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When Liberal Doves Become Russia Hawks
Paul Kengor
by

In the final presidential debate of 2012, Barack Obama mocked Mitt Romney that “the 1980s” were “calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” Romney warned Obama that Putin and the Kremlin were not our pals. Obama chortled at the pathetic Cold War reactionary. He and fellow liberals had a good laugh.

There was, of course, reason for Mitt’s concern. Just a few months earlier, in an infamous “live mic” incident, Obama promised Dmitri Medvedev, Putin’s lap-dog, that he would have “more flexibility” for the Russians “after the election.” A satisfied Medvedev smiled and assured Obama he would relay the good news to Vladimir.

The Russians had faith in Obama. From the outset of his presidency, Obama had been eager to give Putin everything he wanted. (I’m reminded of what FDR said of Stalin: “I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”) On September 17, 2009, our freshman president mortified Poles and Czechs when he canceled plans for a joint U.S. missile shield with Poland and the Czech Republic.

The date of September 17, incidentally, is burned into the memory of Poles. It was September 17, 1939 that Stalin’s Red Army, enforcing the Hitler-Stalin Pact, invaded Poland. Obama canceling the missile shield on the anniversary of that date was viewed by Poles as the ultimate slap in the face. Poles have a long, painful history of watching Democratic presidents accommodate Russia at their expense.

I’m reminded of a very different attitude toward the Russians. “We had to bargain with them from strength, not weakness,” recalled President Ronald Reagan. “If you were going to approach the Russians with a dove of peace in one hand, you had to have a sword in the other.”

Barack Obama approached Vladimir Putin with a dove of peace in one hand and a bouquet of roses in the other. And Putin grinned.

No president has been duped by the Russians like Obama since Jimmy Carter. At the Vienna summit in June 1979, Carter lovingly planted a soft, wet kiss on the cheek of the Russian bear, Leonid Brezhnev. Six months later, at Christmas time, Carter was informed that his smooching buddy’s Red Army had just invaded Afghanistan. Carter was stunned.

“My opinion of the Russians has changed most dramatically in the last week,” confessed the born-again Carter. “This action of the Soviets has made a more dramatic change in my own opinion of what the Soviets’ ultimate goals are than anything they’ve done in the previous time I’ve been in office.”

The Republican challenger waiting in the wings, Ronald Reagan, was beside himself, saying privately (in a letter) that Carter’s assessment “would be laughable, I think, if it were not so tragic.” Said Reagan: “It is frightening to hear a man in the office of the presidency who has just discovered that the Soviets can’t be trusted, that they’ve lied to him.”

Which brings us back to Barack Obama: In a remarkable turnabout, Obama is apparently no longer Vladimir Putin’s dupe. No, Obama has morphed into an anti-Russia hawk. It took a Kremlin action of genuine concern to liberals — not U.S. missile defense, not the Poles, not the Czechs, not the Crimea. No, it took Russian action against Hillary Clinton. It was their apparent email meddling (which Jed Babbin more accurately describes as “cyberwar”) against the Democrats during the 2016 election to rouse the righteous indignation of liberals.

“Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin,” asserts a suddenly Russia-savvy Obama, implying that Putin ordered or knew of the email hacking — or, as CNN put it, “all but naming Putin.” “This happened at the highest levels of the Russian government.”

John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign manager, is furious. He likewise has now found reason to assail the Russians. He, like Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA under Obama and a Hillary booster, has asserted that the apparent Russian hacking of Democrats’ email is “the political equivalent of 9/11.”

Whoa. Really? Now them are fightin’ words!

One can understand why Podesta is so personally upset. WikiLeaks released highly disturbing emails exchanged among Podesta and his progressive pals in the final weeks of the Hillary presidential campaign, revealing embarrassing discussions of everything from “Spirit Cooking” dinners with an occultist-performance artist to taking down the Roman Catholic Church. Were the Russians the conduit to WikiLeaks? Who knows? But Podesta isn’t happy that the nefarious Kremlin might have exposed the twisted notions of him and his progressive comrades.

Gee, Mr. Podesta, aren’t the Russians our friends anymore?

All sorts of Democrats are now up in arms over the Russkies. They’re practically calling for a resurrection of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) is calling for a 9/11-style commission to investigate Moscow. And take a gander at this stunner of a statement from a Democrat: “We cannot trust the Russians,” insists Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. “We can’t trust the Russians now and we’re not going to be able to trust them after January 20.”

It’s like the ghost of Joe McCarthy has suddenly leapt into the collective body of the Democratic Party. I wonder if Cardin or some other Democratic senator is holding a list of 57 members of the Republican Party suspected of having worked with Moscow?

What hypocrisy. A brief personal note on this: It was 10 years ago about this time that I broke a story on the liberals’ lover-boy, Ted Kennedy, reaching out to Victor Chebrikov at the KGB and Yuri Andropov at the Kremlin to work against Ronald Reagan. The source for this was a May 1983 Soviet Central Committee document declassified by the Yeltsin government (it has since been resealed by Putin) published in my 2006 book The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism. For 10 years, I have carried that document in my briefcase, waiting for just one liberal in the mainstream media to ask me about it. That has never happened. It’s like the liberals consigned that document to the howling winds of Siberia. They could give a damn about that document, just as they could give a damn when Obama in September 2009 sold out Poland to Putin. They only care now, when the Russians might have sold out their Hillary.

To be sure, I totally concede the troubling possibility that Putin and the boys would have sought to intervene in the 2016 election because they prefer Donald Trump in the White House. Hillary and Vladimir would’ve gotten along about as well as Reagan and Andropov. Hillary has her colossal faults, and I’m thrilled she will not be our next president, but Bill Clinton’s humiliated spouse and feminist icon was an unlikely sucker to be romanced by Vlad. Trump, on the other hand, has a terribly naïve FDR-like “he likes me!” attitude toward Putin. Literally, both FDR and Trump used that exact phrase expressing their elation over (respectively) Stalin and Putin. (Click here for a piece I wrote on this.)

All along, I’ve feared Trump’s attitude toward Russia. So have my Polish friends — good guys who are as conservative and pro-Reagan and anti-communist as anyone reading this article. Those guys are erecting statues to Ronald Reagan in Warsaw. They are basically Polish conservative Republicans. Their adopted party is the GOP. It infuriates them to think their Party of Reagan could be headed by a man who they fear might sell them out to Russia in an Obama-FDR-Carter-Democratic Party way.

So, in that sense, I share the concern that the Kremlin would be understandably eager to have Donald Trump in the White House. Incidentally, this is why Trump needs a Russia realist to head the State Department, not a Russia accommodationist. We’ve had too many of those at State. I’ve never been a big Mitt Romney fan, but we do need someone with at least Romney’s Russia-realism heading State.

Anyway, so good to see Democrats finally awaken to the perils of the Russian bear. It took the Russkies slapping Hillary to awake their sorry rear-ends.

“Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave,” lamented Obama of recent praise of Russia by some Trump Republicans.

Alas, Obama is finally right. And like Ronald Reagan had lamented of Jimmy Carter in that Democratic president’s final year in office, it’s “tragic” that it took Obama so far into his presidency to realize the Russians can’t be trusted.

Welcome to Russia reality, liberals. We’re all Cold Warriors now, eh? Where are HUAC and Joe McCarthy when you need ’em?

Paul Kengor
Paul Kengor
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Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., and senior academic fellow at the Center for Vision & Values. Dr. Kengor is author of over a dozen books, including A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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