Let’s not be too hard on her for not recognizing it at the time. It’s not like she has a background in diplomacy.
Something fun here on a day when Russian state TV is showing maps of nuclear targets inside the United States. Albright’s mea culpa is more substantive than Harry Reid’s strange new respect for George W. Bush but they’re each variations on an old Democratic game, diminishing the current crop of Republican leaders by comparing them unfavorably to Republicans whose heyday has passed. Apologizing to Romney for underestimating Russia is a way to highlight Russiagate, after all, just like Reid’s belated appreciation of Bush is a way to communicate his disdain for Trump by contrast.
Republicans play that game too but to a lesser degree, as usually they have to reach back further, to JFK, to find a Democrat worthy of warm-ish words on policy. (Clinton’s just too personally sleazy to attract much appreciation for his centrism.) But I don’t know: The way the ideological tide among Dems is flowing, there’s a small but nonzero chance that the unthinkable will happen next year and we’ll start hearing muted wistful reminiscences on the right about the relatively moderate age of Barack Obama.
“I personally owe an apology to now Senator Romney, because I think that we underestimated what was going on in Russia,” Albright said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing.
“I was on the CIA external advisory board, there was no question that less money was being put into Russian language and what was going on in Russia.”…
“We had forgotten we’re dealing a KGB agent,” she told the committee. “I think he has played a weak hand very well.”
I’m eager to see whether the Democratic commentariat echoes Albright or disputes her. They can’t play her game of celebrating Romney to dunk on Trump too enthusiastically since (a) Romney’s a sitting Republican senator and thus still capable of making problems for them and (b) many of them gleefully mocked Romney in their own columns, tweets, and blog posts in 2012 when he and Obama clashed over the threat from Russia. It’s easy to say that your forebears were wrong to scoff at a claim made by the other side, it’s harder to say it when you yourself were wrong. I’m already seeing goofy defenses like this one on Twitter:
But let's don't forget that there was a different president of Russia through 2012 — Dmitry Medvedev.
Putin's intervention in Crimea, Ukraine and elsewhere (US elections) happened after he regained the presidency.
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) February 26, 2019
Imagine believing that Medvedev was the one who was steering the ship of state in Russia during the brief period when Putin was term-limited as president and serving as “prime minister” instead. Others are more forthright about the Democrats’ error:
When Dems ridiculed Romney in '12, Putin had already sent tanks into Georgia, been implicated in murders of dissidents and journalists, was still seen as Russia's most powerful figure & was about to retake the presidency. Lots happened after, but a lot was already on the record. https://t.co/kzVjZcTjhT
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) February 26, 2019
Drew McCoy notes that even if all of that hadn’t happened, a Democrat prescient enough in 2012 to foresee rising tensions with Russia in the years ahead would be celebrated now as a statesman with a keen ability to see the whole foreign-policy chessboard.
This is the tip of the iceberg, though. After Romney retires from politics and eventually passes away, he’ll be held up by Democrats for a generation as a model of what a Republican should be in terms of character and (to a lesser extent) on foreign policy. I figure they’ll finally get around to admitting that “binders full of women” was a completely fine and even admirable sentiment circa 2030. But probably no sooner: They got a lot of mileage out of that in 2012 for reasons I still don’t understand so the shame in admitting that the criticism was bogus will take awhile to work through. They don’t gain anything by copping to it the way they do in using Romney’s Russia caution to score a point on Trump.
Here’s Albright being asked about Romney’s 2012 Russia comment last week at the Munich Security Conference and vowing that she’d apologize to him when she had the chance. I think this exchange put the idea in her mind.