The Second Strangest Thing About This Election

I expect that in the coming years, political scientists will be studying why one of the major parties in this country nominated Donald Trump to be president. That will forever go down as the strangest thing about this election.

But running a close second is the relationship between the Republican nominee, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. GOP hero Ronald Reagan once called the former Soviet Union “evil” and, while most of the country bought into anti-communism during the Cold War, it was the Republicans who led the way.

Now that same party has nominated Donald Trump – who finds it offensive to criticize the Russian leader.

Speaking at a rally in Springfield, Ohio, Trump took issue with Clinton’s criticism of the Russian strongman, who has been denounced for his military assertiveness and anti-democratic tendencies.

”She speaks very badly of Putin, and I don’t think that’s smart,” Trump said. ”How do you speak so badly of someone?”

That one caused Steve Benen to do a double-take.

Let me get this straight. When it comes to foreign affairs, Trump believes it’s perfectly “smart” to speak “very badly” about China, Mexico, NATO allies, and others. When it comes to domestic affairs, Trump has no qualms about speaking “very badly” about women, Latinos, African Americans, veterans, immigrants, people with disabilities, U.S. military leaders, and America’s elected leaders.

But if Hillary Clinton has unkind words for Russia’s authoritarian bully, that rubs Trump the wrong way.

He could have gone on to list all of the 282 people the NYT documents that Trump has insulted on twitter. But suffice it to say that it is extraordinary that Vladimir Putin seems to be the one and only person the Republican nominee feels is off limits. Amazing!

Into that little bromance walks Julian Assange – who became quite the hero to liberals with the release of diplomatic cables by Chelsea Manning and his work on behalf of Edward Snowden. And yet now we find him coordinating with the Russian government to elected Donald Trump to the presidency.

I found Marlo Stern’s interview with Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokno to be very telling on that score. She notes all of the ways that Trump and Putin are similar (and dangerous). When asked whether or not Assange is working with Putin, she basically said, “He couldn’t deny it.” And here is how she described Assange’s goals after meeting with him at the Ecuadorian Embassy in England.

It was a tough conversation between me and Julian Assange about that when I came to the Ecuadorian Embassy two years ago. We had the conversation and you can’t really blame people for having another position. I understood his position: he’s in a state of war with the American government. He’s smart and charismatic and will use any means to destroy the American government. And we had a conversation if it was really the ethical thing to do that with the hands of another government [Russia] which is, in fact, much worse and a real authoritarian government. Julian Assange is a really good diplomat, so he can basically just dodge direct answers from my questions on that, and gives other answers—as Putin usually does when people ask him directly about some uncomfortable things.

To the extent that you believe what she is saying (and we have no reason not to because she goes on to say that she supports the work of Wikileaks), that is much more sinister than the idea that Assange has some deep antipathy for Hillary Clinton. It is no wonder that he aligns himself with Vladimir Putin if that is the case.

Regardless of what happens to Trump in a couple of weeks, these two men – Putin and Assange – will still be out there advancing their own agendas. It behooves us to be clear what that’s all about.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .