Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Vlad?

Donald Trump has something else to crow about. Forbes’ annual list of “The World’s Most Powerful People” is out and he’s at #2, skyrocketed up from a distant #72 last year.


Embattled French President Francois Hollande, on the other hand, is on the skids at #23, down from #16 last year. But that’s not as much of a tumble as Barack Obama, who now treads water at #48, down from #3 in 2015. (Hillary Clinton isn’t even on this year’s list.)

But speaking of the rich and powerful, Trump Tower must have been levitating Wednesday morning when the president-elect met with a group of tech grandees. Seven of them were on the new Forbes list — event organizer Peter Thiel of PayPal (#73), IBM’s Ginni Rometty (#61), Apple CEO Tim Cook (#32), Google co-founder and now Alphabet President Sergey Brin (#30), Tesla rocket man Elon Musk (#30), Amazonian Jeff Bezos (#14) and Brin’s Alphabet brother Larry Page (#8) who, Forbes informs us, is worth $39.5 billion, or roughly ten times what The Donald is worth. That’s what you get when you invent the search engine. Bezos is worth even more. That’s what you get when you own the world’s biggest store.

Oh, and, of course, Mike Pence — who makes his debut at #69.

But, as with all such lists, there is a #1, a most-powerful-person-in-the-world and that is, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, for the fourth year running, Vladimir Putin.


In other words, the boogieman rules.

Or is he the boogieman? He’s not a nice guy, surely, and has done some really bad things, but I doubt he’s quite as ruthless as ISIS’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is ensconced at a so-so #57 just one below Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, also not an especially nice fellow. Being a villain, as most actors know, gets you noticed.

But all this leads to the question — just how bad is Vlad really?

Well, pretty bad, even if he is sometimes good for his own people and a patriotic Russian. Just stay on his right side. And if you don’t, by all means stay clear of sushi bars.  And if you’re just some poor innocent citizen, stay clear of just about everything else.  Watching the footage of Aleppo tonight, being laid waste by Putin’s client Assad, your stomach turns.  I don’t know if it’s genocide, but it’s close.

On the other hand, the current president of the United States didn’t do much to stop it, did he? On the contrary, he encouraged the carnage with his own cowardice, walking back on his “red line”and allowing Putin’s air force to do whatever the Russian president wanted. Put simply — Putin is despicable and Obama is a despicable coward. The former may be worse, but the latter ain’t great.


Time for a change — and we’ve got one! (Look for Obama to be off the list next year too.)

Trump’s choice for secretary of State, Rex Tillerson (currently #24 on the power list — with a bullet, if they had one) is now the man in the eye of the Putin hurricane. The Exxon CEO is being criticized for making deals with Putin and receiving a prize from him. I don’t buy it. It was Tillerson’s job to make those deals, even to oppose sanctions. And those kinds of prizes (who ever heard of this one?) are trivial to most grown-ups, unless they’re movie actors.

To believe those things would affect Tillerson as secretary, you have to believe he is an idiot or a liar.  It’s obvious he’s not the former and I certainly hope he’s not the latter. It as easily could be argued that this deal-making experience is just the background needed to negotiate with Putin.  Tillerson could be just the man to keep the Russian tiger in his cage. We don’t know yet.

But that doesn’t stop the critics who are constantly salivating for ways to wound Trump before he has even been inaugurated. This is oh-so-predictable behavior from the media and liberal (is that the right word — maybe these folks she reread John Locke) politicians, but when members of Trump’s own party come after Tillerson before the hearings, you have to wonder. Lindsey Graham and John McCain are one thing but…


Et tu, Marco Rubio? How do you know how Tillerson really feels abut Putin? Can you read minds? Why not until you hear him testify?

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.  His latest book is I Know Best:  How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If  It Hasn’t Already.


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