Donald Trump Not Really Concerned That Vladimir Putin Has Political Opponents Murdered

Donald Trump loves the fact that he's being praised by an autocratic dictator.

Trump Announcement

As I noted yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin had some decidedly, perhaps to some surprisingly, kind words to say about Donald Trump and his upstart campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination. At least in public, Trump seems to be relishing in the endorsement notwithstanding the source. Yesterday, for example, he called Putin’s words “a great honor” and went on to talk yet again about the fact that only he could be the kind of person to ‘work with’ Putin on issues ranging from Ukraine to Syria. This morning in Morning Joe Trump doubled down on that reaction and seemingly dismissed the examples of Putin’s autocratic rule that most of the rest of the the Western world has condemned:

During a Friday-morning interview with Donald Trump, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was baffled by the Republican front-runner’s embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin

“Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia,” Trump told cohost Mika Brzezinski when asked about Putin praising him as “very talented” the day before.

Scarborough pointed to Putin’s status as a notorious strongman.

“Well, I mean, it’s also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?” Scarborough asked.

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader,” Trump replied. “Unlike what we have in this country.”

“But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him,” Scarborough said.

The Republican presidential front-runner said there was “a lot of killing going on” around the world and then suggested that Scarborough had asked him a different question.

“I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know,” Trump replied. “There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is. But you didn’t ask me [that] question, you asked me a different question. So that’s fine.”

Scarborough was left visibly stunned.

“I’m confused,” the MSNBC host said. “So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?”

“Oh sure, absolutely,” Trump said.

(…)

Friday during his “Morning Joe” interview, Trump said he always “felt fine” about Putin and touted the Russian president’s poll numbers. Putin’s position in his country is bolstered by the Russian government’s control over much of the Russian news media.

“I always felt fine about Putin,” Trump said. “I think that he’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader … He’s actually got a popularity within his country. They respect him as a leader.”

Trump contrasted Putin’s numbers with President Barack Obama’s.

“I think he’s up in the 80s. You see where Obama’s in the 30s and low-40s. And he’s up in the 80s,” Trump said. “And I don’t know who does the polls. Maybe he does the polls, but I think they’re done by American companies, actually.”

Here’s the video:

I don’t know for sure, but I tend to doubt that the polls of Putin’s popularity that Trump refers to are being done by independent American or European polling firms, or even that they are an accurate representation of the state of public opinion to the extent that ordinary Russians, while they may generally support Putin as someone who sends a message of restoring Russian pride, are also reluctant to speak out against the man for rather obvious reasons. The  memories of the Soviet era aren’t all that old, after, and as Daniel Ruiz notes, Putin has a long history of oppression of  political dissidents and journalists that extends all the way to imprisonment on trumped-up charges and murder. He orchestrated an obviously fixed referendum in Crimea that resulted in that peninsula’s re-absorption into Russia proper. And, his backing of pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine, which seems to have clearly included Russian troops and special forces engaging in at least some combat on the ground, clearly played a direct role in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 last summer, killing all 298 people on board.

Trump, apparently, is okay with all of this, or at least okay enough with it to gladly accept what he seems to be taking as Vladimir Putin’s endorsement of his campaign for the Republican nomination. Given Trump’s own history of appealing to the worst of American politics and why I personally feel free in calling his rhetoric seemingly fascist demagogic, along with the appeal to xenophobia inherent in his positions on things like Muslim immigrants, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Donald Trump welcomes Putin words. The fact that this probably won’t impact the way his supporters feel about him, though, continues to say something about the state of American politics, and none of it is good. Trump is awakening a kind of populism that has, on the whole, never had a positive influence on the state of the country, and the fact that it’s likely to long survive whatever becomes of his candidacy is quite troublesome.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Trump is probably aware that a fair number of his fans love Putin because he’s purportedly a Christian, he hates homosexuals, and he’s really, really tough. So Trump’s playing to that element.

    As for Putin’s alleged praise of Trump, and Trump’s wholesale swallowing of it, I agree completely with Grumpy Realist that Putin is jerking Trump around like a trout on a fishing line.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I am shocked, SHOCKED I tell you.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Joe: “Well, I mean, it’s also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?” Scarborough asked.

    Donald: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader,” Trump replied. “Unlike what we have in this country.”

    Perfect, says it all concisely.
    Trump is a CEO autocrat (it comes with the business territory) so it makes perfect sense that he would admire the leadership “skills” of autocratic national leaders.

    I’m guessing that about half the people recognize the boundary and the difference between running a business as an autocrat, and running the country as Putin might. Trump is an arrogant self-promoter and confidence man, he’s appealing to the other half, the ones who say they want an autocratic CEO type of president.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And Doug?

    “Trump is awakening a kind of populism that has, on the whole, never had a positive influence….”

    This is nothing new to American politics, it has long been a part of it and one had to be willfully blind not to see it’s growing assertiveness since the election of Obama. Trump hasn’t awakened it, he has merely given it voice in a way his predecessors were afraid to and thereby giving a cloak of legitimacy while the vast majority of the political class of the GOP remain fearfully silent before it.

  5. CSK says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Actually, given the insane hatred that Trump’s supporters have for the press–including the National Review, Weekly Standard, Spectator, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, and Investor’s Business Daily–they are probably secretly fairly comfortable, or at least not unduly disturbed by, the notion of killing journalists.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: (grin)

  7. gVOR08 says:

    I caught part of this this morning. Didn’t sound to me like Trump remotely understood the import of the question. Then when he realized he’d stepped in it, he blustered his way out. I am being driven to believing Trump is not only amazingly ill-informed, but also significantly less intelligent than I would have first thought.

    My understanding, perhaps not well informed, is that Putin is genuinely quite popular in Russia. A combination of the perception of strength which appeals to a lot of people, and media who are much like FOX, but much more controlled by Putin directly or indirectly. Killing journalists is a crude tool, but effective.

    This is how autocracy works now. Like the old USSR, they will hold elections and fearless leader will get 90% support. Not by intimidation and election rigging, but by rigging the media. When the US slips into autarchy most people will be blissfully unaware of it. “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” ― Sinclair Lewis

  8. MarkedMan says:

    Re: the comment above about Trump being less intelligent then he is given credit for, if anyone is willing to give me two beers to one odds, I’ll bet a beer that when Trump dies we find that his actual net worth is below zero. Failing that, at least that it will be zero by the time the parasites and lawyers are through with his will.

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: I should point out to everyone that when it comes to handling a will and there’s not enough money to satisfy all the legacies, the lawyers get paid first….

  10. Pete S says:

    If Trump considers himself to be Obama’s political opponent, should he really be wishing that Obama demonstrates political leadership the way Putin does? When he responds to questions about this topic with pointless remarks about stupidity in the world he must be looking in the mirror.

  11. Franklin says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I’m guessing that about half the people recognize the boundary and the difference between running a business as an autocrat, and running the country as Putin might.

    Just repeating for emphasis.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    That’s the leader of today’s Republican Party, folks.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Pete S: I still think this was triggered by Trump’s embarrassment at Obama’s hands at the WH correspondents dinner a few years ago. I also wonder if he hasn’t turned over active management of the business to his daughter and was doing this as a hobby. Then the horse ran away with him.

  14. Pete S says:

    @gVOR08: I had forgotten about that, you may be right. He does not seem to have much of a sense of humour, at least not unless it is at someone else’s expense. Then they need to lighten up.

  15. bill says:

    that’s weird, obama threw some “praise” at raul castro the other day……and crickets.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @bill: Yoo-hoo?! President Obama isn’t running for office again. Try to keep up.

  17. J-Dub says:

    This is the second appearance in a row on Morning Joe that Trump has been disrespected by Joe Scarborough. I’d be surprised if Trump calls in again.

  18. Slugger says:

    @bill: Dear Bill
    I have said this before, but here goes. Responding to an accusation against Mr. A with the comment that Mr. B did it too makes me uncomfortable. Whenever my brother or I told my dad that the other one did it too, my father would escalate from a scolding to a spanking. Please don’t make me relive childhood traumas.
    In all seriousness, what do you think of Mr. Trump’s response which sounds to me like he is not thinking with all cylinders or perhaps even condoning the extrajudicial murder of political opponents? What do you think about that?

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Franklin: I’ve been questioning for some time whether the average GOP primary voter has the remotest clue what the President does.

  20. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @J-Dub:

    This is the second appearance in a row on Morning Joe that Trump has been disrespected by Joe Scarborough. I’d be surprised if Trump calls in again.

    If by “disrespected” you mean “asked simple unscripted questions that may inadvertently show Mr. Trump’s phenomenal lack of political acumen and devastating ignorance of geopolitics”…

    Then yeah, disrespected.

    But still, once Mr. Trump becomes president, I’m sure we won’t have to worry about having a Joe Scarborough around anymore. Am I right?

    This leader will get rid of all the dissidents and rabble.

  21. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’m pretty sure the Trump fanatics don’t. They think Trump will be able to do things by fiat–which is precisely what they accuse Obama of doing.

  22. PJ says:

    Well, the GOP has more in common with far right wing parties in Europe than with the major conservative parties. Far right wing parties in Europe, for example Front National, love Putin. So, not a surprise that Republicans admire Putin.

  23. al-Ameda says:

    @gVOR08:

    @Pete S: I still think this was triggered by Trump’s embarrassment at Obama’s hands at the WH correspondents dinner a few years ago.

    I definitely believe that.
    Trump is the kind of guy who makes humor at the expense of anyone/everyone else, he did not expect to be the subject of a well-timed joke in front of all those attending that dinner.

  24. bill says:

    @Slugger: honestly i don’t pay much attention to what trump says- he can say no wrong and the media’s overall fascination with him saves his campaign tons in advertising and keeps him in the lead.
    we all (or should) know that trump is not even trying to act like some pc wanker throwing sanitized quips here and there- and the lefts inability to grasp why is kind of comical.
    the analogy of what obama (a sitting prez) says about a known oppressor vs. what trump
    (a “candidate”) says about a lessor evil is all subjective i guess?!

    @grumpy realist: see above……

    and try to remember, trump is at best a semi-conservative democrat running as a republican. hillary took money from him…….just sayin’.

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  27. DrDaveT says:

    @gVOR08:

    I am being driven to believing Trump is not only amazingly ill-informed, but also significantly less intelligent than I would have first thought.

    Yeah, the man who parlayed half a billion dollars into 4 billion dollars in a mere 20 years…

    Let’s see, that’s an annual growth of about 11%. Given that he was mostly playing with dad’s money, and could just as easily have put it into hedge funds, that’s pretty ordinary. If he thinks he’s been wildly successful, knock off another 20 points of IQ.

    Then again, recent Republican presidents haven’t been notable for their high IQ.

  28. Hal_10000 says:

    Then again, recent Republican presidents haven’t been notable for their high IQ.

    Holy crap, what junk science. Estimate IQ based on … nothing. Estimate success based on … less. Then because the results fit your preconceptions don’t bother to approach it with any skepticism.

    As for Trump … at this point, I’m convinced that he could walk out, defecate on an American flag, literally wipe himself with the Constitution and walk off and his support would go up by 5 points. This is a national hysteria.

  29. CSK says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Not too far off the mark, Hal. Present a Trumpkin with documentation that Trump has said something demented, and he or she will respond that it’s just a smear.

  30. dazedandconfused says:

    The desire for a single man with the power to bring the things Trump promises is the natural if perhaps unintended end-point of persuading the The People that their government can’t do anything right. The People have commenced a-hankerin’ for a form of government that can and the sort of accountability which only exists with single-man government to boot.

    Constitutional monarchy? A political scientist will tell us what to call it.

  31. Tony W says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: and “disrespect” is a noun, not a verb.

  32. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Tony W:

    @Liberal Capitalist: and “disrespect” is a noun, not a verb.

    Your making a joke, I don’t seem to get…

    I disrespect,

    You disrespect

    He / She disrespects

    I have disrespected

    The have disrespected

    We will disrespect

    .

    Hmmm… seems like a verb to me.

    Of course, it’s a great perfect verb, when applied to the Trumpster !