If you think about the comments coming from right-wing politicians in America, you have to wonder why they admire Vladimir Putin so much. One after the other, the familiar warhorses trot up to the microphone to tell you how “decisive” Putin is and how much they despise President Obama’s “waffling.”
Rudy Giuliani, John McCain (and sidekick Lindsey Graham, of course), Sarah Palin…
The Putin fan club parade marches on.
President Obama thinks twice before putting Americans at risk. He seeks the advice of experts before pursuing a course of action. He ponders all sides of complex issues before making decisions.
It’s no wonder Sarah Palin says he “wears mom jeans.”
I find this display of hero worship for Putin quite revealing. It opens a window to the fantasy world inhabited by the American right, and the view is remarkably similar to that in which Putin holds sway.
It’s a comic book kind of world, where problems are solved with POW! and WHAM! and SOCK! It is a world of action figures and dramatic confrontations.
It certainly seems that Putin sees himself as that kind of action figure. He rides – and wrestles – bears. He shoots tigers. He catches huge fish. He’s the man!
When he felt the Russian-speaking minority in Georgia were being persecuted, Putin sent in the cavalry. When ethnic Russians seemed at risk in the Crimea, he rode to their rescue once again, no questions asked. Mother Russia to the rescue!
So what if he is in violation of international law? Did James Bond care about international law?
Superheroes don’t read the fine print. They take action.
Of course a moose-hunting Wonder Woman like Sarah Palin would admire that kind of thing. And of course Rudy Giuliani – the self-proclaimed hero of Nine-Eleven – can relate to Putin. So can “war hero” John McCain.
They live in the same kind of self-glorifying fantasy world that Putin seems to inhabit.
After talking to Putin on the phone, German Chancellor Angela Merkel concluded he had lost his grip on reality. And he might have. He seems to be so immersed in his own narcissistic fantasy that he hardly noticed it when his wife of many years divorced him. In his recent press conference he was rambling and incoherent. His declarations are so obviously false that he must know nobody believes them.
But what if Putin is putting on an act? What if the former spy is staging a PR show for the benefit of simple-minded observers? What if he has more complicated motives for his actions? What if he has a more far-reaching and menacing agenda than he admits?
What if it’s the American right who have lost their grip on reality?