Bloggers on Russian President Putin's latest move.

Bloggers on Russian President Putin's latest move.

Bloggers on Russian President Putin's latest move.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Oct. 2 2007 5:29 PM

Putin's End Run

Bloggers mull over Vladimir Putin's latest power grab, parse Rush Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment, and deride Britney Spears' parenting skills.

Putin's end run: President Vladimir Putin is barred from seeking a third consecutive term, but he might have figured out how to stay in power. He announced Monday that he'll lead the United Russia Party in December parliamentary elections and suggested he might become prime minister.

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"In effect, Russia is a dictatorship now, and the cherry on top of that sundae of despair would be if Putin takes over as a Prime Minister," sighs John Hawkins at Right Wing News. "Of course, some people would dispute that and point to the fact that the Russian people are allowed to vote -- but, when one side has absolute control over the press, kills and arrests its political opponents, and uses the full power of the state against its opposition, it's a democracy in name only."

At Perspectives on Russia, Magnus Sätterberg, who worked at the Swedish Embassy in Moscow from 2004-2006, suggests that "the degree" of Putin's power will depend upon the next president: "If the next president will be a strong one, we might see competing centres of power emerging, with Putin leading one faction and the president another. Though such a conflict would probably not be such a lousy option when it comes to improving the democratic environment in Russia, Putin most likely understands this fact and will be eager to avoid it. A weak president, on the other hand, would secure Putin's continuous, unchallenged authority."

Not everyone's chagrined, explainsOpen Democracy's Zygmunt Dzieciolowski: "For the Russia of the chinovniki, Putin's declaration has come as a true relief. The member of this elite want Putin's Russia to continue; as long as he is at the head of the council of ministers and able to control the weak, loyal and disciplined president … any danger of chaos will be averted." Likewise, Nikolas K. Gvosdev from the Washington Realist says, "most of the key 'clan leaders' would prefer to defer to Putin's judgment (and his generally even-handed division of spoils) than risk losing everything should a rival be elevated to supreme power."

Emphasizing Putin's immense popularity, Chekov from Three Thousand Verses offers a non-Western perspective: "it would be wrong to forget that there is little appetite in Russia for any radical new direction. … Although western governments may desire a fresh new start for the Federation and would wish to see the outgoing president exercising as little influence as possible, it is patronising to prescribe such an outcome for a Russian population who to not share these aspirations."

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Read more about Putin's surprise announcement. In Slate, Anne Applebaum writes that Putin's move is a neat trick, and Fred Kaplan suggests that it "all goes back to Yeltsin—or, actually, to Peter the Great, Czar Alexander II, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev."

Everybody's a phony:Media Matters, anti-war veterans, and Harry Reid are up in arms over comments Rush Limbaugh made on his Sept. 26 show regarding "phony soldiers." (Read the transcript.) The liberal watchdog site says Limbaugh was taking aim at service members who support a withdrawal, and Harry Reid is urging his colleagues in the Senate to sign a letter of condemnation. Limbaugh says he was talking about impostors like Jesse Macbeth.

Liberal Matthew Yglesias writes: "One wonders if he's literally doubting the existence of such people, and thus proving himself to be an idiot, or metaphorically doubting their authenticity as soldiers, thus proving himself to be morally contemptible. Both are, obviously, plausible end-states for Rush." James Joyner from Outside the Beltway answers that "it's the former. Limbaugh is no idiot but one of his favorite rhetorical devices is defining a group in a very narrow way and then claiming anyone who doesn't fit that definition but nonetheless identifies himself that way is either a liar, a plant, misguided, or the like."

Over at the Huffington Post, Jane Hamsher argues that Limbaugh should be taken off Armed Forces Radio, but also: "I really don't know which is more exasperating -- that our Senators think it is their job to tell people at large how they should exercise their right to free speech, or that they fire back at Limbaugh in such a weak and meaningless way."

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Conservative Michelle Malkin conjectures that the "phony fiasco" is really "about the MoveOn.org Democrats trying to save face in the aftermath of the disastrous 'General Betray Us' smear." John from Verum Serum agrees: "This entire "phone soldiers" controversy is phony. There is no there there."

Moderate Ann Althouse is "disgusted with the use of Congress for political posturing." And righty Bryan at Hot Air says the left wing response is plain "childish": "Harry Reid ought to apologize for his own career before demanding apologies of anyone else."

Read more about the "phony soldiers" flap.

Oops, I lost my kids: Britney Spears lost custody of her two children, Sean Preston and Jayden James, "because she did not comply with previous orders made by the court," her lawyer says.

"What is the complete opposite of shocking? Because that's what this is," quipsThe Superficial. "The biggest surprise here is that Kevin Federline is getting the kids. I figured the judge would've come to his senses and awarded custody to a hungry shark. Or this blender I found in the garbage. I guess the jump up in parenting would've been too big a shock for the kids."

"Spears was ordered to meet with a drug counselor -- she didn't do it," points outTMZ. "Spears was ordered to submit to drug testing -- she didn't do it. Spears was ordered to enroll in parenting classes -- didn't do it. Spears was also required to sign the judge's order -- again, she didn't."

Read more about Britney Spears.

Juliet Lapidos is a staff editor at the New York Times.