From time to time in recent years, Republicans and conservative pundits have celebrated Russian President Vladimir Putin as their kind of leader. The more reckless and autocratic the Russian president became, the more conservative lawmakers and their allies lauded Putin as some kind of heroic genius.
Yesterday on Fox News, however, Republican affection for Putin went just a little further.
Media Matters posted the video of a hard-to-watch Fox segment in which co-host Greg Gutfeld launched an unhinged tirade about the ISIS threat: “Obama should get his head out of his golf bag or get out of town….. If our president isn’t up to it, then find someone who is. Maybe it’s better if he stays on the course, for good.” (Gutfeld didn’t mention the 93 airstrikes Obama ordered on ISIS targets over the last two weeks.)
Noting British plans to address citizens who leave the U.K. to become terrorists, Gutfeld then asked Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle about whether measures can be implemented “without so-called violating their civil liberties.” Guilfoyle responded:
“Guess what, I don’t care. And in fact, I hope we violate a lot of their civil liberties. […]“I mean, can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu and like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States? I don’t know. I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right.”
I won’t pretend to understand this perspective because I have no idea why anyone would look at Vladimir Putin as someone who should be “head of the United States.”
But Guilfoyle’s appeal seems predicated on some bizarre assumptions. The first is the notion that a bold, get-tough leader – apparently someone in the mold of Netanyahu or Putin – could simply use military force, deploy troops, and wipe out ISIS … somehow. This shouldn’t be necessary, but it might be worth noting that counter-terrorism and a coherent national-security policy doesn’t work this way. It’s not like a U.S. president could wake up, decide to eliminate ISIS, make an order, and watch it happen.
Indeed, as the Fox hosts might recall, the Bush/Cheney team thought it could invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the process, wipe out al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other foes. How’d that work out?
The second is the belief that Putin, were he “head of the United States … for 48 hours,” could work wonders through his autocratic ways. In case the right has lost sight of this, the Russian president has made a series of bold moves this year, and all of them were fairly disastrous for his country. Russia’s international standing (outside of Fox headquarters) is in shambles; Putin’s policies have led to an economic recession; and the conflict with Ukraine hasn’t advanced Russia’s interests at all.
As Thomas Friedman recently put it, “Let’s add it up: Putin’s seizure of Crimea has weakened the Russian economy, led to China getting a bargain gas deal, revived NATO, spurred Europe to start ending its addiction to Russian gas and begun a debate across Europe about increasing defense spending. Nice work, Vladimir. That’s why I say the country Putin threatens most today is Russia.”
At Fox, however, Putin is seen as the kind of great leader who could target ISIS and “get it done right.”
Reality suggests otherwise.