There’s been a lot of anger this week over Fox News’s born-again populist, Tucker Carlson, going all in on attacking NATO and siding with Russia at the very moment that Russian President Vladimir Putin is massing a gigantic military force on Ukraine’s border. But Carlson, this century’s Vladimir Pozner, has long been a Putin apologist. He’s just throwing off any last pretenses of whose side he’s on in the ongoing global contest between democracy and authoritarianism. (Spoiler: It’s not democracy.)

More important is that you can now find other Republicans and conservative pundits who feel the same way about Russia, part of a Putinphilia that began among white-nationalist GOP primitives but has now spread (like white nationalism itself) to the rest of the party. As a former Republican and unapologetic Cold Warrior—who then argued for closer relations with Russia until Putin made cooperation impossible—I think this is among the most grievous and disgusting changes in a party that, whatever its other sins, was once steadfast in asserting America’s place as the leader of the democratic nations of the world.

Why did it happen?

Some of it, I suppose, we could dismiss as uninformed rubes merely aping Donald Trump’s reverence of the Russian president. Trump, as we’ve all cringed at seeing, has a creepy, man-crush attraction to authoritarian rulers, and so his cult follows suit. (In case you think I’m exaggerating, Trump is still going on about his “love letters” from Kim Jong Un. Imagine, just for a moment, the pictures Republicans would paint if Joe Biden said he was exchanging love letters with, say, the current leader of Iran. Better yet, put it out of your mind immediately.)

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