Trump Is Right: Dictators Are Smart - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Trump Is Right: Dictators Are Smart

Well, this is an eye-roller.

Former President Donald Trump has been taking flack for calling Russia’s Vladimir Putin “smart,” “savvy,” and a “genius.”

The howls from his critics were instant.

No less than usual friend House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said this:

I do not think anything savvy or genius about Putin. I think Putin is evil. I think he’s a dictator. I think he’s murdering people right now.

Over there at the Wall Street Journal columnist and former Bill Clinton aide William Galston wrote that Trump’s remarks were

representative of Mr. Trump’s distinctive contribution to contemporary populism: the worship of cleverness without decency and of strength without moral restraint. Judgements of good and evil are replaced by strong vs. weak, and smart vs. dumb. As students of Europe’s past know, Mr. Trump’s sentiments have a dark history. The question is whether they have a future in the conservative movement and in the Republican Party.

Former New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie piled on, as did Utah’s Republican Sen. Mitt Romney.

Trump swung back, quite accurately saying this:

The RINOs, Warmongers, and Fake News continue to blatantly lie and misrepresent my remarks on Putin because they know this terrible war being waged against Ukraine would have never happened under my watch. They did absolutely nothing as Putin declared much of Ukraine an “independent territory.” There should be no war waging now in Ukraine, and it is terrible for humanity that Biden, NATO, and the West have failed so terribly in allowing it to start. Instead of showing strength and toughness, they declared the Global Warming Hoax as the #1 threat to global security, killed American Energy Independence, and then made Europe, the U.S., and the rest of the World dependent on Russian oil. They laid down the welcome mat and gave Russia the opening, now Putin may be getting everything he wanted, with Ukraine and the rest of the World suffering the consequences. It’s terrible, but this is what you get with Biden, the Democrats, and RINO warmongers!

Exactly. And let’s be crystal clear: Trump has called the Russian invasion a “holocaust.” Said the former president to Fox’s Maria Bartiromo:

“I look at what’s happening in our country it’s like it’s run by fools,” Trump said. 

“We’re fighting Russia. We’re watching a holocaust. We’re watching something that I’ve never seen before.

“They’re blowing up buildings, with children, with women, with professionals, with people, just people, they’re blowing up indiscriminately. They’re just shooting massive missiles and rockets into these buildings and everybody is dying.” 

That hardly classifies as “pro-Putin.” It is, in fact, the exact opposite.

But let’s stick with the idiocy that Trump’s calling a dictator “smart” or “savvy” or a “genius” is somehow an endorsement. In fact, this is an absolute recognition of hard reality — not to mention history — and it should be obvious.

Hello? Fact: No one gets to be an absolute dictator of a country without being some combination of all of those. And, more to the point, this has been repeatedly recognized through the ages, long before Donald Trump arrived on the scene.

Here, for instance, is the renowned economist and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution Thomas Sowell saying this long ago:

Make no mistake about it, Adolf Hitler was brilliant. His underlying beliefs may have been half-baked and his hatreds overwhelming, but he was a genius when it came to carrying out his plans politically, based on those beliefs and hatreds….

Starting from a position of Germany’s military weakness in the early 1930s, Hitler not only built up Germany’s war-making potential, he did so in ways that minimized the danger that his potential victims would match his military build-up with their own. He said whatever soothing words they wanted to hear that would spare them the cost of military deterrence and the pain of contemplating another war.

Over in the Atlantic, staff writer Anne Applebaum, formerly a longtime columnist for the Washington Post, said this of Putin’s predecessor as a Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin. Wrote Applebaum of this murderous tyrant:

“Russian archives reveal that he was no madman, but a very smart and implacably rational ideologue.” She described Stalin “as a rational and extremely intelligent man.”

So too was China’s Mao Zedong both smart and a tyrannical dictator. In their massive biography The Unknown Story of Mao, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday describe a man of relentless smarts who rose from a peasant family and “who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world’s population, [and] was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth-century leader.”

Well, of course. You can’t do all that and be stupid.

It was and is simply impossible for ruthless, evil, murderous tyrants to rise from nowhere and become absolute dictators of their nation without being, to borrow from Trump, “smart,” “savvy,” and “genius.”

And let’s get something else out there: the disgraceful pretense that all these Trump critics want plain talk about the Russians.


As someone who worked for President Ronald Reagan, I well recall the reaction when the then-President said exactly the kinds of things about the Russians of his day that the Trump critics claim they want to hear now from Trump.

Reagan biographer Steven F. Hayward writes of Reagan saying this at his very first presidential press conference when asked by ABC’s Sam Donaldson if he, Reagan, believed “the Kremlin is bent on world domination that might lead to a continuation of the Cold War, or do you think that under the circumstances détente is possible?”

Reagan replied this way, bold print for emphasis supplied:

Well, so far detente’s been a one-way street that the Soviet Union has used to pursue its own aims. I don’t have to think of an answer as to what I think their intentions are; they have repeated it. I know of no leader of the Soviet Union since the revolution, and including the present leadership, that has not more than once repeated in the various Communist congresses they hold their determination that their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Socialist or Communist state, whichever word you want to use.

Now, as long as they do that and as long as they, at the same time, have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that, and that is moral, not immoral, and we operate on a different set of standards, I think when you do business with them, even at a detente, you keep that in mind.

Hayward writes this of the instant reaction from the White House press corps:

Reagan’s answer stunned the room. 

That was it. Next question.

There was an audible gasp among the press corps in the briefing room. Some of Reagan’s own aides, cowering in the corners of the room, blanched. This was not the way world leaders talked about other nations.

Two years later, in March 1983, Reagan addressed the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, and said the following of the Russians, borrowing from the popular Star Wars movies of the day:

I urge you to beware the temptation of pride – the temptation of blithely … uh … declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.

Yet again, Reagan’s critics went ballistic, with Hayward writing that “the speech provoked outrage and contempt among liberals.” Hayward continues,

Historian Henry Steele Commager said, “It was the worst presidential speech in American history, and I’ve see them all.” The New Republic huffed that “the speech left friends and foes around the world with the impression that the President of the United States was contemplating holy war.” New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis complained that the speech was “outrageous” and “primitive.” “What is the world to think,” Lewis wrote, “when the greatest of powers is led by a man who applies to the most difficult human problem a simplistic theology?” 

See how the game is played?

When Reagan bluntly called out the Russians of the day for lying and being an “evil empire,” his critics went berserk. Yet now, when Trump recognizes that Putin is “smart” and “savvy,” he is dumped on for not doing exactly what they said Reagan was wrong to do. (READ MORE from Jeffrey Lord: Never Trumpers: The Real Putin Republicans)

All of which is to say, Trump’s critics — as with Reagan’s critics of the day — have little to no understanding of history and human nature. Which makes them, when in the Biden White House, dangerous.

Very dangerous.

Jeffrey Lord
Follow Their Stories:
View More
Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
Sign up to receive our latest updates! Register

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: The American Spectator, 122 S Royal Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314, You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Be a Free Market Loving Patriot. Subscribe Today!