Sunday, March 09, 2014
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion
The Republicans and their captive media are saying a great many things about the Russian incursion into Ukraine, but there’s one thread that runs through it all: It’s not Vladimir Putin’s fault, it’s all Barack Obama’s.
For example, some commentators, such as The Washington Post’s Mark Thiessen and Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin, claim that President Obama’s “weakness” in Syria somehow “emboldened” Putin to invade Ukraine.
Oh, really? What weakness was that? The weakness where, under threat of U.S. bombing, the Assad regime caved and agreed to dismantle its chemical weapons stockpile?
Or maybe they think it was “weakness” not to defy the will of the American people and put American boots on the ground in a complicated, many-sided religious-based conflict which would have us fighting alongside elements of al-Qaida. That would have been insane recklessness and wrong-headed adventurism that would make the Iraq debacle look like the pinnacle of strategic brilliance, but it wouldn’t look weak.
According to a story in The Washington Post, Sen. John McCain called the Russian aggression “the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in America’s strength anymore,” even as he admitted that the U.S. “does not have a realistic military option to force Russian troops to withdraw.”
In another forum, McCain suggested sanctions on Russia, which the administration is considering. How much you want to bet if they do what McCain suggests, he’ll still call them weak?
At least the folks at Fox News had a more measured response. “Even if [the president] wanted to help … we simply don’t have the ground forces to do it,” said Bill O’Reilly. “And confronting the Russians in the air would lead to major hostilities that the USA cannot afford right now.”
Frequent Foxista Charles Krauthammer agreed: “Well, obviously it’s beyond our control. The Russians are advancing. There is nothing that will stop them. We are not going to go to war.”
Oh, wait, my mistake. Those quotes from Fox were from 2008, when the Russians invaded another neighbor, Georgia. You know, back when we had a president of Fox’s preferred party, a president who claimed to have “looked into Putin’s soul,” a president who still bears no blame for anything he did in the minds of the right.
Now, when “that one” is in the White House, we have Steve Doocy saying that the president “hasn’t done much” to solve the situation, and Bill O’Reilly claiming that the crisis occurred because Obama has “lost moral authority.”
Meanwhile, the Fox Nation website put up a page of video of Putin doing, as they described it, “macho things,” including the inevitable horseback riding with his shirt off. Frankly, the only thing creepier that Putin’s constantly releasing videos of his shirtless self is the right’s panting obsession with his “manliness.”
Perhaps the purest expression of the right wing’s attitude was capsulized by Mister 9/11 himself, Rudy Giuliani. Speaking to Fox’s Neil Cavuto, Rudy revealed that what he really admires and wants in an executive is ruthless dictatorial strong-arming:
“Putin decides what he wants to do and he does it in half a day, right? He decided he had to go to their parliament. He went to their parliament. He got permission in 15 minutes. He makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. Then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader. President Obama, he’s got to think about it. He’s got to go over it again. He’s got to talk to more people about it.”
There you have it, folks. To the right, Obama’s problem is that he’s not more like the dictator Vladimir Putin. Of course, when the president does do something, they scream that he’s worse than Hitler.
I’ve been critical in these pages of President Obama’s foreign policy, but I can tell you this, without reservation: I am so glad right now that he’s president and that John McCain and Rudy Giuliani aren’t.
John Kerry’s gone to Kiev and other capitals to show our support for the current Ukraine government and drum up more, our NATO allies are meeting to discuss how to deal with the crisis, the G7’s suspending preparations for the planned G8 summit in Sochi. And all the while, the president works with our international partners to create further steps to isolate Russia as punishment for its aggression.
Meanwhile, the saber-rattlers claim not to want military action, but criticize every option short of it as puny and weak — even options they themselves have suggested.
As Barney Frank once said, in a saying that should be the slogan of the Democratic Party, “We’re not perfect, but they’re nuts.”