We’ve had about a week of Crisis in the Crimea, as crypto-Russian troops patrol the streets of Sevastopol, Kiev digs in, and Obama and the EU try a strategy of diplomatic “de-escalation.” There’s some disagreement among observers as to how this will play out.
Among rightbloggers, though, while there is some diversity of opinion as to how big a badass Vladimir Putin is, there is great consensus on the conclusion that Russia is in Ukraine because Obama is a sissy.
This may go on awhile, so let us stipulate that despite all the argh-blargh over the issue, almost no one on either side has proposed that the U.S. invade the Crimea or even threaten. Yet conservatives suggest that Obama’s failure to do something butch is the reason for the crisis.
For example, Rand Paul, not heretofore known as a Big Stick Republican, said Obama “hasn’t projected enough strength and hasn’t shown a priority to the national defense. That is something that, were I in charge, I would” — though he ruled out the use of actual military force in the Crimea, raising the question as to how, then, Paul would “project” “strength.” (Dick Cheney also accused Obama of creating an “image” of “weakness and indecisiveness,” so maybe Paul would project strength by having Cheney as Vice President.)
Paul also thought the U.S. should respond by drilling for oil “in every possible conceivable place” before people calm down and forget what a great excuse this would be to get around environmentalists.
Former Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained, too, in the Washington Post, suggesting Obama’s “continued inaction in Syria” and attempted outreach to Iran were at least partly to blame; “these global developments have not happened in response to a muscular U.S. foreign policy,” she diplo-spoke. Rice proposed responses, including “authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline” to break Russia’s oil power, and reaching out to “Russian youth, especially students and young professionals, many of whom are studying in U.S. universities and working in Western firms. Democratic forces in Russia need to hear American support for their ambitions,” possibly via podcast.
There have naturally been some unflattering comparisons made by the brethren between Obama and Putin. The best-known was Sarah Palin’s “mom jeans” remark — which may seem peculiar to non-aficionados, though the association of Obama and mom jeans has a long history among rightbloggers. Others were not as dada-poetic, but still fully evocative of a masculinity crisis.
“The White House is threatening to take a Boy Scout merit badge away from Al Capone,” snorted Kevin D. Williamson at National Review. “At their joint public meetings, Putin has dismissively looked away from Obama, treating him as someone he could dupe or roll over at will,” noted his colleague, John Fund, who knows how to deal with tough guys: “If Russian troops advance deeper into Ukraine,” said Fund, “it might also be time to reassess Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization.” That’s how you deal with dictators, Obama!
Victor Davis Hanson had a suggestion for Obama: “Every time he gets angry and is about to say something about Israel, stop, and think first to substitute the reset vocabulary he has used with Putin in the past,” chortled Hanson. “And vice versa: Imagine Russia is ‘Israel!’ and Putin ‘Netanyahu’ each time he wants to see red and reset reset.” Because Obama hates Israel, see — shoot, it’s awful when you have to explain the jokes.
“Would Putin have lunged for Ukraine if he didn’t have such a clueless adversary?” said Charles Krauthammer. “No one can say for sure. But it certainly made Putin’s decision easier.” Scared Monkeys agreed, and condensed Krauthammer’s argument for his particular audience: “Charles Krauthammer Nails It With Putin & Barack Obama … ‘Putin Looks at this Guy and Says I’m Dealing with an Adolescent, this is a Community Organizer, He Doesn’t Understand How the World Works.’ HOW ON EARTH DID THIS ‘ADOLESCENT’ CLOWN GET REELECTED!!!” etc.
Saying Obama had “the snarl of a puppy,” Stephen F. Hayes of The Weekly Standard called Obama’s de-escalation policy in Ukraine “delusion… Vladimir Putin, it turns out, is who we thought he was. Unfortunately, so is Barack Obama.” “Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters is spot on as he discusses the differences between Putin and Obama,” reported Steve Straub at The Federalist Papers. “Sadly I think he is right when he states that Putin believes in Russia, while Barack Obama does not believe in America.” The Foxhole agreed: “If anyone believes Putin won’t follow up on his threat to grab Ukraine and force it back under Russian dominance, they’re as stupid as Obama… Putin has no reason whatsoever to worry about the chickenshit in the Oval Office.”
“Obama — and this is a significant character flaw — still believes he knows how history will unfold — but thugs like Putin, whether we like it or not, make history,” swooned John Ruberry at Da Tech Guy. The Daily Caller literally posted a “Who would win in a fistfight: Putin or Obama?” poll.
When Obama said, “We are now deeply concerned by military movements taken by the Russian Federation within Ukraine,” Michael Barone sniffed: “Pretty bland stuff. ‘Deeply concerned’ rather than ‘gravely concerned’ — a much stronger phrase in diplomatic argot.” Among Barone’s suggestions, besides using “gravely”: “Extend the list of Russians barred from the United States under the Magnitsky Act” and “improve relations with Kazakstan.” Woof!
Some of the brethren went beyond being anti-Obama and were more explicitly sympathetic to Putin.
“Putin Doesn’t Threaten Our National Security, Obama Does,” wrote Don Feder at The American Thinker. “Vladimir Putin isn’t the Easter Bunny,” Feder charitably assessed the Russian president. “On the other hand, he isn’t Joseph Stalin.” Feder was not as nice to the new government of the “Maidan mob”: “We’re told that the interim government is pro-Western and pro-EU,” said Feder. “When Reagan was president, the expression pro-Western meant something. It meant pro-representative government, pro-human rights and pro-Western (Judeo-Christian) values. Today, it means a willingness to accept same-sex ‘marriage,’ abortion on demand, an anti-religion ethos — the agenda of the EU’s cultural commissars — and the economic dictates of the Brussels bureaucracy.” He then denounced Obama for making the West stand for “Muslims in the Obama White House,” “Obama’s life style-friendly military” (gays gays gays), and “the only sitting president to address Planned Parenthood.” Between that and Russia, what American patriot wouldn’t choose the latter?
At WorldNetDaily, radio host Michael Savage said, “Putin is certainly not a good guy, but he is not the villain in this.” The villains, per Savage, were actually Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and “designated liar Susan Rice,” whom he accused of trying to start a war. Nuland and Rice are “neo-conservatives,” he explained, who “don’t care which side you’re on, as long as they can work with you to create a political situation that they can grow into a war from which they will profit.” Savage portrayed Obama as detached from foreign policy — “they took the trouble to Photoshop Obama into pictures of national security meetings during the Benghazi crisis. In this case, they’re not even bothering to pretend he’s in charge” — who will be easily manipulated by Nuland and Rice into a war to defend “pro-Islamist Ukrainian neo-Nazis.” (Savage ran this under the headline “PUTIN CROSSES OBAMA’S PINK LINE,” presumably so WND’s audience would read it.)
Others argued it was Obama who was sympathetic to Putin, in that they shared the same goal. “The Putin/Obama Game… is simply an orchestrated continuation of the Global Left’s game plan to take down America,” explained Dick Manasseri of Gulag Bound. “One can’t help but wonder how much of the rhetoric that comes out of Obama’s teleprompter on the Ukraine and everything else is controlled by Putin?” Manasseri’s solution: In the next election (assuming “we can avoid Martial Law”), readers should vote for candidates who will support a Constitutional convention, thus thwarting “the Putin/Obama team” who “want you to surrender your guns, your liberties, and, if necessary for their dominance, your lives.”
Still others had more particular hobby horses, e.g. Babalu Blog: “Obama warns Russia over invasion of Ukraine but is silent on Cuba’s invasion of Venezuela.” “If I’m the Poles,” said Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, “the lesson I’d take is that if Ukraine had kept its nukes, this wouldn’t be happening, and if I want to be safe, I should get hold of some nukes myself. If I were Lithuania, even more so.” Maybe Reynolds hopes to open an online international arms bazaar just as soon as Rand Paul overturns the statist laws against them.
Obama executive-ordered some carefully-worded sanctions which included the words “those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine,” probably to cover the non-uniformed personnel on the Crimean scene whom most people assume are Russian agents.
Also, since he should have been sitting grimly by the Hot Line all weekend like Henry Fonda in Fail Safe, the fact that Obama brought his family with him for a weekend in Key Largo, Florida was considered by the brethren a dereliction of duty.
Samuel Gonzalez of The Last Tradition ran vintage photos of Obama swimming and playing golf, and claimed his Florida trip shows that “[Obama] just doesn’t care what’s happening in the Ukraine. It’s a devastating message to our allies around the world that says ‘you’re on your own’ don’t depend on the U.S. to defend you. Our enemies? ‘Do what you want, the U.S. won’t stop you.'” That makes it the most eloquent vacation since Chevy Chase punched the moose at Wally World.
“He still doesn’t have any plan, so he might as well be useless down in the Keys,” sneered Tom Maguire at Just One Minute. “Hey, at least he’s being frugal about it,” said Patterico’s Pontifications. “The rooms are only $2500 per night.” “No one messes with the Obamas’ vacation plans and gets away with it,” blar-harred Michael Dorstewitz of Right Wing News.
When the White House explained to the press that, in our new age of jet travel, the President could if necessary get back to the White House quickly, Soopermexican of the Independent Journal Review said, “All Americans weep in distress today at the terrible news that President Obama has suffered another tragedy, possibly inspired by racism, in his troubled second term as our paternalistic government all-father.” We think he was being sarcastic.
Jazz Shaw of Hot Air gets credit for remembering back to the Bush Western White House years, but he still thought “at this particular moment in history, the optics question may loom a bit larger than it would otherwise. [Charles] Krauthammer is only one of many observers to recently point out that Vladimir Putin’s plans my be emboldened by a sense that the American President is simply weakened and does not pose any real threat to his agenda.” If Putin sees Obama nonchalantly taking a trip at a moment of crisis, that’ll convince him Obama is a sissy.
We should appreciate their efforts, or at least sympathize with them. Briefly, very few people in the United States really want to go to war anymore. At last week’s CPAC conference, a straw poll revealed that 52% of the hyper-conservative attendees agreed with the statement, “Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, it’s time for our European, Asian and other allies to provide for their own defense.”
When you can’t get CPAC people excited about war — at least, not a foreign war — it may be a stretch to expect normal Americans to agree that the best approach in an international crisis is to be as reckless and belligerent as possible. Maybe they should work up a bill to have The Charge of the Light Brigade taught in public schools.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 9, 2014