Republican Rivals Respond to Trump’s Putin Comments

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at town hall meeting Saturday, December 12, 2015 in Aiken, South Carolina. The South Carolina Republican primary is scheduled for February 20, 2016. (Photo by
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Several of Donald Trump’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination are weighing in on the controversy that erupted after Trump was caught on an open microphone sending a secret message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would have more “flexibility” to accommodate Russian interests after winning the upcoming presidential election… no, wait, sorry, that was Barack Obama in 2012.

The Trump scandal was about him presenting a “reset button” to the Russians as a flashy way to signal that a new era of friendship, cooperation, and consideration for Russian interests was about to begin after eight years of pointless antagonism from a unilateralist cowboy President… no, wait, sorry, that was Hillary Clinton in 2009. She was still bragging that it “worked” last year, even though the Russians dismissed her as an idiot for so ostentatiously sucking up to them, and bungling the inscription on the button.

Anyway, Trump said nice things about Putin, after Putin said nice things about Trump, and all the people who thought it was ridiculous to portray Russia as America’s geopolitical adversary during Obama’s re-election campaign are beside themselves. Several of Trump’s Republican rivals thought his comments about Putin went far beyond diplomatic efforts to constructively build a positive relationship with the Russian strongman, especially since Trump not only failed to mention Putin’s repressive ways, but actively disputed the allegations against him.

The strongest criticism from the Republican side to date came from Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who said Trump should not be honored by Putin’s praise on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

“He’s jailed and murdered journalists, political opponents. He bombed an apartment building as a pretext to attack the Chechens. He is responsible for the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, because he provided the antiaircraft weaponry that was used for that,” Rubio said of Putin.

“From a geopolitical, realistic level, we have to deal with him but because he’s the leader of an important country that, between them and us, control over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. But he is not someone who is going to go down in history as a great leader,” Rubio continued.

He said it was “outrageous” for Trump to accept Putin’s praise, and excuse the Russian dictator’s crackdowns on dissent, including the murder of journalists: “I don’t know of a single documented instance in which the President of the United States has ever ordered an assassination of journalists who issued bad coverage of them or who have taken a different political line.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offered a briefer critique of Trump on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that if Putin had endorsed him, “I wouldn’t want the endorsement.”

Christie preferred to focus his fire on prospective Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton, saying he was more comfortable with the idea of Trump as Commander-in-Chief, because Clinton is “the one who’s got us into the World War III situation with Barack Obama.” He slammed Clinton as “Mrs. Happy Talk” because of her astounding comments in the latest Democrat debate that “we’re finally where we need to be on ISIS.”

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush took to Twitter to vent on Trump and Putin:

Ohio governor John Kasich also blasted Trump on Twitter:

Kasich went a lot further, creating a phony website to push the idea of Vladimir Putin as the ideal running mate for Trump in 2016, complete with an official-looking launch statement:

There was even some incoming fire from asterisk candidates Jim Gilmore and Lindsey Graham. Fox News has Gilmore denouncing Trump’s “inexperience and naivete,” saying “he is terrible at explaining his foreign policy and shows it every day he campaigns.” Graham’s critique was delivered via Twitter: 

Graham suspended his presidential campaign on Monday morning.