'Pro-Putin Republicans' have become the GOP’s ‘new useful idiots’: former Reagan speechwriter
For Americans who are old enough to remember the Cold War and the Reagan era, it is ironic that some of today’s MAGA Republicans aren’t shy about openly expressing their admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin — even during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This admiration for Putin, liberal New York Times opinion writer Paul Krugman noted in a scathing column published on September 12, has been expressed by everyone from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to the leader of the MAGA movement: former President Donald Trump. In that column, Krugman argued that praising Putin’s authoritarianism fits right in with the “MAGA ethos.”
But liberals and progressives certainly aren’t the only ones who have been calling out the pro-Putin attitudes in the MAGA movement. More than a few Never Trump conservatives have been slamming Putin’s MAGA sympathizers, including veteran columnist Mona Charen. In an article published by The Bulwark on September 14, Charen lambasts “pro-Putin, pro-authoritarian” Republicans as the “new useful idiots.”
“At the moment when freedom-loving people around the world are elated, if on tenterhooks, at the progress of Ukrainian forces in pushing back the Russian invaders, Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, has joined with other self-styled conservative groups to oppose helping Ukraine fight for its life,” laments the 65-year-old Charen, who was a speechwriter for First Lady Nancy Reagan during the 1980s. “I know, I know, the Trumpification of the GOP has been a fact for six years, and yet, this heel turn is remarkable. It’s as if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced that they support puppy mills for medical research.”
Charen adds, “Responding to President Biden’s request that Congress appropriate another $13.7 billion to help the Ukrainians cope with energy price hikes and other security needs, Heritage Action urged a no vote, railing that ‘These funding requests ignore the concerns of the American people.’”
The conservative journalist/author points out that “pro-Putin” Republicans are also likely to be admirers of far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
“The pro-Putin, pro-authoritarian voices in the GOP are not yet a majority — about a quarter of House Republicans and 11 of 50 Senators voted against the $40 billion aid package for Ukraine in May — but they’re not a small minority either, and the wind is at their backs,” Charen explains. “CPAC has all but canonized Hungary’s strongman Viktor Orbán, and in the first hours after Putin rolled into Ukraine, Trump reveled in the murderer’s ‘savvy’ and ‘genius.’ The 2022 election could bring more authoritarian-friendly Republicans to Congress, and meanwhile, hatcheries of conservative orthodoxy like Fox News and The Federalist are doing the spade work of persuading the base that Kremlin propaganda is more trustworthy —pravda, if you will — than the New York Times.”
Charen continues, “Just two weeks ago, Tucker Carlson, Putin’s favorite American broadcaster — clips from his show are routinely featured on Russian state TV — told viewers that Biden’s steadfast support of Ukraine was absurd…. It was bad enough to excuse Putin before February 24 on the risible grounds that he represented some sort of Christian champion (against the) scourge of wokeness. But after? That a spokesman for a so-called ‘conservative’ TV network can cheer the rape of a free country — Carlson has said he ‘roots’ for Russia to win — is not just morally depraved, it violates the basic tenets of what used to be conservatism.”
Charen also calls out two Trump-backed U.S. Senate candidates — Blake Masters in Arizona and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance in Ohio — for their indifference to the invasion of Ukraine.
“The vapidity of this new ‘conservatism’ is bottomless,” Charen writes. “They haven’t bothered to consider that brutal aggression by a larger against a smaller state invites a Hobbesian international disorder in which no one is safe….
Putin’s Russia differs from the USSR in ideology, but in repression and rapacity, it is comparable. And it’s scarcely believable that the ‘useful idiots’ who make excuses for it today — who actually root for its success — are ‘conservatives.’”
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