Constant dollars

Stupidity will live in infamy

Froma Harrop

Russia’s vicious and unprovoked assault on Ukraine should not be the time for politics. And it’s heartening to see that few Washington politicians of any stature are playing them.

At the start of this tragedy, some on the right applauded Russian President Vladimir Putin. They have virtually gone underground or are trying unsuccessfully to erase from national memory their attempt to undermine President Joe Biden as he responded to a swift and terrifying crisis.

But Republican Senator Mitt Romney rose above that, continuing his long campaign to crush former President Donald Trump’s slavish praise of the evil Putin. Former Vice President Mike Pence has unambiguously condemned GOP “apologists” for Putin. And last weekend, Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio called those voices “distant.”

As for Democrats at the start of the Russian onslaught, a few foolishly expressed frustration that Biden was not profiting politically from Republican support for Trump’s slavish praise of the Russian vampire leader. “‘We’re Zelensky’s Democrats, and these are Putin’s Republicans’ would be my bumper sticker,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, DN.Y.

Biden ignored this self-defeating advice. He is a wartime president, and wartime presidents need national unity to guide the public through difficult times.

Moreover, while it’s true that Trump bought into Putin’s mythology that Ukraine belonged to Russia, it wasn’t just him and his sect. As Fiona Hill, a Russian expert who has advised Republican and Democratic presidents, told Politico: “Some on the left, as well as on the right – masses of the American public (were saying): ‘Bravo, Vladimir Putin,’ or blame NATO or blame the United States for this result.

How united have we become? Reuters/Ipsos poll finds 80% of US public backs Russian oil import ban even if it means higher gas prices. Not so long ago, rising gas prices were a national obsession. They are now above $4 a gallon.

“Close to a record” is, by definition, not a record. In mid-2008, gasoline prices averaged over $5 a gallon in constant dollars.

On Sunday, the so-called people’s convoy, of truckers protesting vaccination mandates (as they were lifted), stalled traffic for a time on the ring road, but did not impede downtown Washington as Canadian truckers had done in Ottawa.

A news outlet that had been reporting on the convoy threat for weeks barely noticed. Likewise, reports of normally big news – very strong job growth and a slump in coronavirus cases – received little attention.

As for our wartime president, his skill in guiding the United States through a dangerous international crisis should speak for itself. Biden has carefully ramped up economic sanctions, keeping some in reserve for later use. He also held back on his calls for the United States to engage militarily with Russia above the skies of Ukraine. This is to avoid sparking a wider conflict, a strategy that TV generals consistently tout.

As far as the American public is concerned, this crisis has generally boosted Biden’s approval ratings. What matters right now, however, is his handling of the international calamity. Some 52% approved of his approach to the war in Ukraine, according to an NPR/PBS/Marist poll released last Saturday.

Right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt went on the radio to call December 7, 1941, “a date that will live in infamy.” The stupidity behind calling Putin a “genius” with good reason to launch an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine will also live in infamy.

But infamy refers to a reputation mired in shame far in the future. We have to pass the month of March.

Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist. Follow her on Twitter @FromaHarrop. It can be emailed to [email protected].

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