February 14, 2022

John Avlon took a look at the old days, when Republicans really didn't like Russia.

"There used to be at least one thing you could count on in our politics: Republicans really didn't trust the Russians," he said.

"During the Cold War, this was a constant. From the steely containment strategy of Ike to the unhinged witch hunts of Joe McCarthy, to the 'live free or die' libertarianism of Barry Goldwater, to the righteous 'tear down this wall' rhetoric of Ronald Reagan. Back then, Republicans were a genuinely big tent party, but anti-communism connected them all. And that fueled a robust internationalist consensus when it came to foreign policy. But all that changed with the Trumpification of the GOP, with his constant refusal to ever condemn the ex-KGB agent-turned Russian president Vladmir Putin."

I like Putin. He likes me. We get along.

"And now we're seeing the worst of both worlds, with Republicans still reflexively fueling the McCarthyite flames by calling anyone they disagree with a communist."

LINDSEY GRAHAM: We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists.

CHARLIE KIRK: They are trying to turn this country into a communist trash heap.

MARGE GREENE: We have many members in the Democrat party you can look at, read their bills, listen to what they say and you could call them communist.

"But that reckless rhetoric isn't matched by a resolve to take on Russian aggression. In fact, the data does show a real shift," Avlon said.

"Get this. Back in 2014, only 22% of Republicans said Russia was an ally of or friendly to the United States. Four years later, middle of the Trump presidency, that number had almost doubled to 40%. That wasn't a one-off. Same year, Pew Research found that views of Putin were less negative among Republicans, and more negative among Democrats.

"Now, you can say that this was a result of Russian efforts to aid Trump's election, as the bipartisan Senate Intel committee report conclusively proved, but thanks to popularizing the view that standing up to Putin is a provocation, pushed by Tucker Carlson on the right talk TV as well as the ex-president, we've seen some of Trump's acolytes in Congress that the U.S. shouldn't act to help Ukraine. The good news is, there are still Republicans in Congress who are backing international order against Putin's would-be power grab. But the isolationist wing of the GOP is more vocal and influential than it's been at any time since the second World War. That sends a message to our allies.

"Remember, the liberal international order and security organizations like NATO are some of America's greatest bipartisan achievements, secured by presidents of both parties. Trump was the outlier in this effort, dismissing the danger of further Russian invasion of Ukraine after annexation of Crimea when he was first running for president."

He's not going into Ukraine, okay? Just so you understand, he's not going to go into Ukraine.

"There was also the time he questioned the resolve of NATO in this 2018 interview with Tucker Carlson."

TUCKER CARLSON: Membership in NATO obligates members to defend any member who's attacked. Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?

TRUMP: I understand what you're saying. I've asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. By the way, they're very strong people. They're very aggressive people. They may get aggressive. And congratulations, you're in World War III.

" 'They may get aggressive.' Look, no one is looking for World War III. That's precisely why you need to stand up to aggression ahead of time with a united front. History is really clear on this, folks. The whole idea of peace through strength that Republicans used to believe because, as we should all know by now, bullies only respect strength.

"And that's your reality check."

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