Failing at the Basics

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER,30 (RUSSIA OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (R) looks on Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) during the welcoming ceremony prior to the G20 Summit's Plenary Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November,30,2018. U.S.Preisident Donald Trump has cancelled his meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina planned on Saturday. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Image
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks at U.S. President Donald Trump during the welcoming ceremony prior to the G20 Summit's Plenary Meeting on November 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

A new AP poll says that 54% of Americans think President Biden has been “not tough enough” on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. These kinds of public perceptions can be shaped by perceptions of a leader as much as they drive them. So you think Biden is weak as your starting point and therefore you think he’s not being tough enough on Russia rather than the other way around. Also notable, Americans’ hawkishness over Ukraine has dipped a bit from a month ago. But the first, second and third most important thing about this poll is that this is what you get when you’re not reminding Americans every day — and I mean every god-damned day — that the GOP has spent the last 7 years boosting, allying with and even conspiring with Russia.

This is so obvious I don’t see the need to even rehearse all the details and the bill of particulars. This is just losing the game because you didn’t put a team on the field. Political messaging, political storytelling isn’t a one and done or binary thing. You don’t seize on the silver bullet message and then the waters part in front of you. But there’s only so many hours in the day. In a setting like this, when Republicans are attacking Democrats 24/7 you need to carve out some of those hours for Republicans to explain why just three years ago they were helping Presidents Trump and Putin conspire against Ukraine and the United States. Only four years ago eight Republican Senators decided to spend July 4th making fealty to Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The list is endless.

When you’re in a war and on the defense an army will also attack at its opponent’s weak points. Capacity diverted from offense to defense means less incoming fire. Only so much army to go around; only so many hours in the day. The physical realities are different but the basic calculus is just the same.

Will pushing the GOP’s guilt and complicity on Russia make people stop caring about inflation? Of course not. But if you’re not even putting that team on the field you are simply not doing the simplest blocking and tackling of politics. It’s that bad.

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