I've been fascinated of late by Republican praise
of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but as Rachel noted on the show last night, Rudy Giuliani appears to have taken this affection to a new level. For those who can't watch clips online, here's the former mayor talking to Fox's Neil Cavuto yesterday.
GIULIANI: Putin decides what he wants to do and he does it in half a day, right? He decided he had to go to their parliament. He went to their parliament. He got permission in 15 minutes. CAVUTO: Well, that was kind of like perfunctory. GIULIANI: But he makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. Then everybody reacts. That's what you call a leader. President Obama, he's got to think about it. He's got to go over it again. He's got to talk to more people about it.
It's not unusual, during a time of crisis, for Americans to rally behind a president. In Giuliani's case, the trouble is the New York Republican appears to be rallying behind the wrong president.
That said, it's nevertheless important to appreciate the fact that, in Giuliani's mind, the mark of an effective leader is seen in someone who acts unilaterally, invades a country, and doesn't stop to think too much about it. Real leaders, the argument goes, simply act -- then watch as "everybody reacts."
But here's the follow-up question for Giuliani and other conservatives swooning over Putin: if President Obama did act that way, wouldn't you be calling him a lawless, out-of-control tyrant?
We've talked many times
about the underlying contradictions embraced by Obama's detractors. The president's critics have presented two competing caricatures, both of which are wrong, but more importantly, both of which incongruous.
President Obama is such a weak strongman. What's more, he is a feeble dictator and a timid tyrant. That, at any rate, is Republicans' critique of him. With Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Obama's critics pivoted seamlessly from complaining about his overreach to fretting that he is being too cautious. Call it Operation Oxymoron. Last Wednesday, I sat in a House hearing and listened to Republicans describe Obama exercising "unparalleled use of executive power" and operating an "uber-presidency." They accused him of acting like a "king" and a "monarch," of making the United States like a "dictatorship" or a "totalitarian government" by exercising "imperial" and "magisterial power." But after events in Ukraine, this very tyrant was said to be so weak that it's "shocking."
Once again, the right is going to have to pick a caricature and go with it. Obama can be a power-hungry dictator, ruthlessly wielding power, or he can be a weak pushover, afraid to act. He can't be both.
For that matter, Republicans can long for an authoritarian leader, who acts without thinking or regard for consensus, or they can embrace a more deliberative style of leadership that cares about partnerships and checks and balances.
At this point, the right can't seem to make up its mind.