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Trump’s Despicable, Disgraceful, and Un-American Response To Putin’s Evil

The former president’s tyrant fangirling is a historic shame, but not to blame for the invasion of Ukraine
February 24, 2022
Trump’s Despicable, Disgraceful, and Un-American Response To Putin’s Evil
(Composite by Hannah Yoest / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

Anytime there is conflict abroad the American punditocracy moves immediately to ensure the world is aware that our narcissism knows no bounds or borders. If a butterfly flaps its wings in East Timor destabilizing a region, at least one talking head will argue that a lepidopteran American politician is to blame.

Such is the case in Ukraine where Twitter partisans have eschewed epistemic humility and rushed to j’accuse their political foes for the unconscionable overnight assault on Ukraine.

The MAGAs claim the invasion is a result of Biden’s “weakness.” The old-line Republican hawks are certain it is their compatriots in the security state, directing Trump, who prevented this incursion until the Biden administration restaffed the government with doves. The blue wave resistance has identified that one not-so-perfect phone call and a Fox News марионетка as the reason for the attack. All of this is performative bullshittery.

What is true is that the invasion is the result of one aging lonely bully. A debased, bloodthirsty tyrant, who is motivated by his imagined legacy as a strongman who gave new life to the Russian empire. 

And the American response to that invasion among those in positions of authority has been directionally responsible, even if reasonable people can debate the specifics of the actions. That is, with one bloated and traitorous exception: the former president and de facto leader of the Republican party.

Over the past 48 hours, Trump’s aberrant response to the Russian invasion has been deploying the type of rhetoric which has two obvious analogs in modern American history: the America-First Nazi apologists of the 1930s on the one hand and the America-Last, red Soviet apologists of the Cold War on the other.

But these two groups were outliers who, even if they had some sizable public support, were mostly kept away from the levers of power. Donald Trump was ostensibly the leader of the free world until a year ago and remains one party’s front-runner to return to that role a few years hence. Given that stature, his rhetoric is without precedent.

We must not become numb to it.

Let’s be clear about what happened: Ukraine is a NATO partner and an American ally. And as this free-nation came under attack, Trump took to his imitation Kremlin ballroom to praise Putin’s savvy. “Putin’s smart. I mean, he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions, I’d say that’s pretty smart . . . And i know [Putin] very well. I know him probably almost as well as I know anyone in this room.”

Watch for yourself, if you can stomach it.

Later, as explosions in Kyiv aired on the normal American news channels, Fox News host Laura Ingraham attacked the Ukrainian president as “pathetic” and brought the former president onto her show in order to advance a message right out of Putin’s anti-American propaganda playbook. 

“[Putin] sees the weakness and the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration . . . and it all happened because of a rigged election.”

Do not turn away. Watch it.

There is no splitting hairs here. 

To argue that Putin is strong, smart, and successful in part because American democracy is a sham is a direct assault on our country and it puts our former president in league with a killer who aims to destabilize a continent and the alliances that have kept us free and secure for decades.

It is despicable. It is un-American. And if Donald Trump continues to be enabled by the Republican party, Republican voters, and America’s conservative propaganda machines, then we may very well be led once again by this man, giving him the chance to follow through on his promise to break-up the NATO alliance and put a stake through the heart of our democracy once and for all. 

Americans of goodwill must not let petty, political bickering get in the way of this stark reality. The danger this man poses to democracy the world over has not passed.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.