Guest Opinion: Comrade Trump, you’re hired!

Chicago Tribune
Sept. 10
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Russian President Vladimir Putin is a master propagandist. Media manipulation is his forte. But he can’t do it all on his own. He needs minions who can chip away at that furrowed brow the West always has when it thinks about the Kremlin, a few good messengers who can disseminate the storyline that Vlad’s not so bad after all — certainly not the shadowy, scheming authoritarian the West always portrays him to be.

RT, a state-owned Russian television network once known as Russia Today, was created by the Kremlin in 2005 to provide that very function. But the network needs household names in its programming, personalities with enough street cred to at least get headline-grabbing attention from London to Los Angeles.

Maybe that’s the way we should interpret GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s perplexing decision to agree to an interview aired on RT’s American arm, RT America — was it a tryout? The Donald always has so many lines in the water — was he auditioning to be a Putin propagandist?

We jest, of course, but we’re once again scratching our heads about the Trump team’s judgment, and more specifically, its inability to see the folly in appearing so charmed by a world leader who has spent a decade and a half trampling on human rights, snatching up sovereign territory and eliminating political opponents.

We’ll grant that Trump’s not playing for the other team. Nevertheless, unwittingly he still fell in lockstep with what makes RT tick. On a network that represents the antithesis of free expression, he accused American media outlets as being dishonest. Putin must have been beaming. And when asked if he believed Russian hackers snuck into Democratic Party databases, Trump said that’s “probably unlikely.” Congratulations, Comrade Trump, you’re hired!

Trump was interviewed by former CNN journalist Larry King, who now anchors a prime-time interview show that airs on RT. Trump’s people contend they didn’t know that the interview would appear on RT. It’s widely known that King’s show appears on RT, so either their researchers should be sacked or they’re not telling the truth. The interview also comes at a time when Trump faces still more criticism about Kremlin cozying, this time for remarks at an NBC candidates forum Wednesday in which he said of Putin, “Certainly in that system he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”

We’ve said before that Trump’s perspective on Putin is naive — and dangerous. And as far as the Russian leader is concerned, he doesn’t really have to put Trump on the payroll. Trump’s playing patsy as laid out in the Kremlin playbook — whether he knows it or not.