On Meet the Press, Chuck Todd interviewed GOP front runner for the White House, Donald Trump. Trump was in classic form, calling himself the "Earnest Hemingway" of social media and still promoting the undocumented phenomenon of widespread celebration of the terror event of September 11th in New Jersey. Not surprisingly, the conversation turned to the recent budding bromance between the leading Republican and Vladimir Putin of Russia.
Recently Putin was asked to weigh in on the 2016 presidential campaign and he didn't hesitate to provide his views: "He is a bright and talented person without any doubt," Putin said, adding he is "an outstanding and talented personality." Concerning the billionaire's presidential campaign, Putin stated that Trump is"the absolute leader of the presidential race," according to the Russian TASS news agency.
This was an opportunity for Trump to act presidential and to respond in the context of geopolitics. He could have said, "that's nice, but it does not take away from the destructive policies that Putin has exercised on the world stage, particularly in the Middle East and Ukraine." Or, "I appreciate his comments, but it would be great if he governed as the leader of a country that supported competitive and free elections and did not literally kill political opposition" (which there is ample evidence he has done). Instead, Trump's ego is so fragile, it is as though any person that likes him is worthy of being admired regardless of his behavior or philosophy.
When asked by Todd about Putin, Trump jumped right in:
"He is a strong leader. What am I gonna say, he's a weak leader? He's making mincemeat out of our President. He is a strong leader. I mean, you would like me to call him a weak leader, he's a strong leader. And I'm not going to be politically correct.
"He's got an 80% of approval rating done by pollsters from, I understand, this country, okay? So it's not even done by his pollsters. He's very popular within Russia. Now that may change, but I didn't say anything one way or the other. He came out with a very nice statement about me and I said, 'That's very nice, I'm honored by it.'
"And it would be very nice if we got along with Russia, Chuck, it's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. He cannot stand our President. He doesn't like President Obama. I think it would be a positive thing if Russia and the United States actually got along and they could work to the mutual good of getting rid of ISIS and clean things up. I mean, right now, we don't get along with them at all."
Eighty percent approval rating? In a country where they throw viable political opposition in jail and it kills journalists that write negative stories? How naive. Again, if someone likes Trump, he cannot be that bad in the fragile mind of the GOP leader.
It was bad enough that Trump regurgitated Pravda's and TASS' narrative about the Putin regime, but he has become an apologist of Putin's brutal government. On ABC's This Week he said "In all fairness to Putin, you're saying he killed people -- I haven't seen that," Trump told host George Stephanopoulos. "I don't know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he's killed?" Trump went on to say that it would be "despicable" if Putin indeed had killed journalists. "But I haven't seen any evidence that he killed anybody, in terms of reporters," he said. Instead he said Russia was not the only country involved in killing people, pointing the finger at the United States, although he would not name specifics.
It would be interesting to see how Trump would have reacted if his GOP opponents received praise from Putin. My gut tells me it would be followed by tirades of how terrible the Russian leader and his policies are.
Putin is odd (to say the least) in his own right, but I also think he is highly intelligent and is often the smartest guy in any room he is in. Because of this, Putin rightly thought he could buy the affection of the narcissist Trump with a little simple flattery and he was certainly right. I think a Trump administration would be lead by the nose of his always fragile ego.
It seems to me that those who support Trump because he would provide a better way will be disappointed to see that ego politics will reach all new levels under his administration and U.S. prestige and security will be continuously linked to the billionaire's obviously fragile self-esteem.