One topic that’s grabbed its share of headlines is the degree to which President-elect Donald Trump is in bed (hopefully not literally) with Russian President (and everyone’s favorite autocrat) Vladimir Putin. It would be difficult to go back and count how many times Trump asked the following on the campaign trail: “wouldn’t it be great if we got along with Russia?”
Now don’t get me wrong, it would be great if Washington had a more constructive relationship with Moscow. But that is of course contingent upon whether Russia is truly interested in changing the dynamics of East-West politics. I can already see the eye rolls and hear the protests from that contingent of readers who have bought into the recent surge in Russophilia. I’m reminded of a meme I saw recently wherein a dog who’s just destroyed a piece of furniture blames “the Russians” – the idea is to poke fun at those who fault Russia for escalating a series of global crises from the Baltics to the Mid-East.
What I find amusing about this is that these are in many cases the same people who see the humor in the thousands upon thousands of Putin memes strewn across the web that depict the Russian President as an incorrigible, election rigging, chest-beating, bear/shark-riding, strongman who is keen on reminding you that “in Russia, the president assassinates you.”
These memes are funny for the same reason all memes are funny – because they contain little (or in this case big) kernels of truth. That is, if you’re laughing, it’s because you know it’s at least partly true and that means that just as there’s some truth to the idea that the Russians have become a go-to scapegoat (think the dog meme), there’s also some truth to the idea that in many cases, the Russians (and Putin) did do it.
In any event, WSJ and NBC are out this weekend with a new poll that asks, among other things, whether Americans believe Donald Trump is too friendly with Russia’s President. As WSJ notes, this is a particularly thorny issue given Trump’s decision to make Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson (who is known to have a cordial relationship with Putin) Secretary of State.
“These issues could come into play as the Senate takes up the nomination of Mr. Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson,” the Journal notes, adding that “Mr. Tillerson was given a state honor by Mr. Putin and has argued against sanctions on Russia, [giving] pause to some senators, who said they are wary of Mr. Trump’s signals that he will seek a more accommodating stance toward Russia.”
Here’s the visual depicting the answer to one of NBC’s questions:
Of course we can just chalk it all up to partisan politics. Here’s NBC:
There’s a striking partisan divide: 61 percent of Democrats say Trump is too friendly with Putin, compared with just 8 percent of Republicans who believe that.
“There’s just an overwhelming partisan filter to the responses,” says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, whose firm co-conducted the NBC/WSJ poll with the Democrats from Hart Research Associates.
Right. Or maybe Democrats have an “overwhelming” bullshit filter while Republicans have decided to switch their filters off in the interest of “making America great again.”