I can't help it, I want to like Vladimir Putin.
The United States might have a problem with his particular form of democracy, if you can even still call it that, but there's no denying that he restored some much-needed order to Russia after the disastrous free-for-all of Boris Yeltsin.
For one thing, he significantly straightened out the international adoption system so that prospective parents encountered less bribery, and more information in the process.
He used the Russian court system to send Mikhail Khordokovsky to prison for opposing him politically. That particular celebrity show trial was going on when we were there to get Pumpkin. After six years in Siberia, they brought him back to face new charges designed to keep him out of the political arena.
Putin has, shall we say, streamlined elections so that citizens now vote for a whole slate of "approved candidates."
But he is rumored to have a single personal photograph on his desk - that of himself taken with children from a St. Petersburg orphange.
He is said to remain the real power behind current President Dmitry Medvedev.
He has Teddy Roosevelt-like enthusiams for athletics, and is frequently photographed bare-chested or on horseback, sometimes both.
And then there's stuff like this:
<iframe src="http://widget.newsinc.com/single.htm?WID=2&VID=23250510&freewheel=69016&sitesection=ndnsubss" height="320" width="425" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0"></iframe>
On the one hand, an iron-fisted Bond villain, on the other, a candidate for "most interesting man in the world.