Putin, Trump and America's Europeanized politics

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• Putin, Trump and America’s Europeanized politics
• Graham out
• 2016 GOP Power Index: Jeb again?
• Power Play: Hillary’s hole card
• Always signal before executing your turn

So how did America end up with the Republican frontrunner defending the authoritarian ruler of Russia?

The ruthless Vladimir Putin, like his predecessor Josef Stalin, may be a useful ally against an even greater evil, but a “highly respected” leader? Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

But Donald Trump’s admiration for and defense of Putin isn’t wacky or ill-informed. It is evidence of how American politics is becoming increasingly European in nature.

Trump often sounds like European “far-right” leaders with his focus restoring nationalistic vigor and the dangers of foreign migrants. But never more so than with his recent Putin praise. That’s a longstanding trait of Europe’s increasingly powerful far right parties. They admire Putin. He helps them disrupt the political order in their home countries. And that helps him gain the upper hand in his effort to make Russia the world’s dominant power.

That’s not to say that the admiration isn’t sincere. The European nationalists and Trump admire Putin’s strength, his explicit targeting of Islamism and his championing of traditional values.

And it is all made possible by the failure of the European system. And never has it looked so obviously failed as of late. Aside from decades of economic stagnation and bureaucratic paralysis, the European Union is now forcing unwilling citizens to accept the arrival of millions of Syrian refugees.

“Far right” can be confusing for Americans. It’s not in the traditional American understanding of the left/liberal-right/conservative political spectrum. The European right tends to be fiscally liberal and in favor of activist government. Its defining issues have been about national sovereignty and immigration, which are issues about which American conservatives care, but formerly, many liberals did too.

The idea of the American system in which there is basically a government party and an anti-government party seems just as odd to Europeans as the idea of a big-government right is to most Americans.

But this is what happens to failing systems. And the Republican/Democrat duopoly has failed for sure.

A secure border and functioning internal immigration controls are popular with voters of both parties. But to satisfy open-borders hardliners and to maintain the issue as a way to drive deeper the wedge between Hispanics and Republicans, Democrats have refused to act. Even to enforce existing laws. Even in the era of metastasizing Islamist militancy.

Republicans, meanwhile, know that if they were to help President Obama to pass the tax overhaul he has long sought, it would be a boon to the economy and help kick off a period of economic growth. GOP leaders say they don’t trust Obama enough to make a deal, but the truth is that it’s that their voters who don’t trust them. Any Republican caught negotiating with Obama on anything of substance would face total rebellion.

In this fashion, America is evolving something more like a parliamentary system in which policy advances only occur when one party has total control of both governing branches. The problem is made worse here by the fact that those moments are harder to come by in a system of divided government. And when the tumblers all align, as they did in 2008, parties jam and cram through all of the measures their most ardent constituencies demand.

The result is gridlock occasional punctuated by ideological veering and lurching and an increasingly frustrated electorate. No segment – left, right or center – gets what it wants and people increasingly lose faith in the system and its institutions. And that’s the time when politicians like Trump can find purchase.

If the current dysfunction becomes the norm for America, Trump will be just the first of many, increasingly successful candidates of the European mold.

NYT: “Senator Lindsey Graham suspended his presidential campaign on Monday, saying that he has concluded “this is not my time” despite making a difference in the race. The South Carolina Republican made the comments in a YouTube video. ‘Since launching my campaign for president on June 1, I have offered a path to saving the American dream and working together on bold solutions to solve big problems,’ said Mr. Graham, one of the most hawkish foreign policy voices in the race who has nonetheless been stuck in the low single digits in polls.”

It’s bad to be without a clear path to the nomination. But, as a political saying goes, it can be “liberating.” Like his stablemate John Kasich, Jeb Bush is devoting himself almost exclusively to hammering away at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

Hitting the guy at the top of the polls has always been a good way for back-of-the-pack candidates to get attention. While that’s true this time, there’s the added motivation that Bush and others believe that if Trump is toppled, the race will be wholly remade. The last shall be made first, etc.

Bush is succeeding with the former. By talking about Trump, Trump, Trump, Bush has gotten a boost in coverage from a Trumpcentric political press. And, Bush has seemed relieved to finally be able to say that he thinks Trump is “a jerk.”

But will this help Bush more or Trump more? Given the fact that so few are willing to tackle Trump head-on and that Power Index frontrunner Ted Cruz is Trump’s ablest enabler, Bush has little choice but to weaponize his candidacy. But at the same time, Bush is one of the least popular figures in his party and has always made the best foil for Trump.

In the long run, a Bush resurgence most likely helps Trump. But in the short term, Bush is playing the card he has left. And given the devastating efficiency in which Cruz and Rubio are slashing each other to ribbons right now, every other non-Trump has a bit more reason to hope that the front of the pack might crack open.

1) Ted Cruz; 2) Marco Rubio; 3) Donald Trump; 4) Jeb Bush [+1]; 5) Carly Fiorina [-1]; 6) Chris Christie

On the radar - Ben Carson
, John Kasich, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee

[Watch Fox: Chris Stirewalt joins “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson” in the 2 p.m. ET hour with the latest on who’s up and who’s down in the 2016 Power Index.]

What would you say? - Give us your take on the 2016 Power Index. We will share the best and brightest with the whole class. Send your thoughts to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM

[Jeb Bush is out with a new Web video today that tags Trump the chaos candidate and takes a swipe at Cruz, Rubio and Christie for being timid when it comes to the Republican frontrunner. The video uses a series of news clips to tout Bush as the only candidate willing to take Trump on.]

Though the premier of the film “The Graduate” 48 years ago today made a household name of young actor Dustin Hoffman, and sold millions of copies of “Mrs. Robinson” for the duo of Simon and Garfunkel, it was not so commercially kind to another star of the picture. History.com: “The movie also made a star out of Benjamin Braddock’s graduation present: a bright-red Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider. Alfa Romeo had been making racecars for decades…But the 1967 Duetto Spider, a two-seat convertible roadster, was a real beauty: It had a sharp nose and a rounded, tapered rear end, glass-covered headlights, and what designers called a ‘classic scallop’ running down the side. It handled well, could go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 10 seconds, and got 23 miles per gallon of gas. Though the Duetto Spider was a great car and a pop-culture icon, Americans still weren’t interested in buying it. The model—with new names like the Spider Veloce, the Quadrifoglio and even the Graduate—stayed on the market until 1994, without much sales success.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Republican Nomination 
– Trump 34.4 percent; Cruz 17.1 percent; Rubio 12.3 percent; Carson 10 percent
General ElectionClinton vs. Trump – Clinton +6.6 points
Generic Congressional Vote – Republicans +0.7

For Hillary Clinton, her current general-election strategy is so simple it can be summed up in just two words: Donald Trump. Even if she’s not lucky enough to draw him in a head-to-head matchup, Clinton will work to make her opponent little more than Trump-lite. That’s what Justin Barasky of the Clinton-backing powerhouse super PAC Priorities USA sees ahead once she’s head to head with the Republican nominee, whoever it may be. In the latest edition of Power Play, Barasky tells Chris Stirewalt that Republicans are “painting themselves” as Trump-like and the result will be terrifying to key groups of the Obama coalition that Clinton is looking to reconstitute and ride to the White House. WATCH HERE.

Tale of the tape - David Drucker says Dems aren’t scared of Trump and the data backs them up: “In the latest Fox News poll, conducted Wednesday and Thursday, Clinton was losing to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, 45 percent to 43 percent, and was tied with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, at 45 percent each. But she beat Trump like a drum, 49 percent to 38 percent, and came close to the important 50 percent mark…

“Clinton beat Trump among women by 26 points and only trailed him by 5 points among men. She beat him among voters with college degrees and without; she demolished him with black voters and was only 5 points behind in the battle for whites. Clinton trailed Trump by a single point among independents. But she picked up 15 percent of Republicans, holding Trump to just 72 percent among voters in his own party.”

Clinton campaign fudges Trump in ISIS videos claim - Yahoo: “Hillary Clinton’s communications director defended her candidate’s claim that ISIS is using videos of Donald Trump to recruit members, but could not point to specific evidence of this happening… ‘She’s not referring to a specific video, but he is being used in social media by ISIS as propaganda,’ [Jennifer Palmieri told ABC News.]”

Debate not all roses for Hillary - Fox New contributor Doug Schoen called Saturday’s Democratic debate “Hillary’s night” but also pointed to Clinton’s vulnerability on foreign policy: “Martin O’Malley] noted how Ambassador Chris Stevens was not provided the proper support and tools to help Libya transition into a thriving democracy – a clear reminder of his untimely death. No doubt this foreshadows what will be in all likelihood a major line of attack from the Republicans and stands to really hurt her going forward.”

Obama blames media for stoking ISIS fears - The Hill: “President Obama said in an [NPR] interview broadcast early Monday that he understands why Americans are worried about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), adding that it is important ‘to keep things in perspective.’ Obama blamed the media in part, for fears, saying that in the past month, ‘all you have been seeing, all you have been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you.’”

The Telegraph: “The government in the Netherlands has clarified that it is legal for driving instructors to offer lessons in return for sex, as long as the students are over the age of 18. However, it is illegal to offer sex in return for lessons. Transport minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen and Justice minister Ard van der Steur addressed the issue in response to a question tabled in parliament by Gert-Jan Segers of the socially conservative Christian Union party, noting that, although 'undesirable', offering driving lessons with sex as payment is not illegal. In a letter to parliament the ministers said: ‘It’s not about offering sexual activities for remuneration, but offering a driving lesson. It is important that the initiative lies with the driving instructor, and focuses on offering a driving lesson, with the payment provided in sexual acts. When a sexual act offered in lieu of financial payment, that is prostitution.’”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.