Category Archives: Ukraine

All Trump’s Codependents

3/29/2021  WSJ  by William McGurn

“My predecessor. Oh God, I miss him.”

So spoke Joe Biden Thursday in his first press conference as president. In February Mr. Biden had said he was “tired of talking about Donald Trump ” and vowed to spend the next four years talking about the American people. Evidently it’s not to be. Mr. Biden’s presser was chockablock with references to Mr. Trump, including the accusation that he’d let unaccompanied minors “starve to death” on the other side of our southern border.

Mr. Biden’s inability to stop talking about his predecessor speaks to the Trump codependency that has followed the Trump presidency. For the whole promise of Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign was this: Elect me and we will put Donald Trump behind us.

Voters bought it, but the Biden administration remains as fixated on Mr. Trump as ever. We saw this after the horrific shootings in Atlanta that took the lives of eight innocent people, including six women of Asian descent. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president had no desire to “attribute motive.” But she then went right for the old go-to when she claimed “there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration” has “elevated threats against Asian-Americans.” The message was unmistakable: The shootings were partly Mr. Trump’s fault.

Not a single member of the press questioned this assertion. [So do you still argue that the MSM and The Left aren’t biased?? mrossol] Meanwhile, investigators say they have no evidence the killer was even motivated by anti-Asian bias.

In this way Mr. Trump functions much the way the deposed Farmer Jones does in Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” Each time the animals that replaced Jones as rulers of the farm do something contrary to their promises, they deflect difficult questions by bringing up the farmer. “Surely, comrades,” they ask, “you don’t want Jones back?” Same with Democrats and Mr. Trump.

Nancy Pelosi understands this perfectly. Unlike the president, the House speaker admits the situation at the border is a crisis. But she says it’s all Mr. Trump’s fault. That’s the beauty of the Trump codependency: If something your side does blows up in your face, blame it on Mr. Trump.

Likewise with Mrs. Pelosi’s call for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. As the speaker proposed it, the commission would be stacked with seven Democrats against four Republicans. It’s a handy way to distract attention from the Bernie Sanders agenda she’s pushing through Congress while damning the opposition implicitly as white supremacists, insurrectionists or the equivalent of al Qaeda.

Then there’s Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York. No one benefited more from the Trump presidency than Mr. Cuomo, especially over the past year.

As Mr. Trump played the heavy, Mr. Cuomo wrote a book on “Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which landed on the New York Times bestseller list. The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences threw in an Emmy for his press conferences. Alas, karma has caught up with Mr. Cuomo. Without Mr. Trump as his foil, he’s become just a governor whose administration covered up Covid deaths in nursing homes—and another male pol accused by women he worked with of sexual harassment. Plainly Mr. Cuomo has a bad case of Trump withdrawal.

He’s not alone. Turns out that among the most codependent are the same news outlets that spent the past four years as proud members of “the resistance.” In a 2017 interview with the New York Times, President Trump alluded to this by predicting he’d be re-elected because “newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes.”

He didn’t win, of course, but a Washington Post piece last Tuesday conceded Mr. Trump had a point. “Trump’s various scandals and outbursts helped reporters build résumés, sell books, land lucrative commentary gigs and win awards,” it reported. By contrast, post-Trump “traffic to the nation’s most popular news sites” has “plummeted” over the past five weeks. CNN and MSNBC have respectively lost 45% and 26% of their prime-time audiences over the same time.

But no one has suffered more for its codependency than the Lincoln Project, a super PAC launched in 2019 by Republican Never Trumpers. The group has emerged from the elections as discredited as Mr. Trump. When news broke that co-founder John Weaver had regularly sent young men explicit messages soliciting sex in exchange for help with their careers, several key players in the organization resigned.

In response to the scandal, the board announced an external investigation, with co-founder Steve Schmidt insisting that he and the group’s leaders were unaware of any inappropriate behavior until this January. But the Associated Press reports that the leaders learned of the allegations against Mr. Weaver last summer. The question has become distinctly Nixonian: What did the Lincoln Project leaders know and when did they know it?

On top of this, the Lincoln Project increasingly looks like a clever grift. According to Federal Election Commission data, of the nearly $90 million in donations it raised, more than half was directed to consulting firms controlled by the Lincoln Project’s founders. In short, they lined their own pockets.

When Mr. Biden won in November, the received wisdom was that Mr. Trump’s voters would be absolutely lost without him. Who would have thought that would be even truer of his critics?

https://www.wsj.com/articles/all-trumps-codependents-11617057279?mod=hp_opin_pos_3

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A Lesson for America in Poland’s Rise and Ukraine’s Fall

A pity that many Americans do not seem to have the ability to connect these dots.
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By Phil Gramm and Michael Solon

“As President Obama is learning, no political victory is permanent without economic success. Consider the fates of two former Soviet vassals.”

In forging Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk warned his countrymen in 1923 that all they had accomplished hung in a most tenuous balance: “No matter how great they are, political and military victories cannot endure unless they are crowned by economic triumphs.” Ninety years later, Atatürk’s wisdom applies not just to Turkey at its inception but to all people, in all times, who seek to win and preserve freedom and independence.

There is no better modern example of the power of an economic triumph than the experience of Ukraine and Poland in the post-Cold War era. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the U.S.S.R., both nations—which emerged from Soviet domination with virtually identical economic and political systems—suddenly faced the rarest of Central European conditions: independence.

Ukraine has largely squandered its economic potential with pervasive corruption, statist cronyism and government control. With budget deficits as high as 14.4% of GDP, hyperinflation and an underground economy approaching 50% of all economic activity, Ukraine’s economy since 1992 has grown about one-fifth as much as the economy of its smaller neighbor Belarus. The per capita income of Ukraine, in U.S. dollar equivalence, has grown to only $3,900 in 2013 from a base of $1,570 in 1990.

Today, the whole world is painfully aware that Ukraine’s economic failure has endangered its freedom and independence, and forced it to courageously fight for both.

By most conventional measures, Ukraine should be a wealthy country. It has world-class agricultural land, it is rich in hydrocarbons and mineral resources, and it possesses a well-educated labor force. Yet Ukraine remains poor, because while successful Central European nations have replaced their central-planning institutions with market-based reforms, Ukraine has never been able to break the crippling chains of collectivism. Only now is Ukraine seriously attempting to limit government, control spending, stop the growth of its national debt, and stabilize the value of its currency.

These are reforms that Poland instituted almost a quarter of a century ago, and dramatically transforming its economy. By employing free-market principles and unleashing the genius of its people, Poland has triggered an economic triumph as per capita GDP, in U.S. dollar equivalence, soared to more than $13,432 by 2013 from $1,683 in 1990. Today Poland is the fastest-growing economy in Europe. Its economic success and democratic reforms have earned it European Union membership, and Poland’s once fleeting sovereignty is now anchored in NATO.

The man largely responsible for Poland’s transformation is Leszek Balcerowicz, the former finance minister who was later governor of Poland’s Central Bank. In transforming a nation from a state-based collectivist economy to a market-oriented economy, Mr. Balcerowicz in 1989 had no manual to read or modern example to follow.

He faced two choices: act boldly using what he called “shock therapy” or act slowly and incrementally. Bold action had little chance of success but incrementalism had no chance of success. As Mr. Balcerowicz put it, “a very risky option is always better than a hopeless option.”

The concept of free markets was foreign to the Polish people, but Mr. Balcerowicz understood that economic freedom was a necessary condition for prosperity and, ultimately, for the preservation of political freedom and national independence. The Balcerowicz Plan was built around permitting state firms to go bankrupt, banning deficit financing, and maintaining a sound currency. It ended artificially low interest rate loans for state firms, opened up international trade and instituted currency convertibility.

His plan was signed into law on December 31, 1989 and within days, inflation—which had reached an annual rate of 17,000%—started to plummet. Poland pegged the value of the zloty to the dollar, permitting redenomination of the zloty five years later by crossing out four zeros. Once the reforms were in place, goods started showing up first in the trunks of cars, then in street stands, in small shops and ultimately in large stores. A miracle transition was under way and the rest is history.

By crowning its great political victory in achieving independence with economic triumph, Poland has established itself as a Western nation. Whereas the people of Ukraine are divided by language and heritage, in Poland people are united by prosperity and a shared hope for the future. By using its political victory to remake its economy, Poland created the prosperity that has strengthened and solidified its freedom and independence.

Atatürk’s dictum is a warning that without economic growth and prosperity, political and military victories can be transient and historically inconsequential. President Obama has won historic political victories. ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, the largest stimulus program in American history and the most pervasive expansion of regulatory authority in three quarters of a century largely fulfilled a progressive agenda that predated the 20th century. While Mr. Obama has transformed American society, his program has failed to produce an economic triumph, a failure that a free society will not long tolerate.

The Reagan program, begun in the early 1980s, dominated the economic policy of America for a quarter century because it produced broad-based prosperity in what now seems to have been a golden age. While the Reagan program has been largely repealed, in the midst of the current failed recovery the memory of its success burns ever more brightly.

But more than it needs memories, America needs a new generation of leaders who are ready, as Ronald Reagan and Leszek Balcerowicz were, with a plan of action when America turns again—as it inevitably will—to the system of freedom and opportunity that made us the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Mr. Gramm, a former Republican senator from Texas, is senior partner of US Policy Metrics and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Solon, a former adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is a partner in US Policy Metrics.

Phil Gramm and Michael Solon: A Lesson for America in Poland's Rise and Ukraine's Fall – WSJ.

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Matthew Kaminski: The West Leaves Ukraine to Putin – WSJ.com

With friends like the USA, who needs enemies?
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By MATTHEW KAMINSKI CONNECT
Updated April 14, 2014 5:39 a.m. ET
Kiev, Ukraine

‘We’re the chosen generation,” says Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s interim prime minister. He’s referring to all those who made this winter’s European revolution. For the first time since 1654, when Ukrainian Cossacks formed a fateful alliance with Moscow against Polish rulers, Ukrainians are heading back West.

Their timing is terrible. Two decades ago, when the Berlin Wall fell, the West embraced another generation of Eastern Europeans. Ukraine has gotten a different welcoming committee. An economically feeble European Union gorges on Russian energy and dirty money while lecturing Ukraine on Western values but refusing to defend it. Asking for Washington’s help against Russian attack, Kiev finds a man “chosen” in the past two presidential elections to get America out of the world’s trouble spots.

Vladimir Putin sees a West made soft by money, led by weak men and women, unwilling to make sacrifices to defend their so-called ideals. In the Ukrainian crisis, the image fits. Russia’s president is many things, but most of all he is resolute. He took the EU and America’s measure and annexed Crimea last month at minimal cost. Ignoring Western pleas for “de-escalation,” Russia this weekend invaded eastern Ukraine. Just don’t look for video of T-72 tanks rolling across the borders, not yet at least.

Russian intelligence and special forces on Saturday directed local crime bosses and thugs in coordinated attacks on police stations and other government buildings in towns across eastern Ukraine. These men were dressed and equipped like the elite Russian special forces (“little green men,” as Ukrainians called them) who took Crimea. Ukrainian participants got the equivalent of $500 to storm and $40 to occupy buildings, according to journalists who spoke to them. Fighting broke out on Sunday in Slovyansk, a sleepy town in the working-class Donbas region that hadn’t seen any “pro-Russia” protests. A Ukrainian security officer was killed.

Kiev is on a war footing. Radio commercials ask for donations to the defense budget by mobile-telephone texts. The government’s decision to cede Crimea without firing a shot cost the defense minister his job and wasn’t popular. Western praise for Ukrainians’ “restraint” got them nothing. The fight for Ukraine’s east will be different.

This invasion was stealthy enough to let Brussels and Washington not use the i-word in their toothless statements. The EU’s high representative, Catherine Ashton, called herself “gravely concerned” and commended Ukraine’s “measured response.” There was no mention of sanctions or blame. The U.S. State Department on Saturday said that John Kerry warned his diplomatic counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that “if Russia did not take steps to de-escalate in eastern Ukraine and move its troops back from Ukraine’s border, there would be additional consequences.”

By now, the Ukrainians ought to have seen enough to know that they’re on their own. Moscow has reached the same conclusion. These perceptions of the West are shaping events.

A month ago, the EU sanctioned 21 marginal Russian officials and quickly tried to get back to business as usual. On Friday, the U.S. added to its sanctions list seven Russian citizens and one company, all in Crimea. What a relief for Moscow’s elites, who were speculating in recent days about who might end up on the list. Slovyansk fell the next day.  Any revolution brings a hangover. Ukrainians expected problems: an economic downturn, some of the old politics-as-usual in Kiev, including fisticuffs last week in parliament, and trouble from Russia. Abandonment by the West is the unexpected blow. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fought, and 100 died, for their chance to join the world’s democracies.

As an institution, the EU always found excuses to deny Ukraine the prospect of membership in the bloc one day. But Bill Clinton and George W. Bush never recognized Russian domination over Ukraine. Billions were spent—Kiev was the third-largest recipient of U.S. aid in the 1990s—and American promises were made to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty. In return, Ukraine took active part in NATO discussions and missions, sending thousands of troops to the Balkans and Iraq.

When Russia invaded Crimea and massed 40,000 or more troops in the east, Ukraine turned to an old friend, the United States, and asked for light arms, antitank weapons, intelligence help and nonlethal aid. The Obama administration agreed to deliver 300,000 meals-ready-to-eat. As this newspaper reported Friday, military transport planes were deemed too provocative for Russia, so the food was shipped by commercial trucks. The administration refused Kiev’s requests for intelligence-sharing and other supplies, lethal or not.

Boris Tarasiuk, Ukraine’s former foreign minister, barely disguises his anger. He says: “We’ve not seen the same reaction from the U.S.” as during Russia’s 2008 attack on Georgia. U.S. Navy warships were deployed off the Georgian Black Sea coast. Large Air Force transport planes flew into Tbilisi with emergency humanitarian supplies. But who really knew for sure what was on board the planes? That was the point. Russian troops on the road to the Georgian capital saw them above and soon after turned back. The Bush administration dropped the ball on follow-up sanctions but may have saved Georgia.

By contrast, the Obama administration seems to think that pre-emptive concessions will pacify Mr. Putin. So the president in March ruled out U.S. military intervention in Ukraine. Maybe, but why say so? Late last month at a news conference in Brussels, Mr. Obama also openly discouraged the idea of Georgia or Ukraine joining NATO.  The next diplomatic “off ramp” touted by the Obama administration will be the negotiations involving Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the U.S. scheduled for later this week. Petro Poroshenko, the leading Ukrainian presidential candidate, tells me that these “talks for the sake of talks” send “a very wrong signal” about the West’s commitment to sanctions. It’s a case of the blind faith in “diplomacy” undermining diplomacy. See the Obama record on Syria for the past three years.

The West looks scared of Russia, which encourages Mr. Putin’s bullying. But on the Ukrainian side, the sense of abandonment brings unappreciated consequences. Ukraine’s political elites have taken into account that Russia could reimpose its will—perhaps that anticorruption law demanded by the EU isn’t so necessary after all?  While millions of Ukrainians have united against Russia, out in the east of the country many people are fence-sitters. The fight there, as in Crimea, won’t be over any genuine desire to rejoin Russia. Before last month, polls in Crimea and eastern Ukraine put support for separatists in single digits. But the locals’ historical memory teaches them to respect force and side with winners. Left to fend for itself by the West, Ukraine looks like a loser to them, notes Kiev academic Andreas Umland.

The U.S. Army won’t save Slovyansk. But Ukraine expects and deserves America’s support by every other means that Washington has refused so far. Betrayal is an ugly word and an uglier deed. Europe and the U.S. will pay dearly for it in Ukraine.

Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.

Matthew Kaminski: The West Leaves Ukraine to Putin – WSJ.com.

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Putin Acts, Obama Assesses

Aren’t you glad we have such a reflective President?
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The White House on Monday said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is stirring the unrest in eastern Ukraine, but President Obama hasn’t yet decided if further sanctions are warranted. That’s how the Associated Press put its dispatch from Washington on the crisis in Ukraine, and the juxtaposition is a perfect summary of the current state of U.S. foreign policy.

Vladimir Putin uses Russian special forces to cow a neighbor and steal territory, while Mr. Obama agonizes about what to do. “We are actively evaluating what is happening in eastern Ukraine, what actions Russia has taken, what transgressions they’ve engaged in,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “And we are working with our partners and assessing for ourselves what response we may choose.” This is from the same President who has been saying for weeks that any further Russian transgressions into Ukraine would be met with harsh sanctions. Mr. Putin must laugh out loud when he reads this stuff.

Meanwhile, the government in Kiev is getting the message that it had better fend for itself and has begun to meet one of the offers from Mr. Putin that it can’t refuse. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said he is now open to a national referendum that would grant greater autonomy to regions of the country. Mr. Putin wants to hive off eastern and southern Ukraine into what would essentially be a Russian protectorate and leave Kiev with a rump state. The U.S. has refused to send Ukraine lethal military aid, and Kiev may be looking to sue for peace to avoid an outright invasion.

We know Mr. Obama didn’t run for President to engage in great power politics, but it is still part of the job description. Is he still interested in doing his job?

Putin Acts, Obama Assesses – WSJ.com.

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