Note to Democrats: Link Putin to Trump
Donald Trump looked at the Russian grip on Ukraine, the troop push into a sovereign nation, the explosion of mortars and missiles, the refugees and the tears, and treated it like a real estate deal, like taking a golf course with someone else’s money. For him, it is a matter of “place, place, place”.
“Pretty smart,” Trump said of Vladimir Putin’s brutal aggression. “He took over a country for $2 in sanctions, taking over a country – really a big, big place, a big piece of land with a lot of people – and just walking.” Yes, that’s what the Manhattan developer said about Europe‘s biggest war since 1945.
As his CPAC pals go from rooting for Putin to oh-this-awful-how-biden-let-that-happen, it’s worth hanging on to Trump’s initial reaction to the horror bloody: it’s about the deal, the “place”, the price.
Democrats, if they still know how to play political hardball, should make Trump wish he never said such words, as he did again at the recent CPAC conference, calling Putin a ” clever”. His current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has offered similar praise to Putin. Worshiping international criminals is really a thing with these guys.
In black-and-white partisan terms, it’s time for the Democrats to nail Trump for his preposterous complicity with Putin. Now that Moscow’s murderous intent is apparent, now that the problem with Ukraine is no longer an impossible-to-follow flowchart of Paul Manafort’s crimes and Alexander Vindman’s denunciations, Democrats can say, “Look what Trump and Putin did. It’s time to link Trump to Putin’s attack on women and children instead of ignoring the link.
In short, it’s time to make the Russian leader, for all partisan purposes, Donald Trump’s running mate, especially now that Trump has scrapped Mike Pence for the sin of respecting the Constitution.
Trump secured his first impeachment by threatening to cut off military aid to Ukraine unless its president, soon to be a comedian-turned-Churchilian hero, meets his political demands. Trump wanted the now embattled President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch a bogus investigation into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Nice missiles you have there – too bad if anything should happen to them.
Vindman, the now-retired National Security Council staffer, testified against Trump and exposed Trump’s senseless threat. The Ukrainian-American hero recently said Trump’s postponement of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid has emboldened Putin’s aggression. “It’s because of Trump’s corruption that we have a less capable, less prepared Ukraine,” he said. Vice. The Trumpian defense was that Ukraine got its guns, so why is everyone laughing? But, of course, they got them because of the denunciations, and they got them late, which cost lives.
It’s time to put the two faces – Trump and Putin – side by side, framing them in the traditional campaign season bunting. Democratic consultants were saying throughout the 2020 race that the country didn’t want to hear ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ anymore, that it was tired of whether a Trump Tower meeting with sketchy Muscovites was about government politics. adoption or lifting of sanctions.
It’s a different world now, a united world. Democrats and Republicans, all Americans, now see Putin for who he is, and Democrats need to remind the country who the strongman’s ally and dupe was. They should stick Trump-Putin posters on every telephone pole, cascading them across all social media sites. They should rub this photo of the two budding strongmen – showing Trump’s hairstyle and Vlad’s bare chest – so that every American voter can see it and never forget it.
The story, if nothing else, demands it.
In 1947, President Harry Truman led this country’s bipartisan commitment to containing Josef Stalin’s expansionism. He won the support of a nation exhausted for military aid to Greece and Turkey, which might otherwise have fallen into Moscow’s grip. The Truman Doctrine became known as the American commitment to aid countries attacked by the Soviet Union. It didn’t stop there; it started an American connection at the gut level with those small countries fighting Russian domination. The “captive nations”, they were called.
This commitment to combat Soviet aggression revitalized the American spirit throughout the Cold War.
I remember as a child rooting for the brave Hungarians who opposed Soviet tanks in 1956. before being crushed by Warsaw Pact tanks in 1968. I grew up in Pennsylvania, home to a concentration of Slavic Americans, where onion-domed Orthodox churches are commonplace. The Eastern European connection was more obvious to us, but all Americans felt it, whether it was Polish-born Roman Catholics or Soviet Jewish marchers pleading with the Kremlin to “let leave my people”.
And all the while we prayed – literally, in my church – for the “conversion of Russia” into something better, more free, less predatory.
In all those decades, from the late 1940s to the early 1990s, it would have been unimaginable for an American politician to side with Moscow in those crushing assaults on human and national freedom that we saw in Budapest and in Prague – at least not a politician who hoped to lead the country. They would have paid for it at the ballot box if they had. Trump may be forced to pay now and in 2024 because Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine reminded Americans of what aggression looks like.
It was one thing for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s campaign six years ago and spread useful stories for Trump on social media. It was one thing to praise WikiLeaks or kick Trump staff out of his summit with Putin in Helsinki.
But that’s not the same as seeing a bullying Putin behaving like Stalin. So it’s not too early to post those 2024 “Trump-Putin” posters.
Why? Because it is purely partisan. In 1976, Jimmy Carter became president largely because the very honest Gerald Ford misspoke during one of their presidential debates and seemed to deny that the Soviets had dominance over Eastern Europe. He repeated the gaffe again and again, giving a former Georgia governor a chance to punch above his weight in foreign policy against a sitting president. Without that gaffe, I might not have been a speechwriter for President Carter.
I was in the White House in 1979 when Soviet troops arrived in Afghanistan. Their blatant disregard for national sovereignty sparked decades of warfare, including the rise of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Carter’s strong response to the invasion—sanctions, withdrawal from the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics—didn’t win him many friends and didn’t dislodge the Russians. But his decision to arm the mujahideen led the Red Army to turn the page a few years later. We knew in the White House that between inflation, unemployment, Iranian hostages and Moscow on the march, we faced a tougher re-election fight than even Truman.
Biden is in a better position and he handled the invasion masterfully, cementing the alliance in a way that seemed inconceivable a month ago. We don’t know what will happen on the ground in Kyiv or across the beleaguered country in the coming days. But we know that Donald Trump made this invasion possible and applauded it early on. Not to point this out would be a political mistake.