Obama sure got lost somewhere above Cloud 9 this time. It seems Chairman Barry, from his armchair in Air Force One, called Uncle Vlad to pour out pozdravlayus (congratzes) over his recently electoral win, stolen or nyet. And, this was, ironically, in the same time frame as he received plaudits from Iran’s chief mullah for praising Obama for ratcheting down on the bellicosity a bit. But back the Putin backslapping, this went down like a lead borscht pie for most of the Putinophobes here in the good ole Vostok (West).
Almost ludicrously, the tone from the conservative press seems to be, how dare he congratulate Putin for winning (or stealing, or influencing, or whatever) the election. Sure, there are doubts about the legitimacy of the Russian election. Putin won with something like 65% of the vote. The next guy, Zyuganov the commie, wasn’t even close (he polled 17%, thank God). To rig an election like that, you would have to do an awful lot of rigging. The most egregious slant seems to be that the electoral field was said to be handpicked by Putin so that no one particularly challenging was permitted to run.
My criticism points at those of us on our high horse criticizing their elections (especially Russia’s, for some reason). I mean, who are we to criticize? Naturally, we in the U.S. of A have never had an indisputable election, correct? Ours are invariably free from coercion (Black Panthers showing up at polls to intimidate select voters in Philly in 2008 notwithstanding), money and power issues, and special interests, right? We’ve never seen secession or civil wars because of an election result nor have we ever seen persons disallowed to vote because of skin color, gender of legal status, right? (These are highly rhetorical questions if you haven’t noticed.) Our system is highly flawed, now and as it’s ever been. And instead of running around the world pointing fingers at Putin’s electoral culpability, we should be looking at our own system that allowed the hanging chads of 2000, the Black Panther scandal of 2008, the campaign finance chasm, the electoral college chaos, and everything else in between before we spend another half-ounce of ridicule on trying to nation-build anywhere else but home.
I am not proposing that Putin or other elected official from afar be exempted from scrutiny. But those are their elections. OK, so there were observers, they cried foul. But then they pack their bags and go home and now what? Now, Obama picks up the horn and calls in his adieus from above and we get another six years of the shit-kicking KGB muzhik who brought a level of order to Russia that hasn’t been there in a long while.
It is part of the U.S. president’s duty to congratulate certain leaders on successful electoral outcomes, contested or not, and the winner of the Russian elections is one of them. I am also one of those who believes that Russia is a natural ally of the U.S. and the sooner we start working on a detente between our two empires and aligning our interests accordingly the better.
I may not agree with President Obama on a lot of issues, but on this one, I say, give the man credit. Politics is about power and elections are the means to that power. We devise the rules then we scrabble about, looking for the back staircase up the ziggurat.
As for me, I kind of like Putin. I know the Church officials love him, and I question that devotion from time to time, especially when you hear stories about the roughhousing going on between demonstrators and pro-Putin counter-demonstrators over there. I believe the Church can run into a heap of trouble when it gets behind politicians, simply because power corrupts. The Russian Church has seen that old story before too. It needs to tread carefully.