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Trump Forces a GOP Retreat On Russia

Most of the party's members of Congress have done their best to downplay or excuse Trump's strange fondness for Vladimir Putin.

"There's no question but that the president's naivete with regards to Russia, and his faulty judgment about Russia's intentions and objectives, has led to a number of foreign policy challenges that we face. And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia's intentions, the president wasn't able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you're seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you're seeing in Syria. ... This is not Fantasyland. This is reality where they are a geopolitical adversary." —Mitt Romney, March 23, 2014, on Barack Obama

STR/NewscomSTR/NewscomIf there has been any defining trait among modern Republicans, it's their ingrained distrust of Russia. For decades, the GOP made a habit of accusing its opponents of being weak-kneed and gullible about Moscow's intentions. If Donald Trump had been elected president as a Democrat, they would be painting him as the most craven appeaser since Neville Chamberlain.

But he was elected as a Republican, which has required some reorientation in the GOP. A lot of Republican voters have simply turned their worldview upside down. One recent poll found that only one in four thinks Russia should be treated mainly as a threat—with the rest preferring warmer ties.

GOP officeholders, caught in the middle, are generally wary of Trump's policy toward Moscow. By a 98-2 vote, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill to tighten the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, which the president opposes. But the measure has stalled in the House. And most of the party's members of Congress have done their best to downplay or excuse Trump's strange fondness for Vladimir Putin.

That remained true even after the revelation that Donald Trump, Jr. met last year with someone he believed was a Russian government lawyer offering "sensitive information" on Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

If this was not collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, it was a conscious attempt at collusion with a hostile government on the part of the candidate's son. No wonder Donald Jr. lied about it until his emails were exposed.

That the Russian failed to produce what she promised doesn't make the meeting any less incriminating for Trump. If you give money to someone you believe is a hit man to kill your spouse, you can't claim innocence when he disappears without doing the job.

But many Republicans who should have been objecting couldn't bring themselves to speak up. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan were practically mute. When asked if the news was cause for concern, Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said, "No."

Only a few longtime Trump critics, notably John McCain and Lindsey Graham, were vocally disgusted by what they had learned. Many of their colleagues are just hoping Trump and those around him are not obviously guilty of major felonies.

The standard for presidents used to be higher. In 1980, Ronald Reagan accused President Jimmy Carter of "cozying up" to the Soviet Union. In 1992, President George Bush attacked Bill Clinton for traveling to Moscow as a student in 1969. Even after communism collapsed and the pro-American Boris Yeltsin was elected president, Sen. Bob Dole ran in 1996, charging that Clinton "cherishes romantic illusions about the soul of a former adversary."

Romney flayed Obama in 2012 for telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev he would have "more flexibility" on policies affecting Russia after the election. "I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses," Romney vowed.

In the past, the GOP demanded that presidents recognize the threat posed by the Russian government, understand the policies needed to counter it and have the backbone to stand up to any challenge. Trump, by their own criteria, has failed each of these tests.

Obama was vilified as a Russian patsy for actions that don't remotely approach what we know Trump and his circle have done. Today, all but a few congressional Republicans avert their eyes and swallow their tongues. Most of them, however, must be appalled to see the nation's security in the hands of someone so willing to overlook Putin's malicious behavior.

It may not be clear to them that Trump should be impeached. But by now, they have to know he can't be trusted.

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Photo Credit: STR/Newscom

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  • obatgonore88||

    I agree with this, it should be like that. There are indeed more and less.

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  • Robert||

    Truer words have never been writ here, & this is a perfect response to anything Champan.

  • Bra Ket||

    "If there has been any defining trait among modern Republicans, it's their ingrained distrust of Russia."

    Well that is as far as I made it this time. Was there something more in this article besides accusing people of partisan hypocrisy to be worthy of such a ridiculous overstatement? Or are we just running out of ways to spin stories about Russia?

  • Eek Barba Durkle||

    I expect all of the dishonesty, speculation treated as fact, and equivocation of support for objective reality with support for a particular person, from all of the usual suspects. I don't need that shit from 'libertarian' publications.

    Fucking reason magazine is making the case for why we shouldn't be friendly with another world power, just because the current president is a douchebag. What fucking decade have I woken up in?

  • Adans smith||

    Did you learn nothing from 'Red Dawn'?

  • Jerryskids||

    just because the current president is a douchebag

    We talking about Trump or Putin?

    I learned from history that, given their natural resources, there's no reason Russia couldn't be as prosperous as the US if only they would adopt Western values of the sovereignty of the individual. But they haven't, Russia is a messed-up place that always has and, for the foreseeable future, will continue to have douchebag leaders. Because Russians don't crave Western values, they crave douchebag leaders.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Odd that there's no mention of a later Bush's relationship with Putin -- all the gazing into his eyes and such.

  • creech||

    "If Donald Trump had been elected president as a Democrat, they would be painting him as the most craven appeaser since Neville Chamberlain."

    An the Left would have been praising Trump as the kind of healing, kumbaya president who was finally bringing America into an era of goodwill toward all nations and one who would overlook cultural differences for the good of mankind, extending his hand in friendship instead of antagonizing those who see the world through different eyes, etc. etc.

  • Jerryskids||

    If Donald Trump had been elected president as a Democrat, they would be painting him as the most craven appeaser since Neville Chamberlain.

    Yep.

    But he was elected as a Republican, which has required some reorientation in the GOP.

    Nope.

    What part of "principals, not principles" don't you understand?

  • ||

    Is there medication we can give to people stricken with TDS?

    "Obama was vilified as a Russian patsy for actions that don't remotely approach what we know Trump and his circle have done. Today, all but a few congressional Republicans avert their eyes and swallow their tongues. Most of them, however, must be appalled to see the nation's security in the hands of someone so willing to overlook Putin's malicious behavior."

    What has he done EXACTLY? What evidence is there to justify this nonsense? I fail to see what he *did* is any worse than what the witch Hillary did; never mind the stories with Podesta.

    Seems to me Chapman just laid out a case of how Russia is simply used as a weapon for domestic political expediency.; for votes.

    "But he was elected as a Republican, which has required some reorientation in the GOP. A lot of Republican voters have simply turned their worldview upside down."

    Gee, I wonder if the DNC's bull shit machine pumping out a narrative empowered by the media has anything to do with it?

    The big lie of our times is 'Russian hacking' and here is Reason magazine publishing letters by writers who seem to be accepting this crap.

    Terrible.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    Obama was vilified as a Russian patsy

    Lol, no--Obama and the Dems were criticized for mocking Romney's declaration that Russia was the country's top threat.

    I find myself halfway hoping that the Russians DID involve themselves to the extent that the proglydytes say they did, just because it would be karma at its finest.

  • chemjeff||

    "Gee, I wonder if the DNC's bull shit machine pumping out a narrative empowered by the media has anything to do with it?"

    But this is partly the point. A lot of Republicans have changed their view on Russia entirely out of reaction to what the Democrats have done, not because Russia or Putin have fundamentally changed in any way.

    Putin is still a guy who is horribly corrupt, has opposition journalists killed, and starts wars with his neighboring countries. Just a few years ago, this was a topic of legitimate concern among Republicans anyway. Now, it's "well, America is no saint either" moral relativism led by Trump.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    You mean changed their minds about missile defense in eastern europe? Actions speak a hell of a lot louder than words and I don't see any 'reset' button being pressed these days.

  • ||

    Reason = the CNN of libertarianism.

    Also. Who 4th fuck actually waste time reading a Chapman article?

  • chemjeff||

    The operating system of many libertarians around here:

    if (article.author == "Chapman") {
    read.article = FALSE;
    article.comment = "CHAPMAN SUCKS";
    };

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I didn't read the article, and Chapman sucks.

  • Johnimo||

    Why are the writers at Reason so uncreative? Don't they know that the Dems are now free to hate Russia? Now, that they're NOT Communists. The Russians have, in the eyes of the left, committed the greatest of sins: proving that Socialism does not work.

  • Rafjxael Pohss||

    "They're beautiful, aren't they?"

    Donald sighed and adjusted his red MAGA hat. He glanced out over the Ural Mountains with a wistful grin. He and Vladimir had been taking camping trips for several years, always with the utmost secrecy. They'd rent a Jeep Cherokee for the weekend and take off, four-wheeling it over dirt trails until they found a secluded alcove. Then they would have the weekend to themselves, to hunt and fish by day and to have each other's company by night.

    "You know they say that the ocean is supposed to make you feel small, but I disagree. These mountains are what make me feel small. They're so ancient and imposing, they've existed so much longer than any of us- we're like ants crawling over the face of the Earth. I feel like a speck in comparison." Donald shook his head; he would never tire of this view. For all the luxury his wealth afforded him, there was something to beautiful about nature unrefined and untamed.

    "Yes, is beautiful and mighty." Vladimir twisted the cap off of his thermos and poured a cup of mulled wine. He handed it to Donald and then poured himself a mug. They clinked their mugs together and drank to each other, savoring the warmth as it slipped down their throats. A hint of a smile graced Vladimir's face as he watch Donald lick the red wine from his lips.

  • Rafjxael Pohss||

    Donald finished his wine and studied the empty ceramic mug, "I wish this didn't have to be a secret. I wish we could be together whenever we liked. We are so powerful, yet we are at the mercy of other's opinions. Damn them all!" Donald gritted his teeth. He had anything money could buy- except the one thing his heart truly wanted.

    Vladimir turned away from Donald and studied the pass with a furrowed brow. He was silent. For a moment, Donald was worried that his outburst had upset the man. He felt sheepish, but his heart still burned like fire.

    Vladimir was always a quiet man, the polar opposite of Donald, who was a flashy brilliance. Vladimir was never given to grand romantic gestures or flowery language; his emotions were often sealed away, pushed aside so that they would not control him. He too longed for the same as Donald, but he would never allow himself to say the words, he was… unwary to open himself up like that.

    In the distance, an arctic Warbler began to trill sweetly. Donald watched as Vladimir turned back to him. He looked at his face, watching Vladimir's unreadable shark eyes. He knew every inch of this man's body so well, like second skin, but he could not read the mask he wore.

    "Come.", Vladimir extended his rough, weathered hand with an authoritative air, "And keep your comrade warm."

    Donald smiled and placed his small, delicate hand in Vladimir's as the Russian led him back into their tent.

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