One of the classic Monty Python bits is this:
What has Putin done to be so appealing? Economic disaster? Check. Journalists being killed? Sure. The courts being used against Putin's enemies? Sure, but apart from that? Oh, yeah, produced greater self-encirclement via annexation of Crimea and intervening in Ukraine.
I can go on, of course. Putin might, indeed, be "strong" (if we define strong as making the country less democratic) but successful? Sure, Trump's sole metric are polls/ratings. Is Russia better off now than four years ago? Nope, not domestically as it is less free and the economy is in recession. Internationally, Russia is much more alone, and has had to make deals with China from a position of weakness.
So, keep on admiring his squelching of democracy and his trolling foreign policy. It might make him popular, but that does not make him admirable.
Oh, and that weak Obama fella? How about this:
If we define "strong" only as "politically stable" (no current threats to Putin's rule from the inner circle) then yes. If that's the hill Republicans want to die on, be my guest.
So, Trump's strategy appears to be, in what is logistically the most important month of his campaign:
1. Criticize the POTUS in the worst possible way at a time when Obama's rating's are on the rise (http://bit.ly/2bYjw9W);
2. Tie the GOP - at least in the short-term - not just to white supremacy, but to admiring Russia's political system (http://bit.ly/2cAcY35); and
3. Inadvertently cast further scrutiny on your business ties when journalists are clamouring for the fabled 'October Surprise.'
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