The key to solving the Ukraine tinder box almost certainly lies with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That's led a lot of people — including the White House, America's European allies, esteemed members of Congress, and even late-night comedians — to try and figure out just what makes Putin tick. Here are four columnists with some connection to Russia or Ukraine offering their insights into the wily Russian president, and their advice on how to deal with Putin's aggression in Crimea.
Emperor Putin has no clothes
"Vladimir Putin is a man obsessed with an idea: Russia was, is, and always will be a great power," says Mark Nuckols, who teaches law and business in Moscow, at the San Francisco Chronicle. He has publicly mourned the end of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the century," and his passion to "ensure that Russia regains its imperial greatness" outweighs all other considerations, including "the well-being of Russian citizens," Nuckols adds. That's why he invaded Georgia, then Ukraine.
[Putin] is driven by misplaced pride, domestic politics, and well-justified fear. His pride and desire to see a Great Power Russia impel him to military adventures and political interference in neighboring states. And these adventures appeal to Russian public opinion, still smarting from the humiliations of the 1990s. [San Francisco Chronicle]
Putin's worldview is simply incompatible with America's
"Putin has enjoyed a stunning variety of incarnations in the American imagination in his nearly 15 years as Russia's leader," and marauding authoritarian dictator is just the latest, says Russian American journalist Masha Gessen at the Los Angeles Times. But he's not insane, and he's not Hitler, she adds.
History's dictators have generally tried to convince themselves and others that they were good people fighting the good fight. But Putin has no positive spin for his aggression — or his actions in general... He believes that all governments would like to jail their opponents and invade their neighbors, but most political leaders, most of the time, lack the courage to act on these desires... For American culture, which relies heavily on a belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity, this is an impossible world view to absorb. It is another world indeed. But that does not make it crazy. [Los Angeles Times]
Putin needs an exit strategy
John McCarron, writing at the Chicago Tribune, offers an opinion based on his time in the Navy during the Cold War. McCarron's solution: "Give Russia a way out."
Let them save some face. After all, it's Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama, who is caught in a wringer.... It would be a huge mistake to try to back the Russian bear into a corner, to bluff and to bluster, to escalate Cold War-style with increasingly harsh economic and diplomatic sanctions... Putin needs — Russians need — a nonembarrassing way around this mess they've made for themselves. [Chicago Tribune]
Putin's advantage is temporary
Putin didn't invade Ukraine because he thinks Obama is week, says Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times. He doesn't much care. "We don't have much leverage because Putin cares far more about Ukraine than he does about being in the G-8." But instead of panicking about Russia's resurgence, "let's also recognize that, in the long run, it's Putin who has stumbled here." Crimea will just be a headache for Russia, and the rest of Ukraine is now solidly in "the West's orbit."
[W]estern Ukrainians look across the border at a thriving Poland, now firmly embedded in Europe, and see that as a far better model for the future. Likewise, in a couple of decades, Russians may well look over the border at a thriving, European Ukraine and want that model for themselves as well. So be strong, Senators Graham and McCain: Putin's advantage is temporary. [NY Times] Peter Weber
Republican Donald Trump took a six-point national lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in at least two polls, from CNN and The Los Angeles Times, immediately following his nomination at his party's convention in Cleveland last week. But that polling bump has since evaporated, as a new Reuters survey finds Clinton is now six points ahead after her own convention.
Meanwhile, a Real Clear Politics average of multiple recent polls puts Trump and Clinton in a dead heat — each claiming 44.3 percent national support — as of Friday. It likewise records the disappearance of Trump's brief lead, which marked only the second time he has ever pulled into first place throughout the whole election cycle per that calculation. See the history of their matchup below. Bonnie Kristian
Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said Friday night "an analytics data program maintained by the DNC and used by our campaign and a number of other entities was accessed as part of the DNC hack," but insisted experts "have found no evidence that our internal systems have been compromised."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee cannot say the same. The DCCC acknowledged evidence of hacking Friday, a breach which follows the recent news that the Democratic National Committee was hacked. After the hackers leaked thousands of internal DNC emails last week — some showing evidence of bias against Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary process — DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned her post. Bonnie Kristian
Courts in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Kansas issued rulings Friday against Republican-backed rules for voting procedure.
A federal appeals court struck down North Carolina's photo identification law, holding in a unanimous decision that it was "passed with racially discriminatory intent." The decision also rejected other restrictions like a ban on same-day registration, and the resultant changes could substantially alter electoral outcomes in the swing state this fall.
In Wisconsin, a federal judge left a photo ID requirement intact but much modified while rejecting a host of other voting limitations. And in Kansas, a county judge ruled the state could not ignore the votes of those who failed to provide proof of U.S. citizenship while registering, a decision that will affect up to 50,000 votes in November. Bonnie Kristian
A Florida elementary school teacher who does not speak Spanish is suing the local school board after she was denied a job teaching recent immigrants in both English and Spanish, The Guardian reports. Tracy Rosner claims that she is "otherwise fully qualified for the job," and that not hiring her amounts to "employment discrimination on the basis of race and national origin."
In a story by New York's Gabriel Sherman published Friday, former Fox News employee Laurie Luhn detailed alleged harassment by former network chief Roger Ailes over a span of more than two decades. The explosive account chronicles Luhn's experience of alleged harassment at Ailes' hands beginning in the summer of 1988 and running through 2011, when she signed a settlement with Fox News that included "extensive nondisclosure provisions," Sherman writes.
By Luhn's account, the first instance of outright harassment by Ailes occurred Jan. 16, 1991:
Luhn put on the black garter and stockings she said Ailes had instructed her to buy; he called it her uniform. Ailes sat on a couch. "Go over there. Dance for me," she recalled him saying. [...] When she had finished dancing, Ailes told her to get down on her knees in front of him, she said, and put his hands on her temples. As she recalled, he began speaking to her slowly and authoritatively, as if he were some kind of Svengali: "Tell me you will do what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it. At any time, at any place when I call. No matter where I call you, no matter where you are. Do you understand? You will follow orders. If I tell you to put on your uniform, what are you gonna do, Laurie? WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO, LAURIE?" [...] Ailes asked her to perform oral sex, she said. [New York]
Luhn told Sherman that Ailes demanded phone sex and regular hotel-room meet-ups, though "it was always the on-my-knees, hold-my-temples routine. There was no affair, no sex, no love." Luhn also said several Fox employees deduced she was sexually involved with Ailes, especially as she began moving up in the company. Several Fox employees were implicated in Luhn's account — some by name and some anonymously — and while many declined to comment, several confirmed certain parts of Luhn's telling of events.
As Sherman notes, "so far, most of the women who have spoken publicly about harassment by Ailes ... had said no to Ailes' sexual advances. ... This is the account of a woman who chose to go along with what Roger Ailes wanted." Ailes has denied all allegations against him, and last week resigned from the network. Read Luhn's entire story, synthesized by Sherman, at New York. Kimberly Alters
Audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in the book business today, The Wall Street Journal reports. Sales in the U.S. and Canada jumped 21 percent in 2015 from the previous year, according to the Audio Publishers Association. Revenue from audiobook downloads in the U.S. grew 38 percent last year from 2014, while revenue from e-books actually declined by 11 percent. "People listen to audiobooks while traveling, exercising, gardening, and relaxing at home," the Journal explains. "They switch devices from one activity to the next, listening on smartphones, tablets, computers, and MP3 players." And audiobook readers are spending a lot of time listening. "Many, many millions of people give us on average two hours a day," said Donald Katz, founder of audiobook market leader Audible.
Higher-paid CEOs underperform compared with their lower-paid counterparts, according to a study of 429 public companies by research firm MSCI. The average shareholder returns for firms with the lowest-paid CEOs were 39 percent higher over a 10-year period than those for firms with the highest-paid CEOs. "In fact," the MSCI report states, "even after adjusting for company size and sector, companies with lower total summary CEO pay levels more consistently displayed higher long-term investment returns."