Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump excused Vladimir Putin's extensive human rights violations by saying that “at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country.” His praise for the Russian president echoes that of right-wing media, who have swooned over Putin for years as a way of attacking President Obama's supposed weakness.
Donald Trump Excuses Putin's Human Rights Violations: Unlike Obama, “At Least He's A Leader”
Donald Trump On Vladimir Putin: “At Least He's A Leader.” On the December 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe Donald Trump excused Vladimir Putin's human rights violations and unfavorably contrasted him to President Obama by saying “at least he's a leader:”
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (HOST): Yeah, do you like Vladmir Putin's comments about you?
DONALD TRUMP: Sure. When people call you brilliant it's always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.
JOE SCARBOROUGH (HOST): Well, also is a person that kills journalists, political opponents
WILLIE GEIST: And invades countries.
SCARBOROUGH: And invades countries, obviously, that would be a concern, would it not?
TRUMP: He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country.
SCARBOROUGH: But again, he kills journalist that don't agree with him.
TRUMP: Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. You know. There's a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity, and that's the way it is. You didn't ask me the question. You asked me a different question. That's fine.
SCARBOROUGH: I'm confused. So you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?
TRUMP: Oh sure, absolutely.
SCARBOROUGH: Alright. So how would America's relationship with Russia change if you were president?
TRUMP: Well, i think it would be good. I've always felt fine about putin. I think he is a strong leader. He's a powerful leader. He's represented his country, and that's the way the country is being represented. He's actually got popularity within his country. They respect him as a leader. Certainly over the last couple of years they've respected him as the leader. I think he's up in the 80s, which is you see where Obama's in 30s and low 40s, and he's up in the 80s. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 12/18/15]
Conservative Media Figures Frequently Praise Putin's “Strength” As A Way Of Attacking Obama
Matt Drudge: “Putin Is The Leader Of The Free World.” Matt Drudge hailed Vladimir Putin as “the leader of the free world” in an August 2013 tweet. [Twitter.com, 8/31/15, via Media Matters]
Then-Fox Contributor Sarah Palin Praises Putin For Wrestling Bears And Drilling For Oil. On the March 3, 2014 edition of Fox News' Hannity, then-Fox contributor Sarah Palin praised Putin's public image as “one who wrestles bears and drills for oil” in contrast with Obama's reputation as “one who wears mom jeans and equivocates”:
SARAH PALIN: Well, yes, especially under the commander-in-chief that we have today because Obama's -- the perception of him and his potency across the world is one of such weakness. And you know, look it, people are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates. We are not exercising that peace through strength that only can be brought to you courtesy of the red, white, and blue, that only a strengthened United States military can do. [Fox News, Hannity, 3/3/14]
Fox's Peter Johnson Jr. Said He Wants A Leader With “The Strength Of Putin.” On the November 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. told host Steve Doocy that he wanted a president with “the strength of Putin” and the “body of an American president”:
STEVE DOOCY (HOST): President Obama lashing out at anybody who criticizes his strategy to fight ISIS.
DOOCY: So is he taking on the real enemy as strong as he's taking on his political opponents? Peter Johnson Jr.'s been thinking about it over the past 20 hours. Peter what do you--
PETER JOHNSON JR: The answer is no. The answer is a big, demoralizing, dispiriting, disturbing no. I got angry watching that press conference yesterday. As an American I said, I want a president that says he's going to protect me and my children and my relatives and my friends and people across this country.
DOOCY: You want Putin.
JOHNSON: I want a president -- No, I don't want Putin. But I want the strength of Putin --
DOOCY: That was Putin's message.
JOHNSON: -- and the body of an American president. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/17/15]
Fox Analyst Rudy Giuliani: Putin Is “What You Call A Leader.” On the March 3, 2014 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox regular Rudy Giuliani praised Putin saying that in contrast to Obama, he's “what you call a leader” (emphasis added):
NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): The president is obviously getting ready for either sanctions or to kick Russia out of the G8. You argue too little too late. Right?
RUDY GIULIANI: Putin decides what he wants to do and he does it in half a day. Right? He decided he had to go to their parliament. He went to their parliament. He got permission in 15 minutes.
CAVUTO: Well, I mean, that was kind of like perfunctory, right?
GIULIANI: But he makes a decision and he executes it quickly. Then everybody reacts. That's what you call a leader.President Obama, got to think about it, he's got to go over it again, he's got to talk to more people about it. So, we're going through the whole like Syria thing again, right? First, we were going to do something to Syria. Then he was going to act on his own. Then he was going to get congressional approval. Then he wanted the U.K. U.K. said no. Then it looked like Congress was going to say no. Then he was going to go anyway. Then he decided not to do it. And, finally, after five or six days of wringing his hands and thinking and thinking and thinking, he brings Putin in and makes Putin a hero out of. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 3/3/14]
Fox's Guilfoyle Wants Putin To Be President Of The U.S. “For 48 Hours.” On the August 26, 2014 edition of Fox's The Five, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle said she would like Putin to be president of the U.S. “for 48 hours” because she just wants “somebody to get in here and get it done”:
GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): Boris Johnson calling and saying, it's criminal activity when it's not really. Can we actually do this without so-called violating their civil liberties?
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Guess what, I don't care. And in fact, I hope we violate a lot of their civil liberties. This is war, this is terror. There should be no mercy involved because they have shown none. That's the only language that they understand, and in terms of making like, decisive action, look, I hope the president has enough people around him to push him in the right direction. I really think there's just really one right answer here. We can talk about the ways to get it done. Air strikes, certainly, but it's going to take more than that. We've already got troops on the ground. We already need help from our U.K. and European allies and counterparts. I mean, can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu and like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States? I don't know. I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right, so that Americans don't have to worry and wake up in the morning fearful of a group that's murderous and horrific like ISIS. [Fox News, The Five, 8/26/14]
Columnist Pat Buchanan: Putin Is “One Of Us.” In his December 17, 2013 syndicated column, Pat Buchanan praised Vladimir Putin's anti-LGBT policies, describing them as a defense of “traditional values” and suggesting Putin's contempt for the LGBT community made him “one of us”:
Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?
In the culture war for mankind's future, is he one of us?
While such a question may be blasphemous in Western circles, consider the content of the Russian president's state of the nation address.
With America clearly in mind, Putin declared, “In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered.”
“They're now requiring not only the proper acknowledgment of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgment of the equality of good and evil.”
Translation: While privacy and freedom of thought, religion and speech are cherished rights, to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil.
And same-sex marriage is indeed an “abstract” idea unrooted in the history or tradition of the West. Where did it come from?
Peoples all over the world, claims Putin, are supporting Russia's “defense of traditional values” against a “so-called tolerance” that is “genderless and infertile.” [Townhall.com, 12/17/13]
Fox's Military Analyst Ralph Peters: “I Respect That Guy ... He Presents Himself As A Real He-Man.” On the September 5, 2013 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox's military analyst Ralph Peters said that “the world is on Vladimir Putin's side” and that he “respect[s] the guy”:
RALPH PETERS: I don't like Putin, but I respect that guy. He is tough. He delivers what he says he'll deliver. He knows his people. He presents himself as a real He-Man.
But he lives up to it! Our president talks tough, but in the clinch he's gutless. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/5/13]