Why has Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and Crimea? What does this mean for American interests and my 401(k)? Does President Obama have any good options? Is the Cold War coming back?
And who is Putin wearing?
Like many Americans, these questions filled my head Monday after my Oscars hangover lifted. I turned on the television to see what the pundits had to offer. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and failed 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, was on Fox News, explaining the world to Sean Hannity.
Putin’s aggression, it soon became clear, came about not because he wants to maintain Russia’s Black Sea naval base in Crimea and not because his is set on maintaining Ukraine’s multifaceted dependence on Russia.
It came about because he is a manly man and President Obama is not.
Oliver North told Hannity that Obama can't draw red lines because he uses “a pink crayon.”
And while you think I was joking about what Putin is wearing, I merely took my cue from Palin, who blamed Putin’s aggression on bad fashion choices by the president.
“Obama -- the perception of him and his potency across the world -- is one of such weakness,” Palin said. “Lookit, people are lookin’ at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates. We are not exercising that ‘peace through strength’ that only can be brought to you courtesy of the red, white and blue, that only a strengthened United States military can do.”
(Don’t get me started on the political and cultural hypocrisy of a woman who uses female imagery to denigrate a man. Palin is quick to call out critics for what she perceives as sexist slights, yet has no problem slinging them around herself. Anyway.)
Palin’s chief foreign policy credential in this discussion appears to be, yes, Alaska’s proximity to Russia, but more important, a six-year-old campaign trail statement in which she conjectured that Putin might invade Ukraine, just as he invaded Georgia in 2008.
Suffering from the same amnesia that afflicts most Republicans in discussions about the years 2001-09, she failed to note that the Georgia incursion took place on the watch of an American president whose imperial demonstrations of strength had perilously stretched the U.S. military and seriously weakened America’s standing in the world.
But President George W. Bush wore Levis, so that was OK, I guess.
“Yes, I could see this one from Alaska,” Palin neener-neenered on her Facebook page Monday. “I’m usually not one to Told-Ya-So, but I did; despite my accurate prediction being derided as ‘an extremely far fetched scenario’ by the ‘high-brow’ Foreign Policy magazine. Here’s what this ‘insipid woman’ predicted back in 2008: “After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.’”
OK, good for Palin, who is scheduled to close the annual Conservative Political Action conference on Saturday. She said something in 2008 that came true six years later. Now would you like her to be vice president?
And do you think those were actually her own thoughts, or ones crafted by John McCain’s top foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, a neocon who was both a paid lobbyist for Georgia and supporter of Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi charlatan who helped Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney gull the American people into a misbegotten war?
Willfull forgetfulness cannot erase the Bush blunders that contributed to Putin’s sense that he is impervious to world judgment. As New York Times reporter Carla Anne Robbins put it in 2007, on the eve of another summit between the two leaders:
“The balance of power these days has shifted — though likely not as far as the Russians believe. Moscow is flush with oil money. The U.S. has been weakened by the disastrous war in Iraq …. Six years later one has to wonder how things might have turned out differently if, at that first meeting, Mr. Bush had really looked into Mr. Putin’s soul and decided that helping nurture Russia’s fragile democracy was more important than building a missile defense system.”
Oh well. Why bring up the past? It just gets in the way of blaming Obama’s fashion sense for the current world predicament.
A chorus of Republicans are claiming that Putin’s aggression is all Obama’s fault. Yet both Republicans and Democrats — not to mention European allies — agree that economic and political pressure is the only way forward.
Still, that does not explain the bizarre advice that Palin offered Putin on Monday.
“I am loath to give any advice to a tyrant like Putin,” she said. “But you know, what he could do is what liberals adopt here in America as acceptable — and that is when our president decides which laws, pickin’ and choosin’ that he will follow, he can just call it an executive order and nobody says boo.”
I suppose she was she trying to make a contradictory point about the president, who, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank pointed out Monday, is accused by Republicans of being both a dictator and a weakling.
Which raises another important fashion question: Do jackboots ever go with mom jeans?