Volodymyr Zelensky—comic actor, Ukrainian president, defiant hero facing down Vladimir Putin‘s army.
Yet while widely praised at home, his emergence as a war leader has had an unplanned effect: uniting a divided America.
In recent days, politicians on Capitol Hill and cable TV hosts from either side of the divide, have come together to praise his leadership.
Zelensky is a “bigger man” than Putin, said GOP Senator Ben Sasse said on Sunday.NEWSWEEK NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP >
A “lion of a leader,” is how Texas Republican Rep. August Pfluger described Zelensky in an op-ed for USA Today that same day. “Bold courage in the face of evil,” he called it.
“Incredible bravery,” Democrat congressman Adam Schiff said of Zelensky.
Amy Klobuchar, a former 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, shared Zelensky’s self-shot video from Kyiv last week, in which he vowed to to stay and defend the capital against the Russian invasion.
The praise of Zelensky has even emerged from figures who have supported Putin.
Former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly praised the Russian leader, called Zelensky a “brave man” during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday.
“It’s clear that the Russian people and the Ukrainian people both just want to live in peace so I implore you end this assault now before it gets to the point of no return and the suffering becomes unimaginable,” she said.
In a rare sign of U.S. partisanship, lawmakers from both sides also expressed support for imposing tougher sanctions on Putin as Zelensky’s public image increased.
In recent days, GOP Senator Lindsay Graham and Schiff called for Russia to be removed from SWIFT—the network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world—in order to financially target Russia for invading Ukraine.
“When it comes to sanctions against Putin — If we are NOT doing everything possible, we are NOT doing enough,” Graham tweeted. “Time is NOT on our side.”
What’s even more remarkable about Volodymyr Zelensky is that he has not only garnered bipartisan support in Washington, but has also has cable news channels as ideologically opposed as MSNBC and Fox News praising his heroism.
Having originally downplayed the seriousness of the “border dispute,” Carlson has since blamed the “tragedy” of the war on Putin.
“Vladimir Putin started this war, so whatever the context of the decision that he made, he did it,” Carlson said on Thursday. “He fired the first shots.”
Red or Blue? No matter. Everyone is seemingly in Zelensky’s corner.
He was elected in 2019 with an astonishing 73 percent of a democratic vote, but in the last 12 months was increasingly viewed as out of his depth on the political stage.
War leader Zelensky has changed all that. His defiant social media videos and determination to remain in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv has won him old and new fans.
One such video, in which Zelensky turns down an offer from the United States to be evacuated out of Kyiv because “I need ammunition, not a ride,” has since been viewed more than 18 million times on Twitter.