DeSantis Sends Putin a Message
It probably should not come as a surprise that Ron DeSantis chose Tucker Carlson’s show to make his first major foreign policy announcement. Tucker, after all, remains the keeper of the right’s restless ethical, moral, and ideological id.
It doesn’t matter that he has been exposed as a shape-shifting charlatan, fabulist, and hypocrite. His flirtation with white nationalism, election denialism, and Insurrection revisionism have hardly dented his clout. Nor, in the new GOP, is it considered disqualifying that Tucker’s pro-Putinism has made him a fixture on Russian state television in the midst of a genocidal war.
His is the ring that still must be kissed.
And kiss it DeSantis did. With enthusiasm.
Answering a questionnaire sent out by the Fox News host, the Florida governor aligned himself firmly with the Tucker/Trump position, declaring that protecting Ukraine was not a key U.S. interest. In today’s New York Times, Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman note that this is a sharp break with “Republicans who are determined to defend Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.”
Mr. Carlson is one of the most ardent opponents of U.S. involvement in Ukraine. He has called President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine a corrupt “antihero” and mocked him for dressing “like the manager of a strip club.”
You might recall this too:
DeSantis chose to declare his America First bona fides to a guy who declared that he was rooting for Russia.
“While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” Mr. DeSantis said in a statement that Mr. Carlson read aloud on his show.
Mr. DeSantis’s views on Ukraine policy now align with Mr. Trump’s. The former president also answered Mr. Carlson’s questionnaire.
While DeSantis used some boilerplate language about not writing a “blank check” his choice of language was revealing: He dismisses Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion “as a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia.”
And, Swan and Haberman note, the Florida governor went further than some other GOP critics, “making clear he does not believe the defense of Ukraine should be a priority for an American president and ruling out specific weapons.”
“F-16s and long-range missiles should therefore be off the table,” he added. “These moves would risk explicitly drawing the United States into the conflict and drawing us closer to a hot war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. That risk is unacceptable.”
In a preview of his presidential candidacy, his statement “dripped with sarcastic contempt for policymakers who believe the only way to stop the Ukrainian people’s suffering is to remove Mr. Putin from power.”
“A policy of ‘regime change’ in Russia (no doubt popular among the D.C. foreign policy interventionists) ,” Mr. DeSantis said, “would greatly increase the stakes of the conflict, making the use of nuclear weapons more likely. Such a policy would neither stop the death and destruction of the war, nor produce a pro-American, Madisonian constitutionalist in the Kremlin. History indicates that Putin’s successor, in this hypothetical, would likely be even more ruthless. The costs to achieve such a dubious outcome could become astronomical.”
The Florida governor’s pivot toward anti-anti-Putinism is likely to cause some agita in the anti-anti-Trump ranks. As recently as February, National Review’s full-time DeSantis merde-polisher, Dan McLaughlin devoted several thousand words to denying that DeSantis was pro-Putin, and insisting that DeSantis has been consistently tough all along. He even quoted the Wapo’s Aaron Blake who noted that DeSantis was a hardliner when he was in Congress.
At a 2014 hearing, DeSantis warned that Putin’s justification — that Crimea was largely composed of ethnic Russians — could be extended to other nations and even some NATO members such as Latvia and Estonia.
He pressed an Obama State Department official to confirm that the United States would defend those countries from a Russian incursion . . . under Article 5 of the NATO charter. In a 2015 interview on Fox Business Network, DeSantis criticized Obama for not giving Ukraine both defensive and offensive weapons, saying, “If you had a Reagan-esque policy of strength, I think you would see people like Putin not want to mess with us.”
But that was then.
Under Trump, the GOP is rapidly shedding its last vestiges of Reagan-esque foreign policy, and DeSantis has now rushed to catch up with the America First crowd braying for appeasement.
And while it would be rhetorical overkill to say that DeSantis is actively pro-Putin, he has sent the Butcher of Bucha an unmistakable message:
Hang on, buddy. Help may no longer be on the way.
Exit take: The starkest ideological divide in the GOP today is pro-coup or anti-coup. But this is a close second: Republicans who continue to defend Ukraine — Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo — versus the Surrender Caucus — Trump and now DeSantis.
Give us a listen
ICYMI: Mike Pence is trying win over the DC press corps but still refuses to do his part to hold Trump accountable for January 6. Plus, the new too-big-to-fail banks, more Fox dirt, and how DeSantis is not a natural people person. Will Saletan is back with me for Charlie and Will Monday
The hyper-partisan hype machine
The most partisan member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene, generated nearly 10 times as much press coverage in the 2022 election cycle as the least partisan member, Don Bacon, according to a new study of “hyper-partisan” politics.
Greene, a Republican representative from Georgia, appeared in 335 news items in major outlets around the 2022 midterms, according to the study, a joint effort of the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University and Starts With Us, a non-profit group that seeks to counter excessive partisanship in American politics.
Through the use of the Common Ground Scorecard™, a total of fourteen members of Congress — seven hyper-partisan low scorers and seven bipartisan high scorers — were identified based on average scores from 2022 and 2021….
After combining Scorecard results from 2022 and 2021, the lowest-scoring politician was Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14-R), and the highest-scoring politician was Don Bacon (NE-2-R). Greene generated nearly 10x more coverage during the studied time frame than Bacon, appearing in 335 news items compared to Bacon's 34. Greene also received more than double the news coverage of all of the bipartisan politicians in the study combined.
The most hyper-partisan politicians have widespread name recognition, and the most bipartisan remain largely unheard of: nearly three-quarters of people polled (72%) said they have heard of Marjorie Taylor Greene, but only a small minority (18%) have heard of Don Bacon.
1. Waxing Obnoxious
In today’s Bulwark, Mona Charen writes that Law Professor Amy Wax’s bigotry is odious, but punishing her isn’t worth the cost.
Leading with her chin, Wax seems to welcome martyrdom, but that’s not the only reason to withhold it. The University of Pennsylvania law school dean is requesting that the faculty senate consider a “major sanction,” which many have interpreted as firing her, despite tenure. The last time the University of Pennsylvania fired a tenured faculty member, it was because he had murdered his wife.
The best reason to refrain from the punitive impulse is that the sword cuts both ways. If Wax is fired for repellent sentiments alone, the protections of tenure will be badly weakened. As Alex Morey of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression put it, “Academic freedom has to protect the Amy Waxes of the academic world, so that it can be there for the Galileos of the academic world.”
Don’t punish her speech—refute it.
2. Challenger to Hawley: Quit Your ‘Fake Populism’
In this morning’s Bulwark, Jim Swift asks: How far can authenticity take Lucas Kunce—a Marine veteran and proud nerd—in red Missouri?
Everywhere Kunce looks, he finds another angle of attack on Hawley’s man-of-the-people act. Much more amusing and less alarming than Hawley’s January 6th actions are his longstanding problems with residency. He appears to live primarily in Northern Virginia these days; when asked to pick a favorite BBQ place as part of a bet between senators during the Super Bowl, Hawley named one in Kansas rather than Missouri. (Kunce is himself partial to A Little BBQ Joint in Independence, for those keeping score at home.)
“Everyone who’s a normal Missourian . . . understands how everyday Missourians live,” Kunce says after regaling me with the BBQ story. Hawley has “got no clue about that.”
3. After the Protests, Will Georgia Face West or East?
Whether the successful protests in Georgia will push the country’s leadership toward a pro-Western and pro-Ukraine position in anticipation of next year’s elections remains to be seen. Perhaps they could even evolve into a new “color revolution.” But on top of everything else, they have already accomplished one difficult feat: getting Russian propagandists to hit a new low.
DeSantis fan boy is going through some things.