Putin New Party?

Matthew Yglesias, a friend and colleague, gave Grand New Party a wonderful plug.

His commenters, however, aren’t so stoked. This one is my favorite:

It sounds like this book is basically a 200+ page Mike Huckabee speech written by a couple of Ivy Leaguers with better vocabularies and less wit.


First, I resent the insinuation that I have a better vocabulary than Mike Huckabee. Ross might have a better vocabulary than Huckabee. I learned most of the words in my vocabulary from comic books. I remember my sisters taunting me when I mispronounced the word “genre.” This still happens. And it fills me with shame. Huckabee, in contrast, is a very smooth talker, not to mention a pretty learned fellow, certainly by the standards of elected officials. He is not, however, as articulate and impressive vocabulary-wise as Vladimir Putin, or so Perry Anderson tells us.

Check it out:

But there is another, less obvious side to his charisma. Part of his chilly magnetism is cultural. He is widely admired for his command of the language. Here, too, contrast is everything. Lenin was the last ruler of the country who could speak an educated Russian. Stalin’s Georgian accent was so thick he rarely risked speaking in public. Khrushchev’s vocabulary was crude and his grammar barbaric. Brezhnev could scarcely put two sentences together. Gorbachev spoke with a provincial southern accent. The less said of Yeltsin’s slurred diction the better. To hear a leader of the country capable once again of expressing himself with clarity, accuracy and fluency, in a more or less correct idiom, comes as music to many Russians.

In a strange way Putin’s prestige is thus also intellectual. For all his occasional crudities, at least in his mouth the national tongue is no longer obviously humiliated. This is not just a matter of cases and tenses, or pronunciation. Putin has developed into what by today’s undemanding standards is an articulate politician, who can field questions from viewers on television for hours as confidently and lucidly as he lectures journalists in interviews, or addresses partners at summit meetings, where he has excelled at sardonic repartee. The intelligence is limited and cynical, above the level of his Anglo-American counterparts, but without much greater ambition. It has been enough, however, to give Putin half of his brittle lustre in Russia. There, an apparent union of fist and mind has captured the popular imaginary.

Union of Fist and Mind — I think this should be the name of Spencer Ackerman’s punk rock band.