2016 333

Putin has been a leader, far more than Obama has been a leader.

Trump moves praise for Putin closer to the mainstream of the GOP - Comment on 2016 September 10

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Not for the first time, Trump has pulled an idea from the political fringes into the mainstream. Read more:

Extracts from an article:

Trump moves praise for Putin closer to the mainstream of the GOP

After Donald Trump proclaimed this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a "stronger leader"Ě than President Obama, many Republicans quickly condemned or distanced themselves from the remarks.

But by Friday it became clear that a significant number of Republicans agreed with him. Not for the first time, Trump has pulled an idea from the political fringes into the mainstream.

His praise of Putin in particular - and a "strongman" style in general - has alienated some of the partyís most experienced foreign-policy hands while stoking no visible backlash from its voters.

When confronted with Trumpís remarks, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Ė Trumpís running mate and once a harsh critic of the Russian president while in Congress - said it was "inarguable" Ěthat Putin had been a stronger leader than Obama. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), an outspoken Trump backer on Capitol Hill, said the candidate "may be playing it very smart"Ě by feeding Putinís ego.

And Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host who helped moderate several primary debates, went on MSNBC and Twitter on Friday to label Putin an "evil man" who had nonetheless "served his countryís national interest better"Ě than the sitting U.S. president had served his.

The atmosphere is a far cry from four years ago, when Republicans rallied around GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney after he declared Russia to be the United Statesí "number one geopolitical foe"Ě and called Putin a thug.

On Sept. 7, during a town hall event hosted by MSNBC, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stated he would have "a good relationship" Ěwith Russian president Vladimir Putin. It wasnít the first time he's been friendly towards him.

"I am actually very grateful to him for formulating his position in a straightforward manner," ĚPutin responded then from Moscow.

Trump, who has spoken about business dealings in Russia but remained opaque on what they are, is not the only American politician who has noted Putinís political skill. Since Russiaís 2014 conquest of the Crimean Peninsula, mainstream foreign-policy conservatives have described Putin as an opportunist taking advantage of the Obama administrationís weakness.

Since then, Putin has become a more active adversary - and more popular among Republican voters. In a 2014 Quinnipiac survey, when asked whether each president had "strong leadership qualities," more Republicans applied that sentiment to Putin (57 percent) than Obama (49 percent).

"Certainly, in that system, heís been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader,"Ě Trump said of Putin at a forum sponsored by NBC on Wednesday night.

Many establishment-aligned Republicans are baffled by what has happened.

 

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