So much Putin envy exists in conservative circles, you’d think Russia was the world’s leading superpower and that its economy was expanding rather than contracting.

We are told that Putin kicks Obama, Putin told Obama to kiss his ass, Putin clocked Obama, and that Obama is afraid of Putin. The bloggers really like sharing memes about how tough Putin looks without his shirt on. It brings to mind kind of an exaggerated version of Bush’s so-called “Texas cowboy” image that was much maligned in Europe but which conservatives liked.

Whatever one thinks of the “tough guy” swagger, though, it doesn’t help lift one’s economy out of the dumps. Russians can’t eat shirtless Putin pictures. And Putin is expanding a lot of military and political capital to get his foreign policy goals accomplished–goals which don’t directly pose large threats to America.

The rest of the world doesn’t like Putin any more than they liked Bush, either, for whatever international approval ratings are worth:

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