SIMI VALLEY, CA - Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence defended running mate Donald Trump’s assertion that Vladimir Putin was a stronger leader than President Obama on Thursday.
“I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Pence told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview.
“Barack Obama has a true democracy here with the Congress that pushes back because there’s checks and balances. Vladimir Putin doesn’t have that,” Bash said immediately pushing back. “That’s exactly right,” Pence acknowledged adding, “And Donald Trump said last night, he doesn’t particularly like the system.”
Trump made the claim that Putin had “been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader,” at a security forum sponsored by NBC on Wednesday featuring both presidential candidates. The Republican nominee did however state that Russia had a “very different system” and that he didn’t “like the system.”
Later Trump stated about Putin, “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan condemned Putin when asked at a Thursday press conference on Capitol Hill about Trump’s comments.
“Vladimir Putin is an aggressor that does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin is violating the sovereignty of neighboring countries. It certainly appears that he is conducting state sponsored cyber-attacks on what appears to be our political system. That is not acting in our interest and that is an adversarial stance and he is acting like an adversary,” Ryan said.
When pressed about Trump in particular, the Speaker deflected: “I made my points about Putin right there let’s leave it at that.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was happy to take a shot at Trump over the comment. “What would Ronald Reagan say about a Republican nominee who attacks America’s generals and heaps praise on Russia’s president?” she said during a campaign event.
The Indiana Governor was at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California on Thursday delivering a speech making the case that there are “fundamental similarities” between Trump and the 40th President. It was at times emotional for Pence who before making the speech laid a wreath at the gravesite of President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan.
“He was referred to as a simpleton by some. They said he was a little more than a celebrity and an entertainer who entered politics late in life. Sound familiar?” he said drawing a parallel between Trump and Reagan.
Clearly alluding to Republican criticism of Trump, Pence went on, “Reagan even made some inside the Republican party uneasy. His rhetoric sounded too strident, too unrefined and they warned of it.”