- In the wee hours of yesterday morning, while you were still blissfully asleep, Russia's president and tiger-fighter-in-chief, Vladimir Putin, gave a strange, rambling press conference. In it, he insisted to reporters that there were no Russian troops on the ground in Crimea, and likened U.S. foreign policy to a dark science experiment. "They sit there across the pond as if in a lab running all kinds of experiments on the rats," he said. “Why would they do it? No one can explain it.”
- The strange remarks prompted immediate speculation about the state of Putin's mental health. A few days ago, the New York Times reported that Angela Merkel had tried—and failed—to talk sense into Putin, concluding that the world leader is "in another world." Julia Ioffe says that Merkel is right—Putin has lost his marbles.
- But is dealing with Putin really, as Mark Halperin claims, like "playing Russian roulette"?
- Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates is "amused" by the headlines. Putin, he says, isn't delusional at all. He knows exactly what he's doing: "He’s trying to re-establish Russian influence and a measure of control over the former states of the Soviet Union."
- It could be that Putin's seemingly unhinged comments will endear him to his people. "It is hard to imagine Barack Obama, who delivered a measured rebuke to Putin’s claims lateron Tuesday, calling a prominent citizen of a neighboring country a crook, or referring to an American billionaire as an oligarch," writes John Cassidy at The New Yorker. "But that is part of Putin’s appeal to ordinary Russians, particularly those who are older and less educated: he speaks the language of the common people, and appears to share their concerns and their prejudices."
- They're certainly endearing him to American conservatives, who are caught in a strange love-hate relationship with the Russian leader.
- Sarah Palin appeared on Sean Hannity's show to gloat about her prediction, back in 2008, that Putin would invade Ukraine if Obama were elected. The problem, apparently, is Obama's jeans: "Look, the perception of Obama, of him and his potency across the world is one of such weakness," Palin said. "People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”
- Putin's shirtless photos seem to have had a big impact on Rush Limbaugh. What we need, he explained on his show, is a president who isn't afraid to let his pecs do the talking for him. "Well, did you hear that the White House put out a photo of Obama talking on the phone with Vlad, and Obama's sleeves were rolled up? That was done to make it look like Obama was really working hard—I mean, really taking it seriously. His sleeves were rolled up while on the phone with Putin! Putin probably had his shirt off practicing Tai-Chi while he was talking to Obama."
- The conservative crush on Putin has been brewing for some time. Back in December, Pat Buchanan asked: "Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative? In the culture war for mankind's future, is he one of us?"
- His manliness—demonstrated by his penchant for shirtless horseback riding, fishing, and hunting, and shooting whales with crossbows—is just too irresistible.
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