The Panderers’ Tango

Ron DeSantis, who is planning to run for U.S. President in 2024, and must therefore suck up relentlessly to the Republican Party’s MAGA-QAnon base, which is in love with Vladimir Putin, has publicly adopted the standard position of all current Republicans who have need of gaining the favor of the grassroots, without necessarily being one of them. That is to say, he has taken the line that “the American people” are not willing to “write a blank check” to Ukraine, but that Russia’s military has been so depleted in this war that there is no vital American interest at stake in continuing to fund and arm the Ukrainian resistance. Let us call this absurdly self-contradictory stance “the panderers’ tango.”

Asked by a Fox News cuckoo about the war funding questions that “a lot of Americans are asking,” DeSantis, like all of his ilk, blithely sidestepped the opportunity to act like an actual statesman and answer the questions “a lot of Americans are asking,” choosing instead to be led around by the nose ring in a humiliating attempt to look dignified while meekly following the opinion polls right into the oblivion of incoherence.

Well, they have effectively a blank check policy with no clear, strategic objective identified. And these things can escalate. And I don’t think it’s in our interests to be getting into a proxy war with China, getting involved over things like the borderlands or over Crimea. So, I think it would behoove them to identify what is the strategic objective that they’re trying to achieve. But just saying it’s an open-ended blank check, that is not acceptable.

“Getting involved over things like the borderlands or over Crimea.” Well, that pretty much sums up the entire war, does it not? Is this not a war about the borderlands and Crimea, meaning those areas of Ukraine that Vladimir Putin has decided to declare his property, and over which he has summarily bombed the hell out of half of Ukraine, causing widespread death and displacement, and kidnapping untold numbers of Ukrainian children? 

So if DeSantis does not mean that supporting Ukraine in any way, even at the outset, was not in America’s interests, then what exactly does he mean? 

In an attempt to figure out his muddled statement, the Fox cuckoo inquired further about how DeSantis would define an American or Ukrainian win in this situation, in reply to which DeSantis bent himself into shapes possible only to a truly professional dancer of the panderers’ tango.

Well, I think it’s important to point out, I mean, you know, the fear of kind of Russia going into NATO countries and all of that and steamrolling, you know, that has not even come close to happening. I think they’ve shown themselves to be a third-rate military power.

Dig through the hopelessly unprepared and uninformed stammering here, and what, if anything, do you find? Something roughly like this, I suppose: “The prospect of Russia moving on past Ukraine and eventually invading European countries has not materialized yet, and need not be feared, since Russia has turned out to lack the capability to attempt such a thing.”

But doesn’t that leave DeSantis in the position of implicitly and unintentionally making the argument in favor of American support for Ukraine? Putin has gotten bogged down in Ukraine, and thus been weakened, and had any further military aspirations annihilated, by the damage and exposure he and his military have suffered over the past year, due in large measure to the assistance the West has offered Ukraine in its war of self-defense. Had the West left Ukraine to fend for itself and be overrun by Russia’s superior equipment and numbers, all bets on Putin’s future plans would be off, his ego and sense of impunity puffed up to new levels of acquisitiveness, and his sense that the West was too cowardly and weak to resist him solidified. It is only because he was resisted so effectively, in a war effort made materially viable only by American assistance, that fears of Putin’s aspirations in Europe have been lowered, and his strength severely diminished. 

In short, DeSantis’ position on this enormous foreign policy issue is so incoherent that he has contradicted himself entirely in thirty seconds, from trying to sound sympathetic with the populist, Putin-loving wing of his party in rejecting the “blank check” for Ukraine as not being in America’s interests, to explaining that the reason Putin need not be feared any longer is because America’s “blank check” for Ukraine has reduced his strength so effectively. 

So where is the middle ground here, the way out of this illogical pair of claims? Perhaps in this: While American assistance for Ukraine made sense for some period of time, the successful destruction of so much of Putin’s military, and the evaporation of his international clout, has been achieved, and therefore America should now end the “blank checks,” cut and run, and leave Ukraine to suffer the loss of millions of lives and much if not all of its territory, after it has committed itself to a life-or-death resistance on the basis of American promises of assistance and moral support. 

Great idea! And so perfectly in line with the pragmatics of modern American diplomacy from both parties. Why not make this simpler and just hand the Ukrainian government over to the Taliban while you kick the women and children off the steps of the helicopters and make your grand escape. After all, “a lot of Americans are asking” why principles, trustworthiness, and global credibility ever mattered, and whether winning elections at home isn’t more important than old-fashioned nonsense like honoring commitments and taking responsibility for one’s actions.

Or, for those who enjoy dancing, let us set these ideas to tango music, à la DeSantis:

Well, I think it’s important to point out, I mean, you know, America being the greatest nation on Earth and all of that and standing athwart history as the bastion of liberty, you know, that has not even come close to happening. I think they’ve shown themselves to be a third-rate historical entity.

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