No Matter What
Not a shock, I know, to realize that no matter what Obama does, Republicans will castigate him as weak, ineffective, or worse. Republicans even thrashed Obama when he killed Osama bin Laden; if they can’t appreciate that, you know that nothing he does will meet with their approval.
Now, Mitt Romney is calling Obama “naive” for failing to foresee the annexation of Crimea:
During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, the former Republican presidential nominee said Obama should have been more proactive prior to the Russia’s annexation — and should have threatened the Russians with the possibility of sanctions before they took action to take over the region.
“There’s no question but that the president’s naiveté with regards to Russia, and his faulty judgment about Russia’s intentions and objectives, has led to a number of foreign policy challenges that we face,” Romney declared. “And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia’s intentions, the president wasn’t able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you’re seeing in the Ukraine.”
That’s right! Obama was naive because he was not threatening Putin with sanctions right before he invaded Crimea. Like a real leader, John McCain, was saying we should have threatened Russia with sanctions—this just days before Putin made his move against Ukraine:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reemphasized his calls for sanctions against the Ukrainian government for the ongoing violence against protesters while criticizing President Obama for his “naiveté” towards the situation.
Interesting how Obama was “naive” before the Russian invasion for not threatening sanctions against Ukraine, while now he’s naive for not having threatened sanctions against Russia.
Oh, and by the way, Obama was threatening sanctions at the same time Republicans were calling him naive for not threatening sanctions. Nor would the threat of sanctions, before, during, or after, have made any difference.
In the meantime, while the Obama administration did not specifically spell out sanctions against Russia, it hardly failed to take notice; a few days before the invasion, the administration’s rhetoric turned tough against Putin, warning that it would be a “grave mistake” if Putin moved in Crimea.
As for foresight, Bush 41 did not foresee Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait, although there were just as many clues in that regard. Bush 43 did not foresee 9/11, despite getting rather urgent warnings. Nor did Bush foresee Hussein not having WMD (though it could be argued that that was a pretext and therefore there was nothing to foresee), nor did he foresee the Russia’s similar invasion into Georgia. Romney never criticized those failures, of course.
When Russia was moving on Georgia, in fact, Bush expressed “grave concern” towards Russia’s actions. Sounds strangely familiar—and yet, I do not recall Romney saying Bush was “naive.” Nor did Obama.
There’s another small point that needs to be cleared up.
Romney appears to have some swing amongst conservatives on this issue, since in the 2012 election, he named Russia as America’s greatest “geopolitical foe.” His people have been trying to paint him as astute and prescient; “Romney’s analysis of the Russian threat was actually spot on,” noted one of his former advisors.
You have to admit, it does kind of sound like he was on the ball.
However, if you check back, Romney’s actual 2012 statements did not predict Russia would start annexing former satellite states—quite the opposite, in fact:
“There’s no question but that in terms of geopolitics — I’m talking about votes at the United Nations and actions of a geopolitical nature — Russia is the No. 1 adversary in that regard. That doesn’t make them an enemy. It doesn’t make them a combatant. They don’t represent the No. 1 national security threat. The No. 1 national security threat, of course, to our nation is a nuclear Iran. Time continues to pass. They continue to move towards nuclearization. This is more and more disconcerting and dangerous to the world. But Russia — particularly look at a place like Syria. Russia has supported the Assad regime even as it has been attacking its own people. Russia likewise has been slow to move to the kinds of sanctions that have been called for in Iran. Russia is a geopolitical adversary, but it’s not an enemy with, you know, missiles being fired at one another or things of that nature.” [bold emphasis mine]
As you can see, Romney actually thought that Russia would not be a threat militarily, just in their tangential support of nations we wanted to exert control over.
Here’s the thing: if you predict that the roof will spring a leak in the rain, and then it collapses in on you on a sunny day, you do not get to claim prescience. Yes, you predicted something would go wrong with the roof. But you were way off on that prediction.
And that’s a big part of what we’re seeing here: the massive oversimplification of issues like these. If all you needed was some sense of opposition coming from Russia’s direction, you would have been able to handle it completely differently. As if Obama had not been aware of the fact that Putin was aggressive towards us, or that he underestimated Russia any more than Romney did. As if all Obama needed to do was to threaten Putin specifically with sanctions instead of sending grave warnings, and that would have stopped Putin cold. As if we know everything that happened at diplomatic level that the public is not aware of—it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Obama did threaten Putin with sanctions privately. There is a whole world of activity that happens outside of public view.
In short, Republicans are doing what they do best: trying to pummel Obama and make themselves look good. As usual, it’s all hype and no substance; all politics, and no gravity. It has nothing to do with how well Obama is handling anything. Obama could have kicked Russia’s ass, wrestled Putin to the ground, and then rode home on a Bengal tiger; Republicans would still be bashing him on whatever pretense they could think of.