In what is becoming an annual rite of passage, Florida’s Junior Senator Marco Rubio gave yet another speech at CPAC which was designed to incite the conservative base against the President and impress his friends in the media. Rubio’s national profile which is the highest of any member of congress elected for the first time in the last four years continues to drive a media frenzy anytime he opens his mouth. The former Florida House Speaker has been a favorite among ideological conservative insiders on the national level since his early days in the Florida Legislature. His rise which has been unimpeded has made him the unofficial conservative wing of the GOP spokesperson on any number of issues. (Particularly after the Senate retirement of Jim DeMint.)
Excerpts below are from CBSNews.com with my commentary below. I will admit much of my commentary is based on the assumption that Rubio is attacking the administration with his statements. He may claim he was just giving a broad overview of US policy but the forum he choose to deliver them to makes me believe they were shots at President Obama and my analysis is based on that assumption.
“There is only one nation on Earth capable of rallying and bringing together the fee people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarians. The United Nation cannot do this — in fact, they cannot do anything,” Rubio said to applause.
This point I actually agree with. The United Nations is a largely useless organization when it comes to resolving disputes involving great powers, especially with Russia and China having a veto over Security Council resolutions. However, this has become a regular Republican talking point for 20 years. In the 1996 Presidential campaign, Bob Dole’s greatest applause line in his nomination acceptance speech was when he bashed Bill Clinton for being too close to the UN Secretary General. In reality, Clinton was in the process of engineering the removal of that very Secretary General and the insertion one with a more balanced mindset in his place. President Obama hasn’t wasted his time with the UN regarding Libya, Syria and Ukraine unless he has absolutely had to. So Rubio while correct is misrepresenting the position of this administration and the previous Democratic administration. The feeling that some liberal activists have about the legitimacy of the UN is NOT shared by more Americans in either political party.
Rubio described the possible world that could emerge, should the United States fail to lead — one “where North Korea can blow up California or the west coast of the United States with a nuclear weapon” or China controls the South China Sea.
“Without American engagement,” he said, that world is “not just a possibility, it is a real probability.”
Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-22) and House companion bill sponsor Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78) are joining Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-4) this Session in carrying water for the extremists at the NRA and United Sportsmen of Florida, their crazier Tallahassee cousins. Back in October she filed HB 209, which would legalize unlicensed firearm possession during mandatory evacuations during Governor-declared states of emergency like hurricanes.
This bill — in keeping with the NRA’s paranoid fixation on this issue – is designed to counter the state’s emergency powers, inspired by a New Orleans Police Chief’s directive to curtail gun possession during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. It’s based on model legislation which has passed in a handful of other states including Oklahoma and Virginia, as well as post-apocalyptic delusional fantasies of vigilante justice in the face of a gun-confiscating police state. It’s also a waste of time that will help no honest citizen achieve anything.
As Republican legislators gear up once again to expand school “choice” in the state of the Florida, the Miami Herald’s Kathleen McGrory has exposed the movement once again as far from being organic and grassroots oriented as the proponents of these odious proposals often claim.
The Herald had reported late last session that the group “Sunshine Parents” which was attributed for producing propaganda materials supporting the Parent Trigger legislation has in fact not produced anything of the sort. These materials have in reality been produced by “Parent Revolution” the well-funded California group we had previously discussed at TFS. “Parent Revolution” is not a grassroots movement of parents but in fact a political organization funded by those who seek to profit off this proposed legislation. “Sunshine Parents” per the Herald report had no online presence nor an organizational structure of any sort that was evident last session.
Previously on this site have also dissected the funding mechanisms for the campaign to push school vouchers in Florida, particularly John Kirtley’s “All Children Matter,” which has once again been brought forth in McGrory’s article today. She writes:
The voucher program’s top supporter, Tampa venture capitalist John Kirtley, controls a political committee in Florida that spent nearly $2.4 million to influence races in 2010 and 2012. He plans to spend at least $1.5 million in 2014, he said.
“For nearly eight years, under Republican Govs. Charlie Crist and Rick Scott, Florida has given billions in tax breaks and virtual control of our government over to special interests,” Rich maintained on Tuesday. “As a state, we are less safe and less able to meet the basic needs of our citizens than we were eight years ago. We don’t need a magician to fix what’s wrong with our state – we need a governor who will reset priorities and get our state back on the right track. And that’s exactly the kind of governor I’ll be.”
Expect Senator Rich to continue this line of attack against Governor Crist. While Crist remains the Democratic front-runner many activists and other primary goers are planning on voting for him while holding their nose. Reinforcement of Crist as a “Republican Governor,” whose values are contrary to that of the majority of Democrats can only help Rich’s underdog candidacy.
While Crist began the primary campaign with populist undertones and themes related to challenging the political establishment, his recent public support for Jeb Bush as well as a bizarre fundraising letter yesterday where Crist touted his bipartisanship may further Rich’s narrative. Crist wrote yesterday to supporters:
Crisis of the contemporary Democratic Party: Global isolationism & American liberalism should never mix
As a progressive I must admit that I have been disappointed by the reaction of many of my fellow liberals to Russian aggression in Crimea. It is with great sadness I see the drift of many of my fellow liberal activists towards global isolationism and war weariness. This flies in the face of the historic legacy of the Democratic Party. As someone who strongly opposed and protested the Iraq War in the streets and also controversially called for American troops to leave Afghanistan in 2002 after the installation of the Karzai Government when I was working for the party (a view that put me on the extreme left-wing of the party at the time in a war Democrats saw for the next several years as a “good war”) I have established that I do not like war and prefer diplomacy. I have taken the same attitude towards Syria and Iran.
I am proud to be a Democrat, the party that stood up to the most dangerous despots of the 20th Century. Adolf Hitler, Tōjō Hideki, Kim Il Sung and Slobodan Milošević, all confronted and defeated by Democratic Presidents. If we had listened to many of the Republicans in those eras we would have stayed at home and worried about “our own business.” We abandoned our postwar responsibilities after World War I due to Republicans and weren’t able to help the British and French at the start of World II due to the Republicans. France sued for peace in the face of a Nazi German invasion because conservatives had taken control of the government from socialists/liberals who were committed to fighting fascism. Many of those conservatives had a soft spot for fascism and blamed republican government for France’s problems.
Isolationism and retreat from global responsibilities of a great power was almost entirely a Republican/conservative affliction. Standing up abroad for democratic principles, human rights, and American values was almost entirely a Democratic principle.
Then Iraq, an unjust war of choice cooked up by largely by neo-conservatives who had once been Democrats under the same liberal pretenses we would previously use to go to war occurred. George W. Bush gave fluffy, feel-good, liberal rhetoric for the war. I did not buy it at the time but many of my fellow liberals and political friends did. The scars of the biggest strategic blunder in modern American history still mar the Democrats today.
Liberal Democrats have now turned reflexively anti-war thanks to Iraq. Unable to distinguish good wars that alleviate human suffering like what we did in Kosovo under Bill Clinton to wars of choice that create human suffering like the Iraq invasion and bungled occupation, it seems all military or foreign commitments are now suspect to large portions of the American left.
Crimea Crisis: President Obama begins to end 13-year Putin appeasement and sends strong signal to the world
It took thirteen years, support for Iran and Syria, an invasion of Georgia, opposition to Kosovo independence, the Orange Revolution, interference in Belarus and Ukraine’s internal politics and finally the invasion of Crimea but it appears the Bush/Obama/Rice appeasement of Vladimir Putin’s Russia is finally coming to an end.
President Obama has sent the strongest possible signals in the last 24 hours that he will not allow Russia to break international protocols and international law. He has wisely not taken the appeasers route on this which is to ask the impotent United Nations for help, or to simply condemn Russia’s actions as he did initially after the Russian incursion into the Crimean Peninsula.- he has strongly indicated all options are on the table, and that Russia could end up being internationally humiliated and isolated. This came after several days of bumbling and stumbling for a response, reminiscent of some of the other foreign policy blunders during Obama’s Presidency.
Secretary of State John Kerry has called Vladimir Putin’s bluffs in the strongest possible way on Crimea. This stands in direct contrast to last fall when I wrote the following about the administration’s mishandling of the Syria situation and giving Putin an international victory.
I have to admit now that I am beginning to hedge on Syria given the very open involvement of Putin and Russia. While two weeks ago (when I opposed the potential intervention) I was very much aware of Moscow’s interest in the situation and concerned that not intervening might give them a victory, I did not anticipate things going in this direction where the President was unable to rally our western allies and Congress while Putin stepped into the void of global leadership ceded by the inept public handling of this matter by the President. I have long considered Putin to be our biggest enemy, and our biggest national security threat. Mitt Romney’s warnings about Putin were the only thing in his campaign last summer I found compelling about his candidacy, but the rest of his foreign policy was dangerous.
My belief is that the United States even if acting alone must take the strongest possible action. Our closest ally the United Kingdom currently is suffering from a leadership crisis. British Prime Minister David Cameron is a likable yet highly ineffectual Conservative/Tory who heads a weak coalition government. The chief opposition party Labour (who was in power for 13 years with large Parliamentary majorities until 2010) has its weakest leadership since the early 1980s. Thus the UK is not in a position to lead any sort of Anglo-American effort to impact Russia.
The 60-day legislative session began today in Tallahassee. This is the time of the year when Florida’s citizens are most under threat from over reaching hand of ideologues in state government whose mantra of “less government and lower taxes,” usually means the opposite.
As the session approached former Governor Charlie Crist, the Democratic front-runner in this year’s Gubernatorial election began to find his voice. Last week he sent out a solicitation for money which strongly attacked the Republican incumbent Rick Scott and the GOP legislature for its continued policies on cronyism.
Over the past sixteen years Florida Republicans have created a class of entitled politicians many of whom lack intellectual curiosity or any governing wisdom. They are not conservatives as much as they are political whores for power and certain big business (hence their lack of true fiscal conservatism on a number of economic matters) . They have lived for years on easy street being opposed by an impotent Florida Democratic Party that lacked organization or the courage in its own convictions to take the fight to the Republicans on these issues.
Authors Note: In this part of our multi-part series “The Liberal Case For US/NATO Intervention In Ukraine,” I’ll examine why the international community should regard Russia’s incursion into Ukraine as an act of war, what options the international community and the United States have at their disposal to punish Vladimir Putin and Russia for said illegal actions, and lastly what options might Putin and the Russians be pondering as a next move, if any?
If you’re an international relations junkie, news fiend, or simply familiar with the tactics of Russian President Vladimir Putin , I already know what you’re thinking. Vladimir Putin is the world’s most infamous and powerful troll. He’ll poke and prod at the West for kicks and then suddenly put on his big boy pants and join the rest of us at the adults table as we discuss ways to move forward. We’ve seen him invade Former Soviet Republic (FSR) Georgia and have Russian submarines patrolling the Gulf undetected. On the contrary we’ve also seen him come to the table during the Syrian chemical weapons extractions plans as well. The western media has been trying to say that Putin’s actions are blowing up in his face- they have put in him in corner. But, any international relations novice would tell you, that Putin’s decisions are a crystal clear example of realpolitik. He has created a situation where the only scenario where the West can stop his aggression in Crimea and elsewhere is all out war. Later, I discuss what options may my be on the table to address this situation, but given the international community’s lack of cohesive action on issues like this, some sort of collective punishment seems unlikely- thus Putin is winning this round of confrontation with the West.
Why Is This An Act Of War?
This most recent action, a stealthy incursion and essentially covert annexation of Crimea this past weekend was preceded by a unanimous Duma authorization for said invasion, is not for show. It’s an act of war that cannot go unpunished. First, Putin’s actions violates Article 2(4) of the UN Charter which prohibits states from engaging in threats or uses of force against other states. A day after Putin was granted authority to send troops into Ukraine, a New York Times Article, reported that Russian Troops wearing uniforms stripped of any sort of identifying marks in vehicles with Russian license plates invaded on Saturday. They shutdown the airport, communication centers, and surrounded government buildings signaling a coordinated, planned and even covert effort to annex the entire Crimean region, which breaks down to about 60% ethnic Russian and 40% Muslim Tatar.While the concrete numbers are sketchy the latest report estimates say that there are currently 15,o00 troops in Crimea, there are now steady reports that Russian military officials have ordered Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea to stand down, and hand over their weapons by 3/4/2014 or face an attack.
Putin and Russia’s justification through the media has consistently been that they are in Crimea to protect Russian Citizens. And The problem with that assessment is that there haven’t been any news reports from any outlet reporting any sort of threat against any ethnic Russians in Crimea or in Eastern Ukraine which part one this series tells us, is more pro-Russian. Additionally, if there is no threat to ethnic Russians as US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power argued before the UN Security council yesterday afternoon, Ukraine in fact has the right to defend itself against Russian aggression as supported by Article 51 in UN Charter as well. Putin has shown this type of aggression towards FSRs in the recent past. In 2008, Putin claimed it needed to defend ethnic Russians living in the South Ossetia region of the country where South Ossetian paramilitaries were bombarding Georgian villages. Georgia in response sent troops to the region and Putin responded to that by invading Georgia. Putin is clearly interested in restoring Russia not necessarily to its Communist ways, but back to a unified, feared, global superpower.
Why Is This Of Interest To The United States and Its European Allies?
But why does any of this matter? Who cares if Russia annexes a small peninsula that is majority ethnic Russian and seemingly welcoming to the aforementioned invaders? To be honest, the loss of Crimea isn’t whats on the minds of western powers, its what could possibly follow it given the reactions already felt in global markets as the American indices take a hit as well as the Rubble against he Euro. Prices of corn, wheat, grain, and crude oil all went finished higher today as a result of the fears associated with the unknown consequences of the invasion. The longer we sit by and do simply throw rhetorical bombs rather than formulating and executing a response, the more tumultuous the market volatility and more likely Putin responds with even further aggression- perhaps even into mainland Ukraine or surrounding FSRs that have unpopular Russian puppet leadership like the former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yaukovych such Belarus.
This latest conflict between Ukraine and Russia isn’t about political freedoms, but economic freedom to pursue other growth opportunities outside the Russian sphere of influence. Europe has relied on Russia’s ample natural gas supplies for about a quarter of its needs, and one third of that supply flows right through Ukraine’s pipeline system. With Russian control of the Crimean peninsula this adds another layer of peril. A Forbes Article explored this issue in detail and argues the fact that since Russia controls anywhere from one third to one half of Ukraine’s Natural Gas, they may use that leverage to pressure Ukraine or worse, use it to disrupt the markets purposely and send the world markets in to chaos:
Since 2006, the two nations have had legitimate battles over how to value that vital product. During the early years of that dispute, Russia had wanted to quadruple prices to Ukraine. Recently, though, those natural gas prices are tied to global oil prices and have sold at much greater rates, which has cut Ukraine’s consumption of Russian natural gas.
Simply put, Russia has a strangle hold over Ukraine’s gas markets and the flow natural gas into the EuroZone. In other words, this conflict once again is all about natural resources- mainly natural gas and crude oil. If you take away all of the Russian supplied gas to Ukraine, the economically troubled FSR only has four months worth of gas stocks since it meets about half of its demand with Rooskie gas.
US & Western Allies Options For Response
This is Part I of a multipart series where TFS’ Justin Snyder and Kartik Krishnaiyer will outline the case against Vladimir Putin and for intervention by the United States in the Ukraine crisis.
As the world has watched the last 72 hours, the Russian Federation under the leadership of the world’s most dangerous “democratic” despot Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukrainian territory. Putin’s pretext is protecting Russian ethnic minorities in the Crimean Peninsula, which of course was the site of one of the world’s most famous military conflicts. His excuse sounds painfully like Adolf Hitler’s justification for occupying the Sudetenland in 1938. The failure of Britain and France to stop Hitler in 1938 gave the Nazis a critical year to develop military capability and turn the Soviet Union (temporarily) against them. By the time Britain and France declared war on Germany in September 1939, Hitler was in a MUCH stronger position than a year earlier.
Appeasement and inaction continued after the war began. The French failed to invade Germany from the west allowing the Nazis to overrun Poland without much of a fight with its full army. Then the British choose not to occupy neutral Scandinavian countries when the opportunity arose. In the Spring of 1940, Hitler invaded Scandinavia under the pretext of protecting Denmark and Norway from “British and French Imperialism.” This sounds eerily similar to the propaganda in the Crimea from Russian ethnic citizens asking Russia to liberate Ukraine from “US occupation.”
Appeasement of bullying dictators never works. I outlined the 13-year history of Bush and Obama administration appeasement of Putin on Saturday. President Obama’s efforts to “reset” Russo-American relations have merely enabled the Russian dictator to manipulate events across the globe to his liking. While President Obama posses gifted intellect and has been a tremendous domestic voice for change, in dealing with Russia he has played time and again and is in the process of ceding American global leadership to Putin.
This is very different than in the late 1990s when Bill Clinton and Tony Blair led the western alliance. Russia’s historic defense of the Serbs led the nation to strongly oppose intervention in the Kosovo conflict. Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian Muslims were being slaughtered by the Serb leadership and the west decided to intervene on humanitarian grounds. Since the UN was unable to take action due to the threat of a Russian veto, Blair and Clinton used NATO to get around the UN. The result was a successful bombing campaign where Russia eventually urged the Serbs to back down. A humanitarian disaster on the scale of what had happened a few years earlier in Bosnia was averted.
This one word is the cornerstone behind the concept of international relations, whether you are a realist, liberal, or proscribe to another theory of IR. The determination as to whether a state can conduct its own affairs without outside interference has been the law of the land since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
In most cases, the concept of sovereignty has been respected by most liberal democracies, including the United States. If we look back at every war that the US has been involved in, almost all of them are justifiable. In the case of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and World War II, American sovereignty was violated. In the case of World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War, the United States was protecting the sovereignty of nations (against aggressors) who were recognized by the international community. In the as of the War in Afghanistan, the Taliban government was not recognized by the international community. In the case of the Civil War, there was a insurrection against the American government.
While there are many minor cases, there are three major examples where the United States has violated the sovereignty of another nation. First was the Spanish-American War, where the government of Spain was blamed for the “sinking of the Maine”. The second major action was the the Bay of Pigs invasion at the start of the Kennedy administration. And, of course, the third case is that of the Iraq War. In all three of these cases, the United States was unprovoked, but yet attacked a sovereign nation.