, but they also know they can ill-afford a cranky Trump as they try to take back control of the House.
It was a belief that Republicans would take on Russia, and Democrats would ignore it. Obama has said it for years. DidDuring a 2012 debate with Romney. However, Republicans have changed their position on Russia. The quake may be temporary or it may harden, but there’s no denying that the GOP has had its core shaken since 2016 in still untold ways. For Republicans chasing power, it would be tempting to trade-in McCainism for Trumpism, especially if the party’s base would rather see MAGA hats than KGB spooks. That doesn’t make Putin any less of a threat to the United States’ strategic alliance with the West. Even the toughest lines against Moscow may be weakened over time, particularly if Trump is allowed to drum the sander.
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