Patterico's Pontifications


About Gov. DeSantis, Russia, Ukraine, and The Inevitable Either/Or Manipulation

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:54 am

[guest post by Dana]

As you know, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida sent Vladimir Putin a reassuring message when he told pandered to some Republicans (2024, people!) on a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson (but of course!) and referred to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war as little more than a territorial dispute. His intentional minimization of what is actually taking place ignores the vicious battle that Ukraine is engaged in as it fights to keep from being forcibly subsumed by Russia and erased. It also ignores the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories, the abduction of thousands of children who have been sent to Russia for re-education and adoption, the rape of Ukrainian women by Russian troops, the discovery of mass graves with the bodies of hundreds of Ukrainian women and children, some with their hands tied behind their backs, the targeting of civilian populations, and ultimately, it ignores the genocide. Trying to wipe out an entire population is not a simple “territorial dispute”.

Consider the difference between a “dispute” and an invasion leading to war:

Ukraine is a sovereign nation, recognized as such by the rest of the world. Ukraine’s borders are Ukraine’s borders. At the instigation of Russia’s murderous dictator Vladimir Putin, Russian forces invaded those borders. Russia has forced more than 8 million Ukrainians not just from their homes but from their country, has destroyed life-sustaining infrastructure, has killed thousands of Ukrainian civilians and tens of thousands of Ukrainian military personnel, and has sacrificed perhaps twice as many of its own conscripted soldiers, all on behalf of Putin’s power play.

A dispute is a mere difference of opinion. An invasion is the waging of war to gain territory or riches that are not one’s own. To call the invasion of Ukraine a mere dispute is to indicate there is a moral equivalency between the two sides. There isn’t. One is the aggressor. The other is the aggrieved.

And here’s the rub: DeSantis knows this. Most certainly. So all of this is to say that the political calculation behind DeSantis’s statements speaks to a willful decision to throw Ukraine under the bus for his own political advancement. This wasn’t an unforced error. This was an experienced politician determining how best to get ahead in what will likely be the political race of his life. And that is what I find so repellent. To dismiss a Western nation that is being erased by a brutal common enemy who poses a threat to the West at large is just unacceptable. It’s a short-sighted, cynical, and self-interested calculation he’s made, but unfortunately, one that will resonate with the America First Republicans.

DeSantis also told Carlson that protecting Ukraine is not a “vital national interest”. DeSantis is a smart guy. He knows that we have a security interest in seeing Putin defeated. Key Republicans know this, and even the Republican Policy Committee knows this:

Military aid for Ukraine is a strategic investment in the security of the United States. The U.S. has a willing and effective partner to help Ukraine stand up to Putin’s agenda while keeping his aggression farther from NATO borders. If Ukraine defeats Russia, this will save the U.S. from making larger-scale investments in Europe to deter Russia in the future. A weakened Russian military will be a good thing for the U.S., NATO, European, and international stability. As we and our allies buy new weapons to replace what is being sent to Ukraine, we will help modernize our military industrial base and fill the U.S. arsenal with newer weapons.

United States support to Ukraine also sends a clear message to America’s adversaries that we will not back down and that this kind of reckless rejection of the rule of law will have consequences. This is particularly notable as China’s desire to invade Taiwan grows more obvious. It makes clear that there are significant costs to pay for any authoritarian state that expects a quick military victory when invading its neighbors. We must leave absolutely no doubt in the minds of Russia’s, China’s, or any other nation’s leaders about U.S. resolve to support sovereignty and self-determination around the globe. Decisive military aid to Ukraine will accomplish this task.

So with that, I am troubled by DeSantis’s comments. I don’t believe he misspoke or had an oops! moment, or was confused. No clarification is needed. After all, this was a questionnaire, not a live interview. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he said what he meant, and he meant what he said. In light of this, one must ask why DeSantis has gone from a position of once pushing for aid to Ukraine, condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and asserting that the U.S. must send “defensive and offensive” weapons to Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 to where he no longer considers Russia’s efforts to erase Ukraine a vital national interest? At the time, DeSantis even criticized the Obama administration for not sending arms to Ukraine and neighboring NATO countries. His current position becomes all the more questionable when one considers that DeSantis has actually already confirmed to us that Russia-Ukraine is indeed a vital national interest and why:

I think that when someone like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin sees Obama being indecisive, I think that whets his appetite to create more trouble in the area. And I think if we were to arm the Ukrainians, I think that would send a strong signal to him that he shouldn’t be going any further.

Allow me a pre-emptive strike of sorts: If you’ve read my posts before, you know that I am not a Trump supporter and have criticized him over the years. Now seeing DeSantis’s politically self-interested flip-flop on foreign policy and minimization of the war in Ukraine, etc., I am not inclined to support him in 2024. But let me be clear: just because I don’t see myself supporting either Trump or DeSantis does not automatically mean that I support Joe Biden and will vote for him. That is a disingenuous and manipulative argument designed to force one into an either/or position. The false dilemma seems little more than a twist on the annoying “Gotcha!” game. Stop already. If the projected leading contenders for the Republican nomination are crappy individuals or crappy candidates or hold crappy views that voters can’t get behind because of their own moral, political, and philosophical viewpoints, then one should just see that as a disagreement with the voter, not as a sure sign that they will be voting for the opposition. I’m wondering if this all speaks to a Republican Party problem. Maybe more quality candidates should be a priority. Elevating the standards, rather than lowering them seems like a good idea. Especially as the Party already lowered them, and look what it got us. Anyway, I’m just saying that I refuse to play the game:


The Bailout of the Silicon Valley Bank Makes Biden’s Student Debt Forgiveness Totally Cool, Right? [UPDATED x2]

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:36 am

[guest post by JVW]

UPDATE II – Well, this story just gets more and more fun. From Susan Shelly’s column at the Los Angeles News Group:

In the chaos of the first year of the pandemic emergency, at a time when the Legislature was working remotely, or not at all, Gov. Gavin Newsom had the idea to change financial regulation in California.

Don’t take my word for it. Straight from the horse’s mouth is this “background” from the website of the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI):

“In an effort to strengthen consumer financial protections in California, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed an initiative to modernize and revamp the current Department of Business Oversight (DBO), including an increase in staff and authority, to enhance its regulatory scope and become a national model for consumer protections.”

[. . .]

This adds up to a formula for greater political control of financial institutions in California. It means the regulatory terrorism familiar to so many other businesses in the state could now be applied to banks that failed to meet certain goals of “encouraging” innovation or “engaging” identified communities.

At the same time, the new laws opened the opportunity for some banks to curry favor with politicians by funding “innovation” that non-political number-crunchers had already rejected as a bad bet.

[. . .]

In California, banks could face administrative penalties from the regulatory agency run by an appointee of the governor if they fail to meet their obligation to “encourage” innovation and “engage” vulnerable communities.

By coincidence, or maybe not by coincidence, immediately after the DFPI’s new regulatory powers became effective on Jan. 1, 2021, Gov. Newsom asked Silicon Valley Bank to donate to the nonprofit California Partners Fund founded by his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

The bank didn’t say no.

The first $25,000 payment was made on Jan. 8, 2021. Three more payments of $25,000 each followed before the end of the year.

I’ve written in the past about the brave Mrs. Siebel Newsom, who overcame a childhood of privilege and tony private schools to become a documentary filmmaker who most certainly does not trade on her husband’s power to grant favors in order to feather her own nest. Nosiree. How we suffer these people is mystifying to me.

UPDATE – Oh, lookee here: it turns out that Greasy Governor Gavin Newsom lobbied the White House to bail out SVB, and probably didn’t disclose his own conflict of interest:

California governor Gavin Newsom lobbied the White House to bail out Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and later celebrated the decision after it was made public, without mentioning that the firm is a backer in at least three wine companies he owns.

The Biden administration “acted swiftly and decisively to protect the American economy and strengthen public confidence in our banking system,” the governor noted in an official statement released on Monday.

“Their actions this weekend have calmed nerves, and had profoundly positive impacts on California,” Newsom added. “California is a pillar of the American economy, and federal leaders did the right thing, ensuring our innovation economy can continue to grow and move forward.”

[. . .]

However, The Intercept revealed Tuesday that the governor failed to note in his official remarks that at least three wineries owned by Newsom – CADE, Odette, and Plumpjack – are listed clients of SVB. Newsom further glossed over his personal banking ties with the now-defunct firm and the fact that his wife, Jennifer Siebel, was the recipient of a $100,000 charitable donation from SVB in 2021.

The potential conflict of interest did not appear to be on Newsom’s mind when the governor’s office acknowledged over the weekend that he had been in touch with the White House and was directly involved in discussions over the failing bank.

“Over the last 48 hours, I have been in touch with the highest levels of leadership at the White House and Treasury. Everyone is working with FDIC to stabilize the situation as quickly as possible, to protect jobs, people’s livelihoods, and the entire innovation ecosystem that has served as a tent pole for our economy,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Somehow we just knew that a sleazy operative like Newsom would be lurking somewhere behind the scene, didn’t we?

—- Original Post —-

Those who have been following the whole Silicon Valley Bank collapse (two great explanations of what has happened are provided by David Bahnsen and at The Rational Walk, the latter of which is not behind a firewall) know that right now the blame game is going on in earnest. Were the financial issues caused by Trumpian deregulation and the reluctance of Republican Administrations to fully oversee (i.e., meddle in) the banking and financial services industry? Was it a matter of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who mostly support Democrat politicians and progressive goals taking advantage of the chumminess of crony capitalism and the Valley’s close ties with the Obama/Biden machine? Was the real problem ongoing inflation, an aftershock of the pandemic which has likely been exacerbated by the reckless economic policies of the Biden Administration? No matter the cause, this bank collapse has caused a great deal of angina in the financial industry as high-strung bankers wonder if this is the first falling domino in what could stir bad memories of 2008.

But that won’t stop various halfwits in the media and political world from hot-taking the crisis to their own ridiculous ends. Enter now CNN gasbag John Harwood who rides into battle to score a partisan point:

I’m not going to make the effort to pick apart the mindless inanity of this question since Charlie Cooke has already effortlessly dispatched with it:

[T]here is a general-welfare claim here in a way that simply does not apply to President Biden’s illegal student-loan order — which, if we’re drawing analogies, is akin to the Treasury deciding on a whim to bail out the healthiest banks in the land. The purpose of the federal government’s intervention with Silicon Valley is to prevent a broad-based run on the banks that ends up severely damaging, or even destroying, the economy. The purpose of Biden’s student-loan play is to give money to people who spent a lot of cash on a consumer product that they received in full, and who, for entirely selfish reasons, would now like to have both the product they bought and the money they spent obtaining it.

But the part that Harwood seems to overlook is that it just might be the Biden Administration who is playing politics with this decision. Harwood should be asking a more interesting question: Is the Biden Administration’s willingness to bail out the Silicon Valley Bank an attempt to justify his dumb plan for student loan forgiveness? Can’t you hear the President and his supporters arguing, “How can we possibly make whole the bank’s depositors but not the poor students trying to pay for their education?” There is actually an emerging consensus that saving SVB is a bad idea, with opposition coming from rightists and leftists in one of those fleeting moments of agreement when the two parties’ activist wings unite against the Washington establishment. It’s all for naught anyway, since the Biden Administration has decided to go through with the bailout. In his typically clueless way, the President insists that neither the taxpayer nor the bank’s depositors will bear the burden since the money will come from the Deposit Insurers Fund, a fund built on fees assessed to banks on a quarterly basis whose costs the banks somehow magically absorb and do not pass along to their customers.

Biden fans who try to justify the Treasury Department’s move by comparing this to the TARP bailouts of 2008 should stop and remember that those bailouts were enacted via legislation submitted through Congress and not ordered into existence by an increasingly autocratic Chief Executive. Also, the banks eventually paid back those bailout sums. When the Supreme Court blocks President Biden’s blatantly unconstitutional attempt to unilaterally cancel student loan debt there will naturally be pressure on Congress to “do something,” but I hope the GOP stays resolute and tells them to go pound sand.


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