Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Friday, October 28, 2016

First comes the melodrama, next comes the killing. Good vs. evil, suffering innocents vs. swaggering bullies, heroes vs. villains. The “Two Minutes Hate,” Orwell called it — the way of the world since the invention of mass media.

So it is during the current political crisis in the Ukraine. In the U.S. media, the identity of the Bad Guy has been clearly determined: Russian president Vladimir Putin, the one-time KGB operative with the hooded eyes.

“The world has not yet forgotten World War Two, but Russia already wants to start World War Three,” Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk has declared. He accuses Moscow of acting like a “gangster,” of supporting “terrorists,” and alleges that Putin wishes to build a new Berlin Wall.

So what’s taking him so long? If Putin really wanted a shooting war in the Ukraine, he’s had ample opportunities to start one since the overthrow of that country’s Russian-leaning elected government last February.

Instead, Putin managed to transfer the Crimean peninsula, with its strategically crucial military bases, from Ukrainian to Russian sovereignty without firing a shot—an impressive feat of geopolitical gamesmanship whether you trust the cunning rascal or not. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any Russian head of state willingly surrendering control of warm-water naval bases on the Black Sea.

Even if the vast majority of Crimean citizens didn’t yearn to return to Mother Russia, as quite clearly they did.

Meanwhile, the role of Good Guy in the Ukrainian melodrama has fallen by default to President Barack Obama, who appears disinclined to play it.

“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force,” the president asked recently, “after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?”

He didn’t call any names, but Obama did mention the Sunday TV talk shows, where 2008 presidential rival Senator John McCain (R-AZ) frequently holds forth. It’s a rare interview that doesn’t find the bellicose Arizonan, who’s supported all 14 of the nation’s last three wars, yearning to bomb somebody.

“Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian Army?” Obama asked. He added that steady diplomatic and economic pressure is more likely to restrain Putin than futile military gestures.

Talk like that invariably stimulates what Calvin Trillin dubbed the “Sabbath Gasbags” to question the president’s virility. On Meet the Press, hairy-chested he-man David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who thought invading Iraq was a terrific idea, opined that “Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a–I’ll say it crudely–a manhood problem…Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad, somebody like Putin?”

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • docb

    The situation in not conducive to repub neocon sound bites…BOMB BOMB BOMB will not cut it!

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    And the whole thing is driving Putin nuts.
    1. He threatens to cut off Gas to Europe and China offers him about half as much per metric unit as he is charging Europe.
    2. International monetary exchanges are avoiding anything to do with the Ruble.
    3. Credit card companies (Visa, MC, etc.) are stopping transactions in Russia, so Putin decides Russia will issue their own credit cards (which will not be accepted outside of Russia).
    4. Putin and his “loyal” oligarchs have found their overseas funds in the US, UK, Switzerland and Grenada suddenly unavailable. The “disloyal” oligarchs are all in prison, but their funds are frozen to Comrade Putin, too!
    5. Putin tries to publicly deny Russian involvement in the Ukrainian Civil War (let’s call it like it is) only to discover somebody pulled a “Snowden” on him and released audio tapes outlining how Russia is directly supporting the rebels.
    Yep. He’s not exactly having a good week.

    • sigrid28

      Which raises two questions: Is Republican leadership really so naive about the impact of monetary consequences, or are do its spokespersons just pretend to be? Their constituents–excepting the billionaires–are dumb as a bucket of hair about money, or they’d never vote Republican. This Sunday talk show discourse seems to be mostly for their delectation. I hope Republican leaders will keep on underestimating the intelligence of most Americans until they are voted out of office once and for all. Until then, all this talk about manliness is just a distraction. I’m bracing for the dumb things that will come out of their mouths if a woman is president.

  • voice_reason

    “Dumbing down” is what they do best, he only thing that the american public can understand since we don’t do politics well, we don’t understand foreign countries and their politics well since most of us have never left the state they were born in, and besides, they are foreigners, who gives a damn, we’re Americans and the world should revolve around us!

    • idamag

      I have a couple of theories about dumbing down. In the 80’s there was a push to limit the size of families because we were using up our natural resources at a rapid speed. Intelligent people thought that could be a problem and limited the sizes of their families. So now the balance between intelligent and not intelligent is off. The other theory is mental stimulation. As greed took over television, they started putting less and less money into programming. Think about what is available on television. Reality shows. Any stimulation there? Political commentator shows for people who have to be told what to think. Re-runs of the same programs over and over. Even the history and cooking channels have become reality shows. So you end up watching the best of the worst. That is not mentally stimulating.

      • Sand_Cat

        Ever seen the movie “Idiocracy”? Crude, but pretty much on the money, and quite funny.

  • Bambi

    As usual, those who won’t be held accountable are the first to cast disparging remarks against those who are held accountable. The best way to foster democracy is to empower the people (government),in their pursuit of a more perfect union for ALL, over the restraints of the conservative objectives, to make policies that favor not only the rich, but the warmongers in the military/industrial complex, who will benefit greatly from military intrusion. It’s the wealthy “doner’s” well-being they seek, not the average joe.

    • Billie

      True. After all war is profitable. Witness Halliburton in Iraq and no telling how many other places.

  • midway54

    As the plutocrats continue pulling the levers of its Operation Phornicate that ultimately chews up, along with rational citizens,,the misguided dupes and yahoos cheering them on for perpetual military adventures and perpetual profits, it becomes clearer by the day and week to the dissenters against warmongering profiteers waving flags, seeing themselves as the only true patriots and engaging in needless military actions, just how fortunate it is that McCain is not in the White House and even more strikingly fortunate it is that Shrieking Sarah Palin is not waiting in the wings in the event of his death or disability.

    • idamag

      If McCain had been elected president, bombs would probably be flying everywhere.

      • Allan Richardson

        I remember his parody of “Barbara Ann” sung to a “private” audience when he didn’t know he was being recorded.

  • idamag

    Senator McCain has, in the past, wanted to drop a bomb on Pakistan. Drop a bomb on Yemen. Drop bombs in Benghazi. Drop a bomb on Syria. Drop a bomb on Iran. Drop a bomb on Egypt. Now, he wants to drop a bomb on Russia. It is any wonder that other countries do not trust the United States?

  • charleo1

    My primary concern is not whether Putin decides to invade the Ukraine. My
    sense is, if the Russian leaning democratically elected Gov. is returned to
    power, he will not make an overt military move to invade. Covert, he’s doing
    now, of course. The thing I worry the most about, is a full blown Civil War. Historically, this region has been the site of some very bloody conflicts. And if that happens, I would say the odds are very good, Putin will step in to protect Russia’s geo-political interests. And introducing more weapons to the highly charged situation, would be probably the worst thing we could do. Short of a full blown military conflict with the Russian Federation. And that is not going to happen, unless things go very unexpectedly wrong somehow. Yes, Viktor Yanukovych, is corrupt, and he favors closer ties with Russia. While, “our guy,” Arseny Yatseniuk, would move the Ukraine to closer ties with the European Union, and the West. And to that I say, so what? It’s not a case where Yanukovych has outlawed political opposition. Far from doing so, Yatseniuk, the current leader of a minority Party, formed, and made stronger, by the coalition of two previously separate political entities, was elected by Parliamentary vote, to serve as PM within the Yanukovych Gov. and declined to do so. Preferring instead to lead the hostile takeover of a Gov. he failed to win electorally. My feeling are, why don’t we here in the U.S. try something novel, and allow the people of the Ukraine to settle out their differences, while acknowledging Vladimire Putin has some very important stakes in this? Should we reasonably expect the Russians to stand aside, while another Country on it’s border becomes yet another NATO Nation? Where, as in Poland, and across Eastern Europe, we install more point blank missile batteries, sign more trip wire treaties, as Russia forfeits it’s strategic Black Sea Navel Port, in Crimea? I think the fact we are having a tough time even placing mild sanctions on Russia, because our European partners, which unlike the U.S. do have vital trading ties, and economic interests to be pursued in Russia. Are balking at the thought of any sanctions that if imposed, could dissuade Putin to stop meddling in what is his own backyard.

  • herchato

    It seems to me that the president is doing the sane and logical thing. Why spend lives and money to accomplish nothing and possibly make things worse.

    • Sand_Cat

      Well, because if he follows their advice and it blows up in his face, they can blame it on him (and probably get away with it if the “blowup” isn’t a literal one).

  • Sand_Cat

    Hey, what’s complicated? All we have to do is nuke the bastards, and our problems will be over very soon afterward.

    • Allan Richardson

      As Tom Lehrer wrote about 1960, “We will all go together when we go, … nearly three billion [now seven billion] hunks of well done steak! …”

  • ChristoD

    John McCain. What to make of a man who spent several years behind bars as a POW in Hanoi. Did he go brain dead there or did he simply become so angry with his captors that he still has the angry fire in him ? What would he be doing if HE were President ? Would he be sending in troops, arms or mercenaries ? Yah right. You do have to admire him and his associates for NEVER let go of an issue (think Benghazi) simply because they have little else to do. They certainly have proven they refuse to govern as rational, ‘loyal opposition’ dudes. So they pathetically just keep hammering away at the ‘amateurish, leaderless, mini-manliness’ of our over-his-head President Obama. As I go to bed at night, I think of the Beast Putin, War Mongeing McCain and Calculating Obama and I thank God that McCain is not where Obama would be lest we have another Dubya moment and the loss of many thousands of American troops, at a minimum, and the ‘honor and prestige’ of America in tact simply by ‘putting Putin in his place’. Again I say, yah right. My advice to Sen. McCain is, ‘Sen. the world is no longer what you think it is. America is still the power we want it to be but is LEADING in a different way, to the present Presidents’ credit. Either deal with it with dignity or maybe it is time for you to find a different line of work before you embarrass yourself into a life of obscurity’.

    • Allan Richardson

      President McCain would have been a lot like President Goldwater, but Democrats are too “nice” to remake the “daisy” ad that got LBJ re-elected.

      • Sand_Cat

        Frankly, I think President Goldwater would have been a lot better. He certainly had far more integrity.

    • RusInMass

      He’s always been a reckless fool. Crashed two planes before his capture. Crashed his campaign in the swamps of Wasilla AK.

  • Allan Richardson

    Actually, the lunatic fringe DID question Ike’s “manhood” along with Truman’s for not STARTING World War III in Europe (General Patton even proposed coercing a dollar each in “donations” from his GI command of a million men, then resigning from the U.S. Army and hiring PRIVATE mercenaries to invade Russia, right after the big war was over). That lunatic fringe became the John Birch Society, founded by Mr. Koch, whose two sons promote the same fringe ideology but under the “Tea Party” cover.

  • RusInMass

    “unclear is exactly how much control Putin has over Russian-speaking militias”
    He doesn’t need to control them. He only needs to provoke them. Easily done.

  • LoneLiberTexan

    As usual, a great perspective from Mr. Lyons.

  • LoneLiberTexan

    And if I hear the “leading from the rear” cliche one more time, I may upchuck.