The War on Freedom CPAC Forgot
Plus: It's time to cancel RT
As we wake this morning, Kharkiv is under attack and reportedly surrounded; Kyiv is bracing for all-out assault. The race is on to get Western weapons to Ukraine before the Russians seize major cities.
Meanwhile, in what remains a remarkable show of unity and resolve, the world continues to rally, sending weaponry — including fighter jets (!) — and thousands of lethal anti-tank missiles. Oil companies cut their ties with Russia, while even Switzerland joins the sanctions, which are now hitting Putin’s inner circle of oligarchs.
But fears are rising that, as Putin realizes that he has badly miscalculated, he will ratchet up the violence, which includes savage attacks on civilian populations. The pace of events is staggering. As JVL wrote yesterday:
In the span of 96 hours:
Belarus has become a nuclear state.
Germany has chosen to re-arm.
Finland and Sweden have signaled that they are interested in joining NATO.
Ukraine has applied to join the E.U.
That’s a decade’s worth of geopolitical change in four days.
Meanwhile, the American right struggles to get its story straight. Tucker Carlson and others are rushing to retcon their cheerleading for Putin (but we have the tapes, Tuck). Others have become born-again hawks, while many strike a pose of solidarity with a country whose betrayal they supported just a presidency ago.
And then there is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Amanda Carpenter watched DeSantis’s speech at CPAC so you wouldn’t have to.
She sends along this report:
DeSantis Goes Small
By Amanda Carpenter
During the 2022 CPAC conference, there was a lot of talk about fighting for freedom against power-hungry tyrannical thugs. You’d be wrong to think it was about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, though.
In their minds, Vladimir Putin isn’t the enemy at the top of their minds. It’s woke libs.
To get the gist, watch the speech delivered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who came in second in the CPAC straw poll behind former President Trump. (Or don’t, toplines are ahead.)
Even though the Russian invasion was, without question, the biggest news story in the world, DeSantis didn’t have one thing to say about it.
As doofy as he can be, he certainly has to have some thoughts. DeSantis is a Yale-educated, Harvard Law School graduate, U.S. Navy JAG officer who deployed to Iraq to advise the Navy Seals. He’s widely considered the top contender for the 2024 GOP nomination for president should Trump not run. Meaning that, yes, he could be our next commander-in-chief. All excellent reasons for DeSantis to talk about Putin’s war in front of this very important audience of conservative activists, yes?
Nope. His walk-out song should have been an Encanto-riff: “We don’t talk about Putin. No, no, no. We don’t talk about Puuutttinnn!”
At CPAC, DeSantis only had domestic culture wars on the brain. And in this drama, he is the lionhearted leader protecting Florida—which he described as “the citadel of freedom”—from the dreaded leftists.
“We refused to let this state descend into some type of Faucian dystopia where people’s freedoms are curtailed and their livelihoods are destroyed,” he bellowed. He warned about the “biomedical security state, which erodes liberty, harms livelihood, and divides our society.” He warned that President Biden, Dr. Fauci, and members of the media had terrible intentions: “Their goal is not to make our country great. It’s to marginalize the conservative half of the country.”
“They want us to be powerless,” DeSantis went on. “They want us to be voiceless. They want us to be second-class citizens.” “‘Woke’ is the new religion of the left,” he said, and “it’s about tearing at the fabric of our society and trying to replace it with something that will be much, much more sinister. And the problem that we face as conservatives is a lot of major institutions in our country have become infected with this woke virus.”
He asked that conservatives have the courage, like him, to stand up to cancel culture, corporate media narratives, big tech, and the “Brandon administration.” And at the end of his speech, referencing verses from Ephesians about putting on the “full armor of God” and wielding a “shield of faith” to protect from “flaming arrows” DeSantis promised to “lead the charge,” “stand our ground,” and “hold the line.”
“We have only begun to fight!” he vowed.
Never mind the people in Ukraine actually fighting for their cherished freedoms against an enemy intent on destroying their lives. When folks, myself included, pointed out the glaring omission from a governor who, gosh, sure seemed excited to talk about fighting for freedom, his press secretary said it wasn’t in his purview.
Not his problem. As a measly governor, there’s no need for him to waste his breath showing solidarity with Ukrainians. Got it.
DeSantis’s speech is indicative of what’s driving a lot of so-called conservatives these days. The mentality was on full display throughout CPAC. They think their domestic political opponents here at home, whom they’ve irrationally billed as maniacal, power-hungry tyrants, are the most urgent threat they face today.
And they don’t care much about anything or anyone else.
Some Bulwark News
The Bulwark has a major new addition to our staff.
Cathy Young is one of the smartest, hardest-working, and most insightful journalists in the country. And, as of today, she is a full-time staff writer for the Bulwark. You can follow her at @CathyYoung63.
If you are familiar with her work — from ArcDigital or the Bulwark, or the many other places she writes — you know that Cathy is one of those rare writers who can not only bring great clarity to messy political debates, but who also can write deeply on books, arts, and high culture. Cathy was one of the first journalists to warn about the rise of the alt-right, back in the fall of 2015 and she remains an important voice in the ongoing fight against the illiberalism on both the right and left.
She is no stranger to these pages. Since we launched back in 2019, she has made major contributions to the Bulwark; you can check out her work here.
On a personal note, we’ve known each other for nearly 30 years when we met at a meeting of the National Association of Scholars, after she had very kindly reviewed my first book.
I have been a huge fan ever since.
Cathy is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a columnist for Newsday, and a contributing editor to Reason. Previously, she was an associate editor at ArcDigital and a columnist for the Boston Globe, the Detroit News, and RealClearPolitics. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Week, Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, Quillette, the New Republic, and elsewhere. She was born in Moscow and came to the United States with her family in 1980, and is the author of two books: Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (Free Press, 1999) and Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood (Ticknor & Fields, 1989).
RT: Go F*ck Yourself
Tim Miller brings the fire — It’s time to get Putin’s propaganda network off of our cable networks.
Despite the government providing a flashing red siren about the danger and giving an off-ramp to any organization that wanted to act responsibly, those who have continued to participate in the Russian scheme have faced no real consequences.
That free pass should expire today.
We need a societal death penalty for anyone who chooses to profit off Russian state television in all its forms.
In the declassified portion of the U.S. intelligence agencies’ report on Russia’s pro-Trump influence operation during the 2016 campaign, it was revealed that Moscow pumped nearly $200 million per year into distributing RT programming in the western world. The way it normally works in cable/satellite TV is that the provider pays the channel—ESPN or TNT or whatnot—for the right to carry the network. Russia inverted the system, paying blood rubles to any carrier willing to put their channel in the lineup.
What NATO Should Do Now
NATO should also reaffirm its open door to those nations that meet the its established criteria. This would of course include countries such as Sweden and Finland, now the subject of explicit threats the Russian government. Some will argue that, by proffering theoretical future membership, NATO is setting these nations up to be attacked by Moscow as Georgia and Ukraine were. But retreating from the open door policy because of Putin’s actions in Ukraine only rewards his naked aggression and dashes the hopes of millions who want to be part of the greater transatlantic community.
I’d like to report a case of senior abuse.