It’s one of those titles I wish I could think of. “Thugs and Kisses,” a well-named column by Paul Krugman, addresses the oddity of trump admiring Putin. The KGB agent who is now president of Russia receives high marks from trump for being a strong leader.
Either trump is very ignorant (which he has often proven himself to be) or he actually admires brutality as a form of leadership (which I fear is also true.) Putin has made zero progress for the Russian economy, though for a few years — as oil prices skyrocketed — it looked as if he were making Russia rich. All the oil profits, however, did nothing for Russia as a whole. The money simply went into the pockets of Putin and a handful of Russian businessmen. And, many suspect but cannot prove until we see his tax returns, trump may have reaped some of the profits, too, through loans and investments from those oligarchs.
trump admires Putin as a good leader because he is strong. In saying this, trump seems to show no awareness that in much of the world, especially Russia, there is a type of leadership commonly called “strongman.” It refers to someone who rules by the strength of his own will, who dominates, who is a dictator. Inadvertently, out of ignorance, trump is admiring Putin for being such a leader.
One of the common marks of strongman leadership is brutality. That certainly fits Putin, who is ruthless with any who do not cooperate with him. His opponents have a way of disappearing or being murdered.
So trump, maybe without realizing what he is doing, praises Putin for being brutal. He obviously does not admire Putin as being a model for leadership in a democracy but for being an enemy of democracy.
And yet the trumpies cheer for him. Absolutely amazing. And frightening.