President Joe Biden's surprise trip to war-torn Ukraine was a diplomatic coup of the highest order—and that means Republicans are absolutely furious over it. Of course they are; the United States' government's solid support for Ukraine, translated into solid military support after Russia's invasion and attempted annexation of the country, is precisely what Donald Trump and his team tried so very hard to sabotage when Republicans were in power.
From Trump lackey Paul Manafort's efforts to undermine Ukrainian stability from within to Trump lackey Rudy Giuliani's invention of increasingly asinine conspiracy theories meant to paint Ukraine as the true mastermind behind Putin's attacks on American democracy, Republican strategists have increasingly looked to Putin's oligarchy for both cash and inspiration. It came to a momentary head when Donald Trump used Giuliani's manufactured disinformation as justification for withholding congressionally mandated aid to Ukraine as it fought against Russia-backed separatists and, increasingly, the Russian army itself.
Trump went even farther, suggesting to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Ukraine could shake loose that desperately needed aid if, in exchange, its government endorsed the Giuliani theories suggesting that Joe Biden's son was engaged in Ukrainian corruption. It was that act of straight-up extortion, the blockage of congressionally mandated military aid while Trump pressured that country's government to issue false statements targeting Trump's most prominent political rival, that led to the first of Donald Trump's two impeachment trials.
Oh, and Trump's a straight-up seditionist now, but that came later. It's important to always mention that, however.
Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin has had fans in the conservative movement and in the Republican Party for a very long time now. Conservatives, including Trump, have expressed admiration for the brutality with which Putin treats both political rivals and his nation's press; others on the hard right are enchanted with Putin's vicious campaigns against LGBT Russians.
Open support for Putin's autocracy was not uncommon on the right to begin with, but with new Republican Party fealty pledges that saw "Republicanism" now stand for whatever Donald Trump last blurted out, it solidified. But mostly, of course, Republicanism now defines itself by its opposition to whatever anybody else thinks or does or wants or eats.
Even if Trump and his advisers didn't try to retool U.S. policy to align with Putin's own interests, the international community's strong condemnations of Putin's war of conquest would have been enough to send Republicans scuttling in the other direction.
The seditionist flank of the party has been trying to halt U.S. support for Ukraine. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who remains influential in Republicanism despite, or perhaps because of, his participation in drug-fueled sex parties, is angrily demanding the U.S. "end its military and financial aid to Ukraine." The list of co-sponsors on that one is a who's who of coup-backing Republicans and conspiracy cranks.
Including, of course:
"Chose Ukraine over America" is a nice touch, and the way you can tell that Marjorie Taylor Greene is still a deeply stupid person no matter what concessions she was able to extract from Rep. Kevin McCarthy. She could have gone a lot of different ways when formulating the proper pout, and chose the stupidest, most blowhardist, twitchiest, most conspiracy-minded version.
Other seditionists also chose the "why did he visit X instead of doin' Y" approach, possibly by reflex.
Gonna just leave this here.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared on Fox & Friends, which continues to be the lead paint of news, to burp out his own version. But he went with the dual approach, both suggesting that Biden should have visited insert-conservative-obsession-here and pooh-poohing Putin's war of conquest.
One big reason Putin's war has not escalated is because, as it turns out, the Russian kleptocracy that Republicans so admire has so hollowed out the nation's military that Russia cannot meaningfully escalate the conflict. It can only barely kidnap enough Russians to keep the current front lines filled, much less draw new ones, and Russian equipment has proven to be decrepit and in far lower supply than Russia's own crooked commanders had expected.
That said, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' smarmy dodge suggesting Putin's Russia does not pose a threat to its neighboring countries would seem to be disproven by Putin's in-progress invasion of a neighboring country. But not a NATO member, at least not yet, so Ron don't care.
Among the conservative voices who are not, well, whatever Hawley and DeSantis are trying to be, there is another critique: Joe Biden is being too damn gutsy here.
Conservative correspondent Byron York tweeted: "This is reckless. Bush, Obama visited war zones where US had huge military presence to protect president, deter attack. Some allowed reporting only after president left. Here, reason to be very nervous until Biden leaves Ukraine via 'hourslong train ride.'"
It's more than that, though. Biden didn't just drop himself into Ukraine as means of showing the United States' deep ongoing commitment to defending the country. The Biden administration told Putin's government he was going, and all but dared them to do something about it. Multiple outlets have reported that the United States "notified" Putin's government of Biden's trip shortly before his departure for "deconfliction purposes"—that is, to give Russian military forces warning of Biden's arrival and to put the onus on Russia to avoid attacks on Kyiv during that time period.
That's not "reckless," that's an assertion of complete military control over the situation. The Biden administration made sure the Russian military knew full well where Biden would be so that if Russian airstrikes or other military actions did occur anywhere near the U.S. delegation, the United States would presume it to be an intentional assassination attempt.
And that, in turn, would likely result in a full-on United States assault.
That is not something the last Republican president, a coward whose photographed attempts to suck up to Putin were mocked internationally, would ever have dreamed of.
This has been an unreserved diplomatic coup for the Biden administration, and there's simply no argument to be made otherwise. Biden displayed personal courage, putting himself at risk to underline just how deep the U.S. commitment to Ukraine's safety continues to be. The Biden administration thumbed its nose at the Putin government and its tattered military, calling the bluff of Russian hardliners who boast impotently on the airwaves of wanting a wider war even as their conscripted military struggles with attacks involving mere dozens of soldiers.
And Biden thumbed his nose at the seditionists, isolationists, and pro-Putin strategists in the Republican Party who have been working to undermine America's opposition to the Putin regime even as Putin leads a campaign of war crimes. That is what's got the hard right most irritated today.
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