The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump proves he’s a Putin lapdog

Watch: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: A bromance (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

The most remarkable words Wednesday were not uttered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). (Really, is telling people to vote their conscience such a wacky idea?) They came from Donald Trump, who in an interview with the New York Times simultaneously denigrated the United States in terms far harsher than President Obama has ever used, demonstrated his jaw-dropping ignorance and fueled concerns that there is some fishy connection between the Trump team and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said in the interview, “I don’t think we have the right to lecture [other countries]. Look at what is happening in our country.” This is pure left-wing anti-American bile. We are too disreputable, too corrupt to offer leadership to the world, says Trump — and the likes of Noam Chomsky. Had Obama said, “Who are we to tell China to respect human rights?,” the right would have gone bananas.

But Trump did not stop there. He essentially repudiated our NATO obligations, which call on us to provide support under Article V if a NATO member is attacked. Not under the Trump regime. We’ll only do so, he says, if we think the member has fulfilled its obligations (whatever he imagines them to be). He’d merely “prefer” to respect our treaty obligations. Trump has a reputation in business for reneging on deals; his word is never his bond. If he’s elected, the United States will then have that rap.

Trump continued on, promising to advance the “America First” mantra — an isolationist dog-whistle recalling Charles Lindbergh’s opposition in the 1930s to fighting Hitler. Unlike virtually every other elected Republican, he thinks it isn’t smart to be spending so much on national defense. (You wonder whether friends of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s VP nominee, are trying to keep sharp objects away from him.) He refuses to acknowledge — contrary to members of both parties, the military and virtually every informed observer — that we save money by having forward-deployed troops.

What it looked like at the Republican National Convention on Day 3

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20: Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence addresses the crowd, during the third day of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Apparently, he is out to make fools of the few Republicans — Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Pence, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) — defending him on foreign policy grounds. The remarks were so stunning for a man who is now the official nominee that one wonders whether Trump really wants the job of commander in chief.

Follow Jennifer Rubin's opinionsFollow

Hillary Clinton policy adviser Jake Sullivan put out a furious response last night. He argued:

Tonight, Mike Pence said Donald Trump would stand with our allies. Tonight, Donald Trump flatly contradicted him.
For decades, the United States has given an ironclad guarantee to our NATO allies: we will come to their defense if they are attacked, just as they came to our defense after 9/11. Donald Trump was asked if he would honor that guarantee. He said … maybe, maybe not.
Ronald Reagan would be ashamed. Harry Truman would be ashamed. Republicans, Democrats and Independents who help build NATO into the most successful military alliance in history would all come to the same conclusion: Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit and fundamentally ill-prepared to be our Commander in Chief.
The President is supposed to be the leader of the free world. Donald Trump apparently doesn’t even believe in the free world.

He has that right.

He then went after Trump for his creepy admiration for Putin, who would dance a jig if the U.S. president effectively repudiated the NATO alliance. “Over the course of this campaign, Trump has displayed a bizarre and occasionally obsequious fascination with Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin. And he has the policy positions — and advisers — to match,” said Sullivan. “Just this week, we learned that the Trump campaign went to great lengths to remove a plank from the GOP platform about aid to Ukraine that would have offended Putin, bucking a strongly held position within his own party. Previously, he celebrated the Brexit vote, and in turn, casually predicted the disintegration of Europe. And now, he won’t even commit to protecting our NATO allies against a Russian invasion. It is fair to assume that Vladimir Putin is rooting for a Trump presidency.” He added, “More broadly, Trump has apparently decided that America lacks the moral authority to advance our interests and values around the world. He has adopted the logic and positions of China, Russia, and Iran. ”

Sullivan could have said that this is far worse than anything Obama or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has said. It does bear an uncanny resemblance, however, to the radical left-wing protesters marching around Cleveland who decry the United States as a racist, imperialistic international scofflaw.

To those Republicans who convinced themselves that Trump could be tamed, this is a quick and brutal reminder that they’ve deluded themselves and have only enabled a dangerous ignoramus who lacks an appreciation for America’s role in the world and for the Reagan vision of a “shining city on a hill.”

Republicans are already reacting with outrage. “Totally insane,” is how former ambassador Eric Edelman describes the remarks. “He says he has been advised by Secretaries Baker and Kissinger but I find it hard to imagine that they would have recommended the things that he said in his New York Times interview. It would be totally contrary to everything they have written and the manner in which they conducted themselves in office.” He continued, “His comments have already undermined U.S. alliances, emboldened Russian revanchists, degraded our extended nuclear deterrent, threatened multiple trade wars that would beggar the international economy and destroy American prosperity.” Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute tells Right Turn, “Donald Trump is apparently the bastard stepchild of Charles Lindbergh and Barack Obama, at once embarrassed by American values and leadership, contemptuous of loyalty unless it’s to him, strangely drawn to dictators and utterly ignorant of history.” She added, “If this guy led another country, we’d be considering sanctions and fretting about his political enemies languishing in prison.”

Trump proved Cruz right. Trump is a dangerous demagogue who should be repudiated — and then stopped — by members of both parties.

UPDATE: A Republican who chose to stay away and refuse to endorse Trump, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), puts out a statement: “Our friends should draw strength and our adversaries should take pause from this simple fact: Americans keep our word. As Mr. Putin revives Soviet-style aggression and the threat of violent Islam looms over European and American cities, the United States stands with our NATO allies.” Sasse is looking mighty smart these days.