Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California arm-wrestled Vladimir Putin back in the early 1990s, and it didn't go well. Rohrabacher told the story while speaking with 89.3 KPCC radio in California Thursday.
"Oh, it was about 1990 or 1991, and communism had just fallen and the Soviet Union no longer existed, now it was Russia. A group of young political leaders came into my office and they wanted to meet me because I had been a Reagan speechwriter," Rohrabacher said. "Well I talked to them and I said, 'I'm spending the weekend here — do any of you want to play some American football with me and my buddies?' Three of them said, 'Yeah, sure.' I come to find out later that was Putin. He was the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, that's all we knew. But he did have a huge bodyguard, so maybe that sort of gave a little hint he's more important than just St. Petersburg."
Rohrabacher went on to say he and "a bunch of my right-wing friends," including Scooter Libby, future chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney, played Putin and some of his Russian counterparts in a game of football. Rohrabacher said the teams were mixed between the Russians and Americans.
After the game, Rohrabacher took Putin to the Irish Times Pub, where he said that after a little bit too much to drink they started arguing about who won the Cold War.
"We all ended up going to the Irish Times Pub afterwards, and we were having a little bit too much to drink, I guess," Rohrabacher said. "Anyway, we started arguing about who won the Cold War, etc. And so we decided to settle it like men do when they've had a little bit too much to drink at the pub. So we got down to these arm-wrestling matches and I ended up being paired off with Putin — and he's a little guy, but boy, I'll tell ya: He put me down in a millisecond. He is tough, his muscles are just unbelievable. And then his bodyguard gets up and this buddy of mine and says, 'Oh, I'll take him.' And my friend put his bodyguard down so it was good."
Rohrabacher concluded Putin's "tough guy" demeanor wasn't a reason the United States shouldn't engage him on Syria.
"Ya know, he's a tough guy. He's supposed to be a tough guy. That's what the Russian people want, but that's no reason we shouldn't try to work with him."
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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