Feb 28

Will GOP’s Putin bromance hurt them in November? Press couldn’t care less

Turning blind eye

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You don’t have to be a political scientist to understand the Republican Party has found itself on the wrong side of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 85% of Americans now view Russia unfavorably — the country’s worst rating in over three decades — while GOP leader Trump publicly praises Vladimir Putin’s war moves as “smart” and “savvy” and as “genius,”

So why is the press ignoring the huge political blunder by the GOP? Why aren’t elite pundits lining up to warn about midterm implications for Republicans who foolishly blamed Biden last week, instead of Putin.

The strange silence comes as the Beltway media have spent months obsessing over the midterms — but only from the perspective that Democrats might be headed for lopsided losses. That story has been covered without pause, even though the midterms aren’t until November.

Every possible angle has been examined, over and over — Covid might hurt Democrats in November. Inflation might hurt Democrats. Education might hurt Democrats. The supply chain might hurt Democrats. There is been no shortage of media jumping off points as the press appears to be giddy over the prospect of GOP wins in November, and wants to spend the entire year detailing possible Democrats election woes.

Why the collective shoulder shrug when it comes to the spectacle of the GOP’s leader praising Putin as he launches the largest European land invasion since World War II? It may be the most astonishing foreign policy position ever taken by a major American political figure, let alone a former President of the United States. It’s not just Trump. In the days leading up to the invasion, Republicans were lining up to state their admiration, if not allegiance, to Putin, a despot whose political opponents are regularly killed, poisoned, and imprisoned.

Forever presenting Republicans as being savvy and outmaneuvering Democrats, the press remains blind to the possibility that the GOP has miscalculated by picking the Kremlin over the White House. Apparently, only Democrats can be in a state of disarray.

As I noted last week, what’s unfolding within the GOP would have been like in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait if members of the Democratic Party had praised Saddam Hussein. The media condemnations would have rained down without pause, as would have predictions of the party’s electoral ruin.

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Today, Trump’s continued Putin bromance, which borders on treasonous, is portrayed as a minor problem for the GOP.

“Trump Praises Putin, Leaving Republicans in a Bind,” read a low-key New York Times headline, framing the issue as a minimal and passing one. Not one Democrat was quoted in a piece about Republicans embracing a foreign dictator during a time of war. There was no suggestion the bizarre alliance might hurt Republicans at the ballot box.

The Washington Post tried to dress up the GOP’s Putin embrace as Trump ushering in an era of isolationism with the party: “But during periods of populist politics — and especially when foreign wars crop up — many Americans embrace politicians who preach a strong, if not total, focus on domestic matters.”

That’s not what’s happening. The Trump wing of the GOP isn’t categorically saying that America should stay out of all foreign policy crises. It’s saying, ‘We heart Putin.’ That has nothing to do with isolationism. Like the Times article, the Post quoted no Democrats about the GOP’s embrace of Putin, and failed to suggest the issue is a losing one with voters.

Same with this NBC News report which highlighted the GOP’s “deep divide” over Russia. Zero Democrats were quoted and no allusions were made to this being a losing political issue for Republicans, who have gone off the rails on the topic.

“I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other,” said high-profile Ohio Republican candidate J.D. Vance, who’s running for the Senate. “Why does Joe Biden care more about Ukraine’s border than the U.S. southern border?” the official account of the Republican House Judiciary Committee tweeted last week. Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, Eric Greitens, recently warned about “bloodthirsty Washington elites" and their "warmongering” against Russia.

Appearing on “ABC This Week,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) refused three straight times to answer the simple question: Why won’t you condemn Trump’s pro-Putin comments? Also on Sunday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) continued to blame the United States for Putin’s deadly invasion.

It’s not just the Republican Party. It’s the right wing’s billion-dollar media infrastructure. “I’ll stand on the side of Russia right now,” Joe  Oltmann, a conservative podcaster, said on his show. Trump media sycophant Candace Owens tweeted that Russia posed no threat, while former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon assured his audience that the Ukraine invasion was “not our fight.”

And then there’s Fox News, which is synonymous with the Republican Party. As Ukrainians fought off the invaders, Laura Ingraham mocked President Volodymyr Zelensky’s passionate plea for peace as a “pathetic display” from a “defeated man.” Tucker Carlson announced, “No one on this show is…rooting for the Ukrainians for that matter,” insisting Putin “just wants to keep his western borders secure.” (In an odd twist, Carlson’s commentary became so unhinged that the far-right outlet NewsMax called him out for being anti-American.)

It’s hard to recall the last time a political party landed so awkwardly on the wrong side of a breaking news story. Why won’t the D.C. press put that in political perspective?

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(Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

🇺🇦 GOOD STUFF:

How do you a hide an invasion in today’s hyper-information age? It’s not easy.

From the Financial Times’Kremlin Propaganda Machine Struggles to Conceal Putin’s Ukraine War”:

The campaign builds on a well-oiled machine that has shaped Russians’ perceptions to deliver sound support for previous conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Syria, as well as a brutal crackdown on dissent at home and in neighbouring Belarus. This time, however, the picture being painted by the Kremlin is so at odds with the reports from Ukraine itself that even top officials and spin-doctors have struggled to handle the cognitive dissonance required.

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