Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses students during his visit to German Embassy school in Moscow. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press)

Republicans who have backed Donald Trump — or worse, rationalized his crazy talk — are lying low in the wake of Trump’s invitation for Vladimir Putin to hack his opponent and Trump’s revelation that he’d consider letting Putin have the Crimea. For those who have not drunk the Trump Kool-Aid the reaction has been swift and brutal:

Philip Reiner, a former National Security Council official in the Obama administration, called Trump a “scumbag animal.”
“Hacking email is a criminal activity. And he’s asked a foreign government — a murderous, repressive regime — to attack not just one of our citizens but the Democratic presidential candidate? Of course it’s a national security threat,” he added.
And William Inboden, who served on the NSC during the George W. Bush administration, said Trump’s comments were “tantamount to treason.”
“Trump’s appeal for a foreign government hostile to the United States to manipulate our electoral process is not an assault on Hillary Clinton, it is an assault on the Constitution,” said Inboden, who now teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Those are harsh words, although we would say justifiable under the circumstances.

At the convention, Democrats hit back hard. Ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Ca.) told the convention:

I am keenly aware of the grave threats we face — from the murderous brutality of ISIS and al-Qaeda to Iran’s sponsorship of terror; from the belligerence of Vladimir Putin to the madman in Pyongyang. . . .
When the rights of expression, religion and association are under growing assault around the globe, when the world needs a leader who can offer “blood, tears, toil and sweat,” Trump offers only bluster, tirade, swindle, and threat.
With malice towards all, and charity for none, Trump would separate us from the world, and divide us here at home. In Trump’s world, NATO is a relic, Putin an ally, Tiananmen an example, and torture our instrument. This is not leadership; this is calamity.

Trump’s jumbo gaffe perfectly set up another effective Democratic video:

Trump enablers claimed he was kidding, or trying to get Russia to help the FBI (!). None of these hold up under scrutiny, nor do his contradictory claims that he has “zero” to do with Russia and yet sold a property at a $60 million profit to a very rich Russian. (Which one? Did he pay above market value?) As numerous people have pointed out, saying Trump does not invest in Russia doesn’t mean that powerful Russians don’t invest in him. A savvy reader points out: “A Trump investment in Russia, such as the Trump Tower he reportedly has wanted to build there, might be an asset.  By contrast, Russian oligarchs’ investments in other Trump assets are obligations.”

But let’s not get caught up in a financial mystery. The mystery is not why Trump (financial, ideological, psychological) is so deferential toward Russia’s authoritarian bully and his interests (over ours and our allies’) but that he is — and does not know how grossly inappropriate it is.

David Kramer, a longtime human rights advocate and a former senior State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, remarks to me, “I’m deeply troubled by talk about partnering with the Putin regime after it has apparently hacked into the DNC and grossly interfered with our presidential election campaign, invaded its neighbors (Ukraine in 2014-present, Georgia 2008, Estonia through a cyberattack in 2007) and illegally annexed Crimea, bombed sites in Syria that we have urged it to avoid, partnered with Iran to prop up Assad through its military intervention, recklessly buzzed our aircraft and ships, launched the worst crackdown on human rights inside Russia in decades, and threatened and demonized the West and the United States in particular.” He added: “The Putin regime is a serious threat, and we should treat it as such.”

The irony is President Obama’s worst critics on the right argued he was too deferential toward foes, didn’t know friends from foes, and “bowed” to authoritarians. Now they’re circling the wagons around someone who makes Obama look like Ronald Reagan. Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire.

It’s not clear which is worse — Trump or the Republicans still excusing him. In any event, Trump surely has revealed something about the character and judgment of a whole bunch of Republicans. Sad!