As Crimea Smolders, Rightbloggers Try to Get Their Neo-con Game Going Again
From the med schools in Grenada to the deserts of Iraq, once upon a time conservatives were eager to invade foreign countries. But as you may have noticed, in recent years they've affected a more dovish approach to foreign policy; claiming to be repulsed by the reckless foreign adventurism of the Obama Administration, they have denounced his mideast incursions. Even the killing of Osama Bin Laden they treated as slightly de trop.
This changed in a hurry when Putin began operating in Crimea. Suddenly rightbloggers declared that Obama hadn't been aggressive enough.
Now that Crimea's officially part of Russia and the diplomatic wars are heating up, the brethren still don't have any solutions, except maybe voting in Republicans for their famous foreign-policy expertise.
The Russian occupation of Crimea, heretofore part of Ukraine, proceeded to a quickie plebiscite with a large majority of Crimeans allegedly voting to welcome Mother Russia's embrace. The U.S. reacted with limited sanctions, which the Russians appeared not to take seriously; but as more sanctions came in from the U.S. and elsewhere, the Russian economy appeared to react and Russia retaliated with sanctions of its own.
Rightbloggers regarded this international chess match as a pissing contest. Making fun of Obama for not kicking Putin's ass has become as familiar a rightblogger theme as "under the bus" and Obama's teleprompter. Some of them have gotten a little creative about it, or crazy, depending on your perspective.
"Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis?" headlined Jim Campbell, "Citizen Journalist, Oath Keeper and Patriot" at Dancing Czars. "Putin knows Obama is a wimp and has placed missiles in Venezuela." Campbell linked to a story that was about missiles Venezuela had bought from Russia, an unremarkable event in the global arms bazaar that has emerged since the Cold War, but never mind -- for propaganda purposes it's 1962 all over again. "When President JFK spoke all parties involved paid attention," said Campbell. "Unlike Obama Kennedy was taken very seriously as the world knew his words meant something and the entire world including Putin laughs at Obama." The rest of his analysis was similarly trenchant.
A few of the brethren tried to blame Crimea on the Obama's collaborators, the international Green movement. "Putin was changing the map while Europe was saving the climate," declared Liz Peek of the Fiscal Times. "Instead of reducing their dependence on gas from Ukraine and Russia, the leaders of Western Europe have chosen to combat climate change. Instead of investing in secure energy, the EU has invested in green energy, driving up energy costs, reducing competitiveness, and allowing Putin to remain in the driver's seat." Green on the outside, red on the inside! Maybe now people will wise up and start burning more oil.
But it's the American President they really want to pin this on, in terms that might be advantageous in the coming elections. True, voters in this lousy economy are not likely to be very interested in foreign affairs. But rightbloggers appear to think if the stakes are portrayed in sufficiently cartoonish terms -- as they were back in the run-up to the Iraq War -- citizens might be scared into a positive reaction.
For example, some tried to imply that by not playing tougher with Vladimir Putin, Obama was endangering the nation, indeed the world. You may recall that last November, when Obama cut a six-month deal with Iran -- which country rightbloggers once kept on their Axis-of-Evil checklists, and which is still considered by many of them to be The One That Got Away -- the brethren just couldn't stop calling him Neville Chamberlain. Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, this usage has made a comeback.
"Barack Obama's position is not enviable, nor was Neville Chamberlain's in the fall of 1938," term-papered Daniel Berman at A Less Realist Approach. "OBAMA DESERVES A 'NEVILLE' AWARD," cried Burt Prelutsky at WorldNetDaily. "Neville Obama could not be reached for comment... If Neville Chamberlain had a son, he would look like Barack Obama," obsessed Don Surber.
"Based on the Obama Administration's unerringly consistent fecklessness in foreign policy combined with its attempts to diminish American military power by dramatically cutting military budgets... I submit that Barack Obama is America's own version of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain," said Some Guy with something to prove about his history education at Richochet. "When a Niccolò Machiavelli challenges a Neville Chamberlain, not only will the Chamberlains not win, but death and destruction will follow," said Michael Rubin at Commentary, ditto.
Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas tried a variation by comparing George W. Bush (who had seen Putin's soul in his eyes, or was it the other way around?) to Chamberlain instead. But Thomas did go on to say Obama was turning America into "a humiliation nation" and "the laughingstock of the world's dictators" by not doing something butch about Russia. "When I hear President Obama threatening to impose consequences on Vladimir Putin et al., or imposing them, as he did today," said Power Line's Scott Johnson, "I think: 'The 1930s are now calling to ask for their piece of paper back.'" Johnson then explained, "Neville Chamberlain waved it upon his return to London from Munich in 1938," in case some of his regular readers hadn't been trained to recognize the reference yet.
Chamberlain "tried to buy 'peace in our time,'" Eugene Erlander informed OpEdNews readers. "...that approach did not work then--and it will not work now..." "Vladimir Putin is on the march," intoned the New York Post's Michael Goodwin, "and there's no telling how far he'll go if he's allowed to gobble up Crimea without paying a serious price. That is the lesson of Munich, the infamous agreement in 1938 when Britain's Neville Chamberlain" blah blah etc.
At National Review Victor Davis Hanson took the palm by republishing an old Hitler speech and substituting "Russians" for Germans, "Austrians" for "Crimea" etc. Any day now Putin should annex the Sudetenland or its equivalent; then Japan or its equivalent will bomb Pearl Harbor or its equivalent. We better not have some wimpy Democrat in office when that happens.
If historical allusions were too difficult for them, the brethren just went with butchitude: The Crimea crisis proved Obama wasn't tough enough to do, well, anything.
At the Washington Times, Robert Charles sneered at "Mr. Obama's Bambi-eyed blink at Mr. Putin," and lectured the President, "Strength alone secures peace." "Obama practicing diplomacy is like a eunuch in a harem," said Richard J. "Sarge" Garwood at the Canada Free Press; warming to his theme, Garwood continued, "...it's like being head eunuch guarding the harem... Obama is the eunuch in the United Nations harem," etc. "Obama swings small stick against Russia," headlined Presidential heckler Neil Munro of the The Daily Caller.
Massaging his nipples, Joseph Klein of FrontPageMag said Obama was "acting like a shrinking violet while Putin struts his stuff on the world stage." Also, while Obama employs "the weakest of sanctions" and "shies away from muscular diplomacy," Putin "addresses his countrymen in fiery language meant to instill hyper patriotism and explains his rationales for his actions in terms that Russians and Russian-speaking people in Crimea can understand and relate to" -- just like a U.S. President should, except with "American" in place of "Russian." But "rather than speak to the American people in a prime time address from the Oval Office," continued Klein, Obama "plays golf and shops at The Gap." It's clear who's the top in that relationship!
Fox News' Jenna Lee made a similar unflattering comparison of Obama's rhetorical style to Putin's. "It's interesting to see the contrast in leadership," she told the Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger on "Happening Now," per AATTP. "Vladimir Putin with a speech this week talking about Russian nationalism and humiliation, he had people openly weeping in the crowd and I don't remember a time that any of us have been moved to weep based on a speech about America." Well, there's still time to get Putin on the ballot in Iowa.
"Putin isn't my hero, although I have heard some say that they're 'rootin' for Putin,'" said TownHall's John Ransom. "...But it does say quite a bit about the low level of testosterone emanating from the administration -- now that Hillary is gone -- that people recognize that the two-bit former KGB apparatchik knows more about real leadership, then the two-bit, former Nobel prize winning, visiting, adjunct constitutional law professor does." Further down: "Obama should just date Putin and get it over with. There's nothing quite as dangerous as someone who won't just admit that she's in love." Ransom works for TownHall's financial pages; in their political section we assume it's all gay bondage porn at this point.
The odd thing about this -- well, one of the odd things -- is, virtually no rightbloggers have called for war, or even a true war footing, but they seem to agree that Obama not doing those things -- or at least not doing whatever he does belligerently enough -- is the problem.
"President Obama declared today that the U.S. will not take military action in Ukraine. I think most of us had worked that out," scoffed Paul Mirengoff at Power Line. Then he attacked Obama for stating what he'd portrayed as the obvious ("perhaps Obama would have been better advised not to have made this statement"). "No one of note suggested that the US should attack Russia to reclaim Crimea for Ukraine," tsked Ed Morrissey of Hot Air -- then he attacked Obama for saying we weren't going to war, because it made his critics, like Ed Morrissey, look bad via "his own fantasy reductio ad absurdum constructs that end up bearing no resemblance to the actual criticisms," which actual criticisms Morrissey didn't outline, though he did say that "supporters and critics alike of the President had plenty of suggestions about what the US could do in response" and that it is "important to send signals of strength."
The real reason for all of this, let's face it, has nothing to do with the welfare of the nation, but much to do with elections in 2014 and beyond. At the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger put a flashlight under his chin and told readers that "the solitary but thrilling world of Vladimir Putin's mind is the one inhabited by the Assads, Saddams, bin Ladens, Kims, Gadhafis and Khomeinis of the world, and when it really runs out of control, or is allowed to, by a Stalin, Hitler, or Mao." He also suggested that Putin might next "move on the independence of Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Kazakhstan or Moldova." In this dangerous world, "some Republican presidential candidate will have to explain the high price of America's fatigue" in the foreign affairs department, because, Henninger asserted, "no modern Democrat can be credible on this." He didn't explain why that would be so, really, except to say that Obama and his European Union buddies "have decided their most pressing concern is income inequality," which Henninger called "a new phenomenon, surely noticed by Mr. Putin" -- which is kind of ironic 'cause he's a communist, right? Apparently Putin finds the West's interest in the welfare of its own citizens a sign of weakness; at least Henninger finds it so -- "nations redistributing themselves and perhaps NATO into impotence," he called it -- so why wouldn't the villainous dictator of the moment?
"There is strong reason to believe Barack Obama will be held accountable for the Crimean disaster by voters -- and that Democratic candidates will pay the price in November," claimed John Podhoretz at the New York Post. "...Americans may be war-weary, but they still look to the man in the White House to provide an overall sense of stability and safety."
Podhoretz took this to a rather unusual conclusion -- "Even the haunting confusion over the missing Malaysian aircraft, for which no rational person could hold our president responsible," he claimed, "is surely contributing to a general sense that the world is coming unglued -- and that the president is hunting around under his desk for a glue stick he hopes one of his predecessors might have left there for him."
OK, maybe the idea that George W. Bush and his superior glue stick could have figured out that missing plane and the Crimea caper, when he couldn't even find the Iraq WMDs, sounds crazy to you. But you're not Podhoretz's audience. He's talking to people who remember that Russia is something we should be scared/angry about, but don't remember how the Middle East got to be such a hot mess. That audience is small and select, but the midterm elections are expected to be close, and every little bit helps.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.