Friday, September 30, 2016

Trump's Russian Roulette With Putin

Given Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns, we may never know whether his bromance with Vladimir Putin stems from dependence on Russian oligarch funds to keep his real estate pyramid scheme afloat or envy of Putin's dictatorial style of ruling over Russia, including the silencing of the press and political opponents, a number of whom have turned up murdered. Or, of course, it could be a combination of both given Trump's Hitler-like political style and bullying personality.   While I believe that there are MANY reasons why Trump is unfit for the presidency, his embrace of Putin may be forcing a number of traditional Republicans into the arms of Hillary Clinton.  A piece in Politico looks at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
The Hillary Clinton campaign is meeting with swing-state leaders of Eastern European descent, encouraging ethnic debate watch parties and phone banks, and scheduling conference calls with Clinton allies from her State Department days as part of an aggressive effort to capitalize on Donald Trump’s embrace of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his equivocal support for NATO.
For years, voters with Eastern Bloc roots embraced the Republican Party, viewing the GOP as an anti-communist bulwark and a champion of strength in the face of Russian aggression.
But the Republican nominee’s frequent praise of Putin and talk of conditional American backing for NATO members under attack has alarmed voters with close family ties to Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and other Eastern European countries, raising the prospect that they’ll bolt the top of the GOP ticket in November.
“The Latvians are primarily Republicans, as are Lithuanians, Estonians, and many Ukrainians, but Trump has put them in a real bind,” said Maris Mantenieks, a Latvian leader in Ohio’s Eastern European ethnic community. “Because in all honesty they don’t want to vote for [Clinton], and yet again they can’t express their Republicanism due to Trump’s positions.”
These voters, many of whom live in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, are deeply worried by an emboldened Moscow, and anxious over the possibility that the Baltic nations might be the next target of Russian adventurism. Trump’s lavish praise of Putin has exacerbated those concerns — leaving an opening that Clinton’s campaign is leveraging by emphasizing her willingness to get tough with Putin, and her unwavering support for NATO. Earlier this month, Clinton met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in New York — and her allies made sure to publicize the message that Trump snubbed him.
In Pennsylvania, according to the most recent Census data available, there are more than 100,000 people of Ukrainian descent; 820,000 of Polish descent (a demographic that tends to lean more Democratic but that cares about strong support for NATO); 46,000 Croatians; and thousands of Lithuanians, Latvians, Albanians, Estonians and people of other Eastern European ethnicities. In Ohio, there are around 40,000 Ukrainians, more than 400,000 Poles, and thousands of Americans of other Eastern European heritage.
“I believe in our community, in many Eastern European communities, there is a high percentage of … voters that do still take foreign policy seriously because of our own immigrant story, or their strong support for NATO, that would lead one to be a supporter and vote for Hillary Clinton,” said Steve Rukavina, a leader in the national Croatian community based in Pennsylvania 
In Ohio, engaging Eastern European ethnic communities is a campaign staple, particularly in northeastern Ohio, which is home to significant Polish and Ukrainian communities. 
I don’t think Donald Trump has any idea about how these smaller countries depend on NATO. That’s the only defense against Russia. These countries were invaded during the Second World War, they lived under Russian rule for 50 years, NATO is the only military protection they have.”
In a sign his campaign senses the risk, Trump has launched his own attempts to reach out to Americans of Eastern European descent, addressing Polish Americans in Chicago on Wednesday.
“Especially with the Ukrainian community, the message is very strong and clear,” she said. “You have a choice: Do you vote for Putin, basically, or there’s another choice: Do you vote for Hillary?”

Fifty percent of my heritage comes from the Austria-Hungary Empire, much of which fell first to Hitler and then was ruled ruthlessly by Russia for five decades.  My vote, of course is with Hillary.

No comments: