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We (meaning the United States and the free Western World) did not make Vladimir Putin evil. He more than took care of that on his own.

But, for now more than two decades, we have been naïve enablers. We so desperately have wanted him to be “a man we can do business with,” that we have projected onto him the Western qualities we embrace. We essentially tried to invent Putin in our own image, according to our own preferred fantasies, much as current American evangelicals have done with the historical Jesus.

No, I did not just compare Putin with Jesus. I said the distortions are similar. And similarly motivated.

Putin has always been a KGB Soviet. He has always been a murderer.

But, no, we told ourselves. This is a new Russia. Putin is a new type of Russian leader. He’s a pragmatist. He’s a businessman. Russia is no longer a global threat or bad actor, in part because its international significance has been greatly reduced, but also because Putin has become a Westerner. That’s a nice suit, bud. And that shirt and tie make your eyes pop.

We embraced a new generation of Russian citizens who appeared to want to be like us, right down to our clothes, gadgets and music. Not only are we no longer blood enemies, we are friends, at times approaching allies. We were not wrong about the Russian people. But we were dead wrong about Putin.

And all we had to do was look up into the night sky at the ISS to reinforce our naivete and projections.

He’s “us.” Or at least he’s getting there.

And so we turned a permanently blind eye. “He wouldn’t do that,” we told ourselves. And then he did it, whatever it was. Rinse and repeat for 22 years.

As I write, it was just 15 days ago that our defeated former president called Putin a “genius,” and a “peacekeeper,” and openly called for the United States to operate more like Russia under Putin.

Fifteen days ago. That’s not exactly ancient history.

And here we are.

We did not make Vladimir Putin evil.

But we are complicit.

Can anything good come of this?

Yes, if like The Who we decide “We won’t get fooled again.”

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Paul's Bio

I clearly have the attention span of your median fruit fly.Look! Airplane!

Sorry. I’m back.

It’s both a curse and a blessing. I’ve never bought this stuff about, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But I do think that a wide range of life experiences helps us grow as people, and helps us better relate to other people. I’ve been fortunate. And I am beyond grateful.

I show up on time. I go like hell. I’m a good listener. I hold myself accountable. I own my mistakes. And I have a natural and an insatiable curiosity. I’m never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t. But then I try to find out.

The flip side is I’m a lousy ballroom dancer and my clothes sometimes fit me funny.

Stuff matters to me. I care. But while I take that stuff seriously, I try hard to never take myself seriously. As a result, I have sometimes been told, “Paul, it’s hard to tell when you’re serious and when you’re just having some fun. Which is it? Serious or fun?”

My answer is “yes.” But I think that is a legitimate criticism. I promise I’m going to work on that.

This has been the quickest and strangest half-century I’ve ever experienced. During that period, I’ve been afforded amazing opportunities in news and sports journalism across all platforms. I have taught wonderful students at the high school and collegiate level. Always, I learned more from them than they did from me. I’ve been a high school administrator. I spent ten seasons as a high school varsity football coach. I’ve been an advertising executive. I’ve hosted nationally syndicated television entertainment shows. In maybe the biggest honor I ever received, I was selected by NASA to be “Chet The Astronaut” for the “Land The Shuttle” simulator at Space Center Houston. (All I can say there, is “Do as I say, not as I do.” I put that thing in the Everglades more often than not.) Most recently, I just wrapped up a decade as a television news director, during which time our teams distinguished themselves in holding the powerful accountable, achieving both critical and ratings success.

What does all that mean? It means I am profoundly grateful. It also means I’m ready for “next.” So here we are. Radically Rational. It’s an idea I woke up with in 2017. I scribbled “Radically Rational” on a piece of notebook paper and used a magnet to stick it on our refrigerator. I saw it every day, and it just would not leave me alone.

I am second in charge at Radically Rational, LLC. My wife, Jo (also known as BB), is the president. Clearly, I have failed in my attempt to sleep my way to the top of this organization.

I hope you will learn that I’m loyal as a Labrador. But I will admit that this doggie can bite every now and then. My promise to you? I will show up on time. I will go like hell. I will listen to you earnestly and attentively. I will hold myself accountable. I will never be the least bit hesitant to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t.

But then I’ll try to find out. Let’s do it.