Speed Reads

Alternative History

Liberal Rachel Maddow and conservative David Frum both warn on Trump's bizarre Kremlin talking points

To the casual observer, President Trump's strange mini-lecture on the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during his televised Cabinet meeting Wednesday may as well have been an outtake from Drunk History. "The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia," Trump said, falsely. "They were right to be there."

"To appreciate the shock value of Trump's words, it's necessary to dust off some Cold War history," David Frum writes in The Atlantic, and he does, briefly explaining why the Soviets really invaded in 1979 and how nobody in America — from either party — subscribes to the "Soviet-Putinist propaganda" Trump spouted Wednesday. "Putin-style glorification of the Soviet regime is entering the mind of the president, inspiring his words and — who knows — perhaps shaping his actions," Frum warned. "How that propaganda is reaching him — by which channels, via which persons — seems an important if not urgent question."

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow had the same question Thursday night, and she began by noting other instances of Trump surfacing bizarre Kremlin-aligned disinformation about Belarus and Montenegro. "The only place on Earth articulating that is the Kremlin under Vladimir Putin," she said. "Where did he get that from? Who planted that in his ear?"

"There is nowhere in America — nowhere — where President Trump might have picked up this idea" that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was "right" or in response to terrorism, Maddow said. "But there is one place not in America." Next month, Putin's United Russia party will vote to formally and retroactively rehabilitate the decade-long Soviet occupation of Afghanistan as justified due to terrorism. "That is the only place in nature where that idea even exists," she said. "Someone is stovepiping this stuff into the president's ears so it pops out of his mouth at the most unexpected times. What do we do with that?"

Maybe Trump's lecture on Russia "does not raise questions," Frum suggested. "Maybe it inadvertently reveals answers."