Whose Side Are You On?
Putin tries a new Big Lie.
“Everything they wanted to perceive as decadent and weak has proven strong and brave; everything they wanted to represent as fearsome and powerful has revealed itself as brutal and stupid.” —David Frum
Sometimes our political/moral choices are crystal clear, and today is one of those days.
There is plenty of room to disagree about the details of sanctions, energy policies, and whether we should transfer jets to the Ukrainians. There are gray areas, unknowns, and room for debate.
But on this question there is no ambiguity: Whose side are you on?
Do you side with the people of Ukraine, or with the monsters who have been targeting civilians, and who bombed a maternity hospital yesterday? Do you recognize the face of genuine evil, or do you rationalize, defend, praise, and excuse the man who did this?
To be clear, this is not “collateral damage,” or a random error, because we have seen this before. In Chechnya. And Syria. Grozny. And Aleppo. This is the signature of the man that the former president of the United States calls a “savvy genius.”
The Russian Air Force has repeatedly bombed hospitals in Syria in order to crush the last pockets of resistance to President Bashar al-Assad, according to an investigation by The New York Times.
An analysis of previously unpublished Russian Air Force radio recordings, plane spotter logs and witness accounts allowed The Times to trace bombings of four hospitals in just 12 hours in May and tie Russian pilots to each one.
So, once again, we have a time for choosing.
Here’s Steve Bannon:
Tucker Carlson continues to be a useful idiot.
And lest we forget:
Join us tonight!
Professor Eliot Cohen will join JVL, Ben, and Charlie for a discussion on the latest from Ukraine. Join us for this edition of TNB starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 10.
Exclusively for Bulwark+ members on Zoom!
The MAGAverse is isolated… even in the GOP
At least for the moment, the pro-Putin (and anti-anti-Putin) right finds itself isolated not merely from the mainstream of the GOP, but from the conservative base as well.
The NYT reports that “the bulk of the Republican Party [is trying] to get on the right side of history amid a brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Republicans are among the most vociferous champions for the United States to amp up its military response, and are competing to issue the strongest expressions of solidarity with Ukraine’s leaders.”
And my friend Mindy Finn passes along the fascinating results of a new survey by Citizen Data:
In the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine, there’s a clear opportunity for Americans to find consensus, transcend political polarization, and unite as a country against a common adversary.
Americans overwhelmingly view the Russia-Ukraine conflict as a broader fight for global democracy, rather than solely a regional dispute. Almost eight out of ten (78%) see it partly, if not entirely, as a fight for global democracy.
Support for Ukraine transcends political divides. Statements made by President Biden, President Zelensky, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Mitt Romney were strongly supported by respondents on both sides of the aisle.
Meanwhile, statements from political figures such as former President Trump, radio talk show host Charlie Kirk, and FOX News host Tucker Carlson seeking to excuse or explain Putin’s behavior were overwhelmingly rejected based on a blind test where statements were anonymized.
Americans are united in advocating for more severe action toward Russia moving forward. Almost three quarters (74%) of Americans believe the U.S. has not acted severely enough in response to the Russian invasion.
Exit take: We don’t know how long this will last, or whether this will affect DJT’s standing in the GOP (probably not). But it was notable that House Leader Kevin McCarthy yesterday felt that it was necessary to say, “I do not think anything’s savvy or genius about Putin,” when he was asked about Trump’s comments. “I think Putin is evil. He’s a dictator. And I think he’s murdering people right now.”
Maybe McCarthy is starting to worry about how this is playing out. It is likely that he’s looking at new polling that suggests Trump’s bromance with Putin could hurt Republicans this fall, and deny McCarthy the speakership.
The one thing we know for sure is that his comments were not an act of political courage… because he’s Kevin McCarthy. So it’s a tell.
How you can spot a Russian dupe in one easy step
(Hat tip Christian Vanderbrouk.)
Here’s RadTrad Adrian Vermeule recommending his go-to source of information about Ukraine: something called “Russians with Attitude.”
Who is “Russians With Attitude”? And what do they do? Here they are:
Bonus from ex-Trumper A.J. Delgado.
Putin tries out another Big Lie
Russia said on Wednesday the United States must explain what Moscow claims was a military biological programme in Ukraine - an allegation Washington has already dismissed as "absurd" misinformation.
But — and this is important — this is not simply one more piece of disinformation from the bottomless abyss of the Kremlin’s bullshit machine; it may be setting the stage for an ugly escalation.
“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them,” Psaki added. “It’s a clear pattern.”
But despite the stakes, the story about the secret bioweapons labs has already been picked up by the Chinese propaganda networks and by various right-wing outlets in this country.
And, on cue…
And, I regret to inform you, that Tucker is all-in on the biolabs story, as well…
FYI: This is actually an old story that has long since been debunked.
The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine sought to "set the record straight" on the biolabs claim in a statement in April 2020, calling the theories "disinformation spreading in some circles in Ukraine that mirrors Russian disinformation regarding the strong U.S.-Ukrainian partnership to reduce biological threats."
Coda, a nonprofit media company, reported in 2018 that the claim is part of a broader disinformation campaign by the Kremlin to discredit the United States in the eyes of Russia's pro-Western neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Russia teamed up with China to further amplify the false claim of U.S. labs in Ukraine. The goal was to call into question whether the coronavirus originated in one of the supposed "U.S.-controlled" labs, according to a report in April 2021 from the Daily Beast.
Exit take: “Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin debunks Russian conspiracy pushed by Tucker Carlson.”
ICYMI: General Mark Hertling: Why the Russians Will Lose
Yesterday’s podcast got a lot of attention… and is very much worth your time.
1. MAGA Candidate Begs For Absolution From Dorm-Room David Duke
Must-read piece in today’s Bulwark by Tim Miller: “Joe Kent, a grown-ass man and candidate for Congress, humiliates himself on a livestream for teenage white nationalists.”
Kent’s attempt to re-ingratiate himself with youthful confederates was streamed live in an excruciating 47-minute interview with the American Populist Union that was billed as an attempt to “set the record straight” on L’affair Fuentes.
What is the APU? It’s a group of teens and post-teens who are trying to advance Christian white identity politics through memes and ugly sunglasses. They’ve been called the “forgotten gamers of America.”
2. Nikki Haley’s Hypocrisy and Faux Outrage Over Ukraine
Will Saletan in today’s Bulwark:
Haley is whitewashing her record. She didn’t think Putin would go through with the invasion. “Putin knows it’s costly, and he knows he can’t do it. This is him leveraging to see what he can get,” she told Brian Kilmeade on Jan. 26. “He doesn’t want to expand,” she went on, adding, “I don’t think Russia wants to go to war.” On Feb. 8, she told Bret Baier that Putin’s real plan was to cut a deal: “What Russia’s really trying to do is get us to not allow Ukraine into NATO.”…
When she did mention Ukraine, her comments were foolish, self-serving, or pernicious, On Jan. 31, she tweeted: “Biden should care about our own border as much as he claims to care about the Ukrainian border. #ProtectAmerica.” That message, parroting Trump’s isolationist rhetoric, undercut American resolve. It implied that the defense of Ukraine was disingenuous and was a substitute for protecting the United States.
3. What Putin Cares About Most
John Agresto in this morning’s Bulwark:
That Ukraine will be destroyed and many thousands killed is of little concern to Putin. But to be known for ages as the great restorer of Russian glory—and to bask in the fame and personal glory of having accomplished this—seems to be the sum of his concerns. It’s not just great men who change the course of History; sometimes it’s the most dreadful and depraved.
4. Will Ukraine Turn Out Like Chechnya or Finland?
John Sipher in this morning’s Bulwark:
History suggests that dictators cannot accept fault, and that Putin is likely to revert to his ugliest instincts. He will seek to make Ukraine like Chechnya. But it is already clear that he has suffered a moral defeat, and his savagery has strengthened Ukrainian statehood and western resolve. Ukraine has some of the same advantages the Finns and Chechens did—home soil, the defensive, a unifying and motivating cause, and an enemy that underestimates them. In addition, they have political and military support from some of the most powerful countries in the world. Hopefully, that will be enough.
What is happening here?
"Ah, but the strawberries, that's, that's where I had them, they laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, with geometric logic, that a duplicate key to the ward room icebox did exist..."
You know, you should stop referring to D'Souza, Carlson, Ingrahm "useful idiots". They are useful but not idiots. "Useful idiot" implies some at least partly exculpatory deficiency in reasoning, understanding, and naivety of motivation.
"Thug nasty", the martial arts "regular guy" from Arkansas Tucker Carlson pretends to interview, is a useful idiot. He has no idea what he is doing or saying. His remarks don't reflect any comprehensible thought process or worked out set of values, and are substantively no different from what a random phrase generator AI would produce from a training dataset of belligerent and incoherent word associations.
Tucker and Bannon and D'Souza and all the rest are entirely different. They are rendering service for compensation. A person who takes compensation in exchange for providing service is a contractor or agent acting on behalf of, and for the benefit of, another. In their cases the beneficiary is a foreign adversary endeavoring to destroy NATO and harm the countries in that alliance. The service provided is to assist that foreign power by fomenting fifth columns in the United States sympathetic to, or even taking direction from, that entity.
Whether they do this because they are actually starry-eyed followers of a Napoleonic hero, sober idealogues acting out the dialectic by direction of the new Comintern, or nihilistic opportunists grabbing money and power for themselves by sowing confusion and discord at home, is almost beside the point.
What they are not is in any way confused about what they are doing or for whose benefit. Which makes them no different morally from the Rosenbergs or Robert Hanssen.
We need to stop calling them useful idiots. Don't even call them fellow travellers. They are willing agents of a foreign country whose dictator considers himself at war with their country and acts accordingly.