Нужно уметь проигрывать достойно—Nuzhno umet’ proigryvat’ dostojno—“One must know how to lose with dignity,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin of the U.S. Democratic Party. Fielding questions for nearly four hours at a big annual press conference today in Moscow, Putin was responding to a rambling question about a global revolt against old political concepts and elites, President Obama’s statement that Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave over Putin’s 37% approval rating among Republicans, and his apparent ability to manipulate elections around the world. “Как вы себя ощущаете“—How do you feel, asked journalist Yevgeny Primakov, Jr., grandson of former Russian prime minister and Putin’s political godfather Yevgeny Primakov, “в кресле самого влиятельного человека мира?“—in the seat of the most powerful man in the world?
Putin noted that Democrats didn’t just lose the Presidency but also elections in the Senate and the House, where Republicans kept their majorities. “Это что, тоже моя работа?”—What, is that also my work? the Russian President asked. (For the record, Democrats gained seats in both chambers.) He said it’s good that there are people like those pro-Putin Republicans who sympathize with our ideas and traditional values, because such sympathy is a pre-requisite for building relations between two such powerful nations. He said distinguished historical figures from the Democratic Party would be turning in their graves to see the current administration dividing the country. Putin Democrats’ divisive calls on Electors not to vote for Trump not only capped their election failure (By the way, said Putin, two Electors bailed on Trump, but four bailed on Clinton) but debased their dignity. Learn to lose with dignity, Putin tells Democrats.
This lesson in dignified losing comes from a president who reduces his chances of losing by creating a political climate in which journalists strangely tend to die when they challenge the government. His parliament has defined “those slandering the individual occupying the post of president of the Russian Federation” as “extremists” and given him the authority to kill such slanderers without trial, an authority he used to poison spy and defector Aleksandr Litvinenko. That’s dignity KGB-style.
We Democrats and Vladimir Putin may define dignity differently. But maybe that’s Putin’s point. Maybe he’s just offering some friendly advice to get tough with our opponents. On that count, I can agree with Putin. I don’t recommend polonium and ice picks, but I agree with Senator McCain that we should investigate Russian hacking. I agree with diplomat and counterterrorism expert Daniel Benjamin that we should investigate financial connections between our President-Elect and Russia.
And I suggest that perhaps on the way out the door, some intrepid member of the Obama Administration should grab a few papers that could answer questions on those topics and drop them off at the Washington Post. That’s how we play the game with dignity, right, President Putin?