Uh, whom did you have in mind, Mike?
And when exactly did you come to this realization?
It certainly wasn’t before January 20, 2021.
Pence will say in speech tonight: “There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin. There is only room for champions of freedom.”
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 4, 2022
If he’s not going to say the T-word, he might as well cut this line. In fairness to him, he’s been more willing to say it lately than most other Republican Trump critics. But to gesture broadly at the nationalist fringe while neglecting to mention that you were twice the running mate for the capo di tutti capi of Putin slobberers feels dishonest. And weak.
And Republican voters hate weakness.
More weakness from tonight’s speech:
“We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles, or by relitigating the past,” he’ll add, according to prepared remarks. “Republicans can only win by offering real, lasting solutions to the problems Democrats have created for the American people.”
Fighting yesterday’s battles and relitigating the past? Who’s been doing that?
If Pence wants to do something productive with his speech, maybe he should warn certain unnamed persons to stop goading China into attacking Taiwan while we’re trying to put out a raging fire in Europe:
.@MariaBartiromo: "Do you expect China to invade Taiwan sooner rather than later?"
President Donald Trump: "I do because they're seeing how stupid the United States is run. They're seeing that our leaders are incompetent.
Of course they're going to do it. This is their time." pic.twitter.com/5CxQOTkf8X
— Mornings with Maria (@MorningsMaria) March 2, 2022
Pence has the virtue of being right on both the politics and the policy of the Russia crisis. “To those who argue that NATO expansion is somehow responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ask yourself, where would our friends in Eastern Europe be today if they were not in NATO?” he’ll say this evening, correctly. Putin himself detonated the isolationist myth that NATO’s expansion eastward forced Russia into a defensive posture that left it little choice but to try to seize Ukraine. In his speech declaring war, he framed his designs on the country in terms of reconstituting Russia’s empire, not fortifying a perimeter against the west. Russian expansionism, not European expansionism, is the driving force behind this conflict.
I’ve had the same thought Pence has had about what the map of Europe looks like on Earth 2, where American doves prevailed over the hawks and NATO either dissolved years ago or never got around to bringing eastern Europe into the fold. My guess is that Russia’s borders already extend to Germany there. And to all the hawks on Earth 2 grousing that things would have been different if NATO had expanded eastward when it had the chance, the doves are known to say, “Oh, no, that would have been terrible. It would have caused a nuclear war decades ago.”
Pence is also basically right as a descriptive matter when he says there’s no room within the GOP for Putin apologists. Literally, there’s no room: It’s packed wall to wall with Putin critics now. The “Putin apologist” wing consists of Trump, Tucker, Steve Bannon, and like six guys from “integralist Twitter.” Check this out:
Some 80% of Americans – including solid majorities of Republicans and Democrats – said the U.S. should stop buying Russian oil, according to the poll.
An equally bipartisan 74% of Americans said the United States and its allies in NATO should impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine.
— Idrees Ali (@idreesali114) March 4, 2022
You can’t get to 74 percent without a lot of Republicans.
Although I’m curious to know what that 74 percent thinks a no-fly zone would entail. My sense is that people imagine a NFZ to be some sort of edict issued by the UN declaring that planes are no longer allowed in Ukrainian airspace which Russia has no choice but to dutifully comply with. That is … not what a no-fly zone is.
But there’s good news. We might not need a no-fly zone since, apparently, Russia no longer knows how to fly. Experts are asking an uncomfortable question:
That’s another not-so-secret ingredient in the populist right’s disillusionment with Putin. It’s not just that what he’s doing in Ukraine is evil, one of the purest wars of conquest we’ll ever see. It’s that he looks weak. He’s supposed to be the authoritarian alpha male antidote to western liberal soy boys, the indomitably tough champion of traditional Christian values facing down the decadent west. But the soy boys just got together and tanked his economy inside of a week. And his army looks like a paper tiger, so much so that there’s little remaining doubt that if the Ukrainians had access to the same firepower as Putin’s army they’d be kicking the sh*t out of the Russians.
The real alpha male turns out to be the goofball Jewish comedian who’s now the toast of Europe:
Volodymyr Zelensky address to tens of thousands of Georgians gathered to support Ukraine! pic.twitter.com/HFaRLzCrgK
— Mikheil Saakashvili (@SaakashviliM) March 4, 2022
Even Putin’s trump card, his nuclear arsenal, was something bequeathed to him by a defunct regime, not an achievement of his own. The myth of the steely Russian warrior audaciously projecting strength abroad that lesser men lack the will or cunning to do is shattered. He looks like an inept cuck who gets away with his incompetence because he’s lucky enough to control a civilization-ending weapon. The first weeks of his war in Ukraine reek of weakness.
And Republican voters hate weakness.
I’ll leave you with John Bolton warning that Trump wanted to withdraw from NATO and might very well have done it in a second term — and that Putin was waiting for him to do so before moving on Ukraine. We may yet get a Trump second term but I seriously doubt we’ll see him leave NATO if we do. Credit the strategic “genius,” Putin, for that.