He rides bare chested on his magnificent steed through the Siberian Mountains with his trusty knife strapped to his belt. He wears camo pants. He oozes macho. When he's not riding his horse bare chested he's riding a bear or some other deadly animal and doing so, of course, without his shirt.

Sometimes he's unarmed; other times he is carrying an automatic weapon. When not slaying wild animals single-handedly, he's riding, helmetless, on his motorcycle with some real bad hombres. He might not even wear a shirt when riding his motorcycle. Why, because he's Vladimir Putin and he's one tough guy.

Okay, sure he's homophobic and quite possibly a latent homosexual, but still he's a man's man; a true leader of men. Just a few years ago former President, George W. Bush, said, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country."

Apparently that was another thing our former president got wrong. Prime Minister Putin is not very "straightforward" and most certainly not very "trustworthy." Funny how people like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, et. al. didn't have much to say about our macho president's kind words about the Russian leader.

Instead, this past week we've heard from the party faithful about what a great leader Putin is, while simultaneously declaring President Obama to be wearing "mom jeans." Former Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has this to say, "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." This coming from a person who, when asked about her limited foreign experience declared that she could see Russia from her house.

What is it about leaders that cause them to feel that they have to show off how macho they are? President Bush proved his mettle by mountain biking and brush cutting. Putin is known for taking down tigers (you can watched the staged video online.) The tiger appears to be in a trap and to have escaped. Our hero, Putin, then shoots and sedates the tiger saving everyone from certain death. The video looks very similar to those TV shows where the tough guys are hunting Big Foot.

Since Putin sent in masked thugs (possibly members of his motorcycle gang), conservatives, and the talking heads at Fox News, have been falling over themselves to put down our president and gush all over Putin's leadership qualities.

It took a comedian, Jon Stewart, to point out just how foolish the positive praise from conservatives to Putin's invasion of Ukraine really is. Stewart reminds the viewer that all of the events showing Putin as a tough guy are propaganda; they are staged. The tiger that he downed was already tranquilized, tethered and waiting for Putin to shoot it. Real sporty.

For some reason (it might just be blind partisanship) conservatives are more impressed with a leader who appears to be a tough guy. They come unglued when a leader shows thoughtfulness and a degree of deliberation before rushing to bomb somebody somewhere.

They fail to acknowledge that Obama killed one of the most wanted man in America, Osama Bin Laden. They refuse to give President Obama any credit for this action, saying it was the soldiers who did the killing. Right, but someone had to have the courage to give the order.

Riding around half-naked for the cameras shouldn't impress us much. If that is a tough guy and a strong leader to you, you are sadly mistaken. A smart leader knows enough not to overreact; not to overplay the hand and to be persistent and never give up. Under the watchful eye of former President Bush, Bin Laden escaped. Under Obama's stone cold resolve Bin Laden took a bullet to the head. One got the job done; one didn't. Oddly enough the one who got the job done is seen as a weak leader. These same conservatives have previously complained that Obama is acting like a dictator by bypassing a do-nothing Congress. Which is it?

Perhaps our conservative friends would be well advised to listen to the Prime Minister of Germany, Angela Merkel, who said this when she spoke with President Obama by phone last week: "Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. ‘He's in another world.'"

Some people disagree with our president, but there is an unprecedented degree of hatred towards him. In a time of crisis it is unconscionable that opposition leaders could be so unpatriotic. Their words and actions have been an embarrassment to our country and serve to do little more than embolden Putin. Perhaps they're all in "another world."

Bob Stannard is a Banner columnist.


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