Biden Has Two Thirds of a Russia Policy
Plus, In Praise of Nooks and Crannies.
Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: The End of Roe?
ATMA: Wes Anderson: Fascist?
You can support The Bulwark by subscribing to Bulwark+ or just by sharing this newsletter with someone you think would value it.
SHAY KHATIRI: Biden Has Two Thirds of a Russia Policy
In the first weeks of his administration, Joe Biden labeled Vladimir Putin a “killer,” but in the first year of his presidency, he seemed more intent on ignoring Putin than confronting him. It appears that inside the administration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s assessment that Russia remained a dangerous power was overruled in favor of the arguments made by senior political appointees in Pentagon and Jake Sullivan, the president’s assistant for national security affairs, who wanted to table Russia policy to focus on China. When asked about his top three priorities, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall responded, “China, China, and China.” The joint statement released after the April 2021 summit between Biden and Putin emphasized strategic stability, and Biden expressed his wish for a “stable, predictable relationship with Russia”— with the implication that with Russia behaving itself, the United States could focus on China. Even after the Russian offensive against Ukraine began in February, the administration only stated vague positions such as “ensuring that Ukraine can defend itself.”
It’s often said that the first step to solving a problem is accepting that you have one, and Austin’s remark does that. Assuming the rest of the administration agrees with the Secretary of Defense’s stated goal, it has finally conceded that Russia is a hostile actor capable of causing major harm to the United States and its allies. That admission goes against the instincts of many in Europe and the United States, including some of Austin’s own subordinates, who would like to see a quick resolution to the war so they can move on to other things, be it resumption of trade with Russia and ending the flow of refugees into their countries or focusing again on China.
The Supreme Court is poised to overrule Roe after reaffirming abortion rights for nearly 50 years. This would mean a free-for-all in the states, and a fresh election narrative for Democrats. Other privacy rights, like gay marriage, may be next. Ben Wittes joins Charlie Sykes today.
Bulwark+ members can listen to an ad-free version of these podcasts on the player of their choice. Learn more at Bulwark+ Podcast FAQ.
ADDISON DEL MASTRO: In Praise of Nooks and Crannies.
A lot of modern housing, on the other hand, has a certain bland, flat, sanitized vibe. Some of that has to do with the decor and some with the slick and minimalist finishes that are trendy right now. Part of it is the construction and floor plan itself, which is simple and plain—or lacking entirely: “open concept” floor plans continue to be popular. Once, going open concept meant removing doors and widening door frames. Today it often means removing the walls altogether, leaving the entire main level without any quiet or private spaces.
There might be something deeper here than conscious interest. For example, Charles Marohn of Strong Towns argues that we have a physiological tendency to stick to “edges.” That’s one reason so many people like richly textured, ornamented public squares, Main Streets, and, well, houses with nooks and crannies: We don’t like blank spaces, or big empty spaces. If that principle applies to our preferences when we built cities and towns, perhaps it applies in some way to houses, too. Modern homes almost resemble modern tech: sleek, blank, slightly alienating, difficult to personalize.
Think about the design of old stereo equipment. A model from the 1970s, say, would likely have been encased in real (or faux) wood. The analogue radio dial would have been lit warmly by an actual light bulb. The control panel would have been full of dials and switches and buttons that clicked and clacked and turned and pushed and snapped. There was something about that design that engaged you, that invited you to do some of the work. By contrast, a modern piece of audio equipment is usually very sleek, a literal black box, with minimal opportunities for user input.
That’s the feeling of coldness and remoteness that so much modern interior design and urban design communicate. I wonder how different my childhood memories would be if the houses and built landscapes I knew as a kid had been like this?
Happy Tuesday… From an overcast, but beautiful Washington area. I did something I rarely do after I dropped my kids off at school today. I took some time off and I played a round of golf.
I love golf, but that the truism it’s a sport for retirees or men who want to hasten divorce is, well, based in reality. So I don’t play very often. But later this summer I will be playing with my dad in a 3 day tournament and I have to re-establish a handicap, which I have not had since 2013.
Being a company man, I brought my computer, phone/hot spot with me, and only played 9 holes. And I chose a course that few people can play because it’s quasi-public: the one at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Dear reader, I knocked out 9 holes in 57 minutes. It would have been even faster if I didn’t lose my phone on the first hole.
The course is called Medal of Honor, and each hole is named after a recipient of it. The first hole is named after Daniel Daly, who received two medals of honor. For you golfers among us, I was 11 over par (with one par) and lost two balls. My previous handicap was 15. I have some work to do. But I look forward to going back.
One thing I’d like to do is schedule a Bulwark scramble in the not-too-distant future out here in the Washington area. If you’re interested, let me know and we’ll make it happen.
Speaking of sports… Let’s go Blues! It’s Stanley Cup Playoffs time. Teams that pass well, win. And the Blues have a good shot.
I’m a pro-lifer… As many of us are here. But I have scruples about how we’ve spent the last 24 hours.
If you’re pro-choice, I don’t blame you for freaking out. We’ve been freaking in since 2019. My thoughts on the leaked draft opinion are this:
If it is legitimate, and it seems to be, whoever did it should face consequences. We may never find out how it was leaked. Whether it’s a justice, or a clerk, there are not really any set consequences.
Would a justice be impeached if they leaked it? Probably not. Would a clerk be exposed if they leaked it? Probably not. But if we can determine who did it, they should never practice law again. We may never know, and we have to accept that. But it is a very, very bad precedent.
We don’t know what the final ruling will be. The math has long been there, as any court watcher has known. I’m waiting for the final verdict.
The White Sauce… A recipe for… everything, really.
Sinema’s statement on the draft SCOTUS decision… But where does she stand on the filibuster? Will she change her mind?
That’s it for me. Tech support questions? Email email@example.com. Questions for me? Respond to this message.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. For full credits, please consult the article.