Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cynical Hypocrisy on the Left

We cannot say that the story has been completely ignored. Yet, relative to the amount of attention the election-meddling narrative has received, the Obama record with Russia has been largely forgotten. Why deal with facts when you can speculate and indict?

James Kirchick does not say that Obama was Putin’s bitch, but he does present a comprehensive overview of the Obama policy toward Russia. Writing in Politico, Kirchick leaves us with the impression that Democrats have been cynical hypocrites.

Of course, Republicans ought to be hammering this story home. Unfortunately, the outsized personality of their president has made it difficult for anyone to focus on anything else.

Kirchick explains:

Most of the people lecturing them for being “Putin’s pawns” spent the better part of the last 8 years blindly supporting a Democratic president, Barack Obama, whose default mode with Moscow was fecklessness. To Republicans, these latter-day Democratic Cold Warriors sound like partisan hysterics, a perception that’s not entirely wrong.

Now that we have discovered that Donald Trump, Jr. met with Russian officials to discuss “adoption,” code for the Magnitsky Act,  Democrats are filled with self-righteous anger over any opposition to this legislation.

When the Russian government or its agents talk about international adoption, they’re really talking about the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 measure sanctioning Russian human rights abusers named after a Russian lawyer tortured to death after exposing a massive tax fraud scheme perpetrated by government officials. The law’s passage so infuriated Putin that he capriciously and cruelly retaliated by banning American adoption of Russian orphans. 

But, Kirchick continues, the Obama administration fought valiantly against the Magnitsky Act. President Obama only signed it under duress:

Yet for all the newfound righteous indignation in defense of the Magnitsky Act being expressed by former Obama officials and supporters, it wasn’t long ago that they tried to prevent its passage, fearing the measure would hamper their precious “reset” with Moscow. In 2012, as part of this effort, the Obama administration lobbied for repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War-era law tying enhanced trade relations with Russia to its human rights record. Some voices on Capitol Hill proposed replacing Jackson-Vanik with Magnitsky, a move the administration vociferously opposed. Shortly after his appointment as ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul (today one of the most widely-cited critics on the subject of Trump and Russia) publicly stated that the Magnitsky Act would be “redundant” and that the administration specifically disagreed with its naming and shaming Russian human rights abusers as well as its imposition of financial sanctions. McFaul even invoked the beleaguered Russian opposition, which he said agreed with the administration’s position.

He continues:

Nevertheless, the Obama administration not only persisted in opposing Magnitsky, but continued to claim that it had the support of the Russian opposition in this endeavor. “Leaders of Russia's political opposition,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, “have called on the U.S. to terminate Jackson-Vanik, despite their concerns about human rights and the Magnitsky case.” Despite administration protestations, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act and Obama reluctantly signed it into law. Reflecting on the legislative battle two years later, Bill Browder, the London-based investor for whom Magnitsky worked and the driving force behind the bill, told Foreign Policy, “The administration, starting with Hillary Clinton and then John Kerry, did everything they could do to stop the Magnitsky Act.”

Looking at the larger picture, Kirchick declares that Obama administration policy was a “protracted, 8-year-long concession to Moscow:"

From the reset, which it announced in early 2009 just months after Russia invaded Georgia, to its removal of missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland later that year, to its ignoring Russia’s violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (while simultaneously negotiating New START) and its ceding the ground in Syria to Russian military intervention, the Obama administration’s Russia policy was one, protracted, 8-year-long concession to Moscow. Throughout his two terms in office, Obama played down the threat Russia posed to America’s allies, interests and values, and ridiculed those who warned otherwise. “The traditional divisions between nations of the south and the north make no sense in an interconnected world nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War,” Obama lectured the United Nations General Assembly in 2009, a more florid and verbose way of making the exact same criticism of supposed NATO obsolescence that liberals would later excoriate Donald Trump for bluntly declaring.

As for the liberal Democrats who have now become fierce opponents of Russia, such was not always their position:

Downplaying both the nature and degree of the Russian menace constituted a major component of mainstream liberal foreign policy doctrine until about a year ago – that is, when it became clear that Russia was intervening in the American presidential race against a Democrat. It provided justification for Obama’s humiliating acceptance in 2013 of Russia’s cynical offer to help remove Syrian chemical weapons after he failed to endorse his own “red line” against their deployment. Not only did that deal fail to ensure the complete removal of Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles (as evidenced by the regime’s repeated use of such weapons long after they were supposedly eliminated), it essentially opened the door to Russian military intervention two years later.

As for their Messiah, Barack Obama, he continued to soft-pedal the threat posed by Russia. One recalls his glib dismissal of Mitt Romney’s statement that Russia was America’s biggest foreign policy challenge. Kirchick believes, correctly, that Romney deserves an apology. Don't hold your breath.

Kirchick continues:

Even after Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, the first violent seizure of territory on the European continent since World War II, Obama continued to understate the severity of the Russian threat. Just a few weeks after the annexation was formalized, asked by a reporter if Romney’s 2012 statement had been proven correct, Obama stubbornly dismissed Russia as “a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors not out of strength but out of weakness.” 

How did Putin see Obama? And how did that influence the Russian decision to try to meddle in the election?

Kirchick explains:

In Obama, Putin rightly saw a weak and indecisive leader and wagered that applying the sort of tactics Russia uses in its post-imperial backyard to America’s democratic process would be worth the effort. 

If Democrats really want to make a case against Trump administration policy on Russia they will need to eat their longstanding policy positions:

For their current criticisms of the Trump administration to carry water, liberals will have to do more than simply apologize for regurgitating Obama’s insult that Republicans are retrograde Cold Warriors. They will have to renounce pretty much the entire Obama foreign policy legacy, which both underestimated and appeased Russia at every turn. Otherwise, their grave intonations about “active measures,” “kompromat” and other Soviet-era phenomena will continue sounding opportunistic, and their protestations about Trump being a Russian stooge will continue to have the appearance of being motivated solely by partisan politics.

And also,

Most Democrats were willing to let Russia get away with these things when President Obama was telling the world that “alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War” are obsolete, or that Russia was a mere “regional power” whose involvement in Syria would lead to another Afghanistan, or when he was trying to win Russian help for his signal foreign policy achievement, the Iran nuclear deal. If the Democrats’ newfound antagonism toward the Kremlin extended beyond mere partisanship, they would have protested most of Obama’s foreign policy, which acceded to Russian prerogatives at nearly every turn. 

Perhaps Democrats are screaming so loudly because they want to divert attention from the Obama administration Russia record:

Are liberals willing to admit the reset was a giant miscalculation from the start? Are they willing to support sending arms to Ukraine? To redeploy missile defense systems to allies in Eastern Europe? Are they willing to concede that Obama’s Syria policy was an epic disaster that paved the way for Russia’s reemergence as a Middle Eastern military power? Are they, in other words, willing to renounce the foreign policy legacy of one of their most popular leaders? Because only that will demonstrate they’re serious about confronting Russia. Anything short reeks of partisanship.


trigger warning said...

Some folks wonder why Iran and North Korea are so hell-bent on aquiring nuclear weapons and so resistant to diplomatic efforts to dissuade them from doing so.

If I may, let me remind the reader that after the dissolution of the USSR, Ukraine was one of the great global nuclear powers (having "inherited" a chunk of Soviet-era nukes located on their soil).

The Triumvirate of Idiocrity, Bill Clinton, John Major, and Boris Yeltsin, plied the young government to give up their nuclear weapons with promises of respect for Ukrainian borders and, most importantly, a pledge (by the US and UK) to leap to their defense should they be invaded by a grumpy bear.

When Russia invaded Crimea, President "Lightworker" Obama had this to say:

"We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine. Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing. The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."

Translated into Russian, that flaccid response is, roughly, "Gabba wabba wabba yadda bummerooski."

No sane nation would ever enter into another such treaty that is co-signed by a Progressive, because they will be thrown to the wolves at the first howl with lugubrious bleats of "deep concern" and vaguely threatening "red lines" that can be safely ignored.

Sam L. said...

When has the Left NOT been cynically hypocritical?

Sam L. said...

To which I present for your consideration, from Althouse this morning:

https://althouse.blogspot.com/2017/07/psychiatry-group-tells-members-they-can.html (just FORGET the Goldwater Rule)

trigger warning said...

I'm sure the Americal Phrenology Association will follow suit.

Ares Olympus said...

Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and candidate was certainly tougher on Russia than Obama. America clearly has a new love affair for the silly old bear Pootie-Poot.

If the Republicans stopped wrapping the flag around themselves so tightly, surely the NeoCons would entirely inhabit the corporate Democrats.

And it does look like Trump's bleeding heart could almost single-handedly turn the the republicans into the new socialist party.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPJfKdp3bDs Donald Trump: Replace Obamacare with Universal Health Care
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwvikFS1vPA Trump Agrees with Bernie Sanders on Health Care

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Calling the Left on hypocrisy will never work. They don't care about being called out on false pretensions or logical inconsistency.

Arguing doesn't work with this, just as set-piece battle strategies didn't work in the jungles of Vietnam. Leftists emote, and always believe their emotions reasonable, just and sound. We can't really argue with them along traditional lines and in conventional forums, as they aren't actually FOR anything concrete, they're just AGAINST whatever it is that you value.

Their idea of argument or rhetoric is a is a dizzying barrage of pejorative labels, mixed in with rhymes and applause lines from daytime talk shows. It's all about brandishing a faux intellect they learned in local reeducation camps (public schools), Ivy League seminaries and social justice indoctrination camps (small liberal arts colleges).

We just have to win. If we are all the evil things they claim we are (by branding us bigots), we are beneath contempt in their eyes. They don't want to talk with us, they want to go to rallies and babble in complaint circles. One cannot reason with a crazy person.

Republican politicians -- especially those inhabiting Washington, D.C. -- do not understand any of this. Chamber of Commerce GOPe types couldn't care less, as they co-opt the Left's emotional pleas like "refugees" and "family reunification" to push their globalist, open borders agenda.

Leftist "discourse" is a theatrical device to distract us from reality. Yes, it is all theater. The truth is that WE are the vast majority. And so we must offer a simple contrasting message, one that requires courage and reflects the reality of what we face. They want to engage us in argument and rational discourse, because the aim is to make us look like squares in order to reinforce and expand their emotional base of support... which is growing.

The Left controls the culture -- the institutional news media, entertainment industry and the academy. This provides them with a delivery system for their ideas, and the broadcast nature creates a distortion of superiority. Here's how this plays out on a daily basis (1) they chant slogans about how bigoted and mean we are, then (2) we become defensive and respond with rational ideas that few understand. Ours is an ineffective outreach strategy in modern America, and the Left knows it. That's why they keep doing it! Trump knows this conventional conservative approach no longer works, and that is how he won. The Trump movement is a guerilla counterinsurgency to match the Leftist guerilla insurgency. The GOPe's D.C. intellectual vanguard stands flat-footed with a 50-year-old conventional approach that no longer works.

We just have to win. In order to do this, we must realize our refusal is enough, and become equally unreasonable in the face of this madness. There's no reasoning with the Left. '

No" is a complete sentence.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC, who are you arguing with?

About "We just have to win", didn't "the Right" already win? How many states and branches of the federal government are controlled by republicans now? Or is the problem the "Alt right" is still losing?

Or is the Alt-Right the new left? Steve Bannon is actually supporting a new higher tax rate, 44%? But can "Populist" Trump listen? Maybe if Bannon is the last guy in the room.

My head is spinning. If the left can't be reasoned with, apparently Trump can replace them with a better populist left?

Then the Corporate Democrats can in take the rest of the millionaires in to fight the good fight against stealing their wealth in death taxes and such.

Perhaps we are in a great polar shift where left is right, up is down, and no party knows what they should stand for, and both the Republicans and Democrats will look like hypocritical idiots every time they open their mouths. And that's a lot easier to show these days when video clips for everything can be so quickly brought to light.

Anonymous said...

You just made Ignatius's point. Well done, boy genius!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

To quote the WOPR: "Interstibg game... The best move is not to play."