Donald Trump’s role model for running a country is Vladimir Putin.
Trump has proposed a ban on Muslims, shutting down “our” Internet to prevent ISIS from accessing it, and collective punishment for innocent family members of terrorists. Putin has invaded Georgia and Ukraine, suppresses domestic dissent, and supports a Syrian dictator who has killed thousands of civilians.
The Russian leader called Trump “a bright and talented person” on Thursday and Trump, through a spokesperson, said it was a “great honor” to be praised by Putin.
When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Trump about his bromance with Putin on Friday, he pointed out that Putin “kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries.”
“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump responded. “Our country does plenty of killing also… there’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now… a lot of killing going on.”
“You obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?” Scarborough shot back.
“Oh sure, absolutely,” Trump said.
Trump was immediately smacked down by Mitt Romney on Twitter, who famously said Russia was “our No. 1 geopolitical foe” in 2012.
Jeb Bush piled on, too.
“Vladimir Putin is antithetical to the values that freedom-loving Americans hold dear. He backs our enemies throughout the world including Iran and Assad, which Donald either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about. The fact that Donald is susceptible to the flattery of a despot shows just how weak the chaos candidate really is,” Bush said.
The businessman has stressed his own purported “strength” as a key reason to back him for president, and appears to admire Putin’s apparent “strength” as well. At another time, Trump has said, “I would be willing to bet I would have a great relationship with Putin. It’s about leadership.”
Trump’s policy on Russia appears to be to ally with them in order to pursue issues of mutual interest, without much regard for human rights. In this sense, it mirrors what Sen. Ted Cruz has proposed: a greater tolerance of working with dictatorial regimes in order to fight Islamic extremists.
“Russia wants to get rid of ISIS. We want to get rid of ISIS. Maybe let Russia do it. Let them get rid of ISIS. What the hell do we care?” Trump said in late September.
Trump’s comments come as the Obama administration concedes to the Russian position on Syria. Earlier this week, following a meeting with Putin, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters “the United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” a departure from the United States’ previous assertions that dictator Bashar al-Assad must go.