Stupidity Will Live On in Infamy | Opinion

The vicious and unprovoked Russian assault on Ukraine should not be a time to play politics. And it's heartening to see that few Washington politicians of any importance are playing them.

Early in this tragedy, some on the right cheered on Russian President Vladimir Putin. They've pretty much gone into hiding or are trying, unsuccessfully, to delete from national memory their attempt to undermine President Joe Biden as he was responding to a fast-moving and terrifying crisis.

But Republican Senator Mitt Romney rose above that, continuing his long campaign to swat down former President Donald Trump's serflike praise of the evil Putin. Former Vice President Mike Pence unambiguously condemned GOP "apologists" for Putin. And over the weekend, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio demeaned these voices as the "far fringes."

As for Democrats at the start of the Russian onslaught, a few foolishly expressed frustration that Biden wasn't making political hay over Republican support for Trump's slavish praise of Russia's vampire leader. "'We're Zelensky Democrats, and they're Putin Republicans' would be my bumper sticker," Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) said.

Biden ignored that self-defeating advice. He's a wartime president, and wartime presidents need national unity to lead the public through tough times.
Furthermore, while it's true that Trump bought into the Putin mythology that Ukraine belonged to Russia, it was not just him and his cult. As Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who advised both Republican and Democratic presidents, told POLITICO, "Some on the left, as well as on the right—masses of the U.S. public (were) saying, 'Good on you, Vladimir Putin,' or blaming NATO or blaming the U.S. for this outcome."

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech. SERGEI GUNEYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

How unified have we become? A Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that 80 percent of the American public supports a ban on imported Russian oil even if it means higher gas prices. Not long ago, rising gas prices were a national obsession.

They're now above $4 a gallon.

"Nearing a record high" is, by definition, not a record high. In the middle of 2008, gasoline prices averaged more than $5 a gallon in constant dollars.
On Sunday, the so-called People's Convoy, truckers protesting vaccine mandates (as they were being lifted), tied up traffic for a while on the Beltway but failed to inconvenience downtown Washington as Canadian truck drivers had done in Ottawa.

A media that had been talking about the convoy threat for weeks barely took notice. Likewise, reports of normally important news—very strong job growth and a collapse in coronavirus cases—have been given short attention.

As for our wartime president, his competence in guiding the United States through a dangerous international crisis should speak for itself. Biden has carefully escalated the economic sanctions, keeping some in reserve for later use. He's also held back on pleas to have the U.S. militarily engage with Russia over the skies of Ukraine. This is to avoid setting off a wider conflict, a strategy the generals on TV are uniformly praising.

As for the American public, this crisis has raised Biden's approval ratings generally. The one that matters right now, however, is for his handling of the international calamity. Some 52 percent approved of his approach on the war in Ukraine, according to an NPR/PBS/Marist poll released Saturday.

Right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, former President Franklin Roosevelt went on radio to call Dec. 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy." The stupidity behind calling Putin a "genius" with good reasons to launch an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine will also live in infamy.

But infamy refers to a reputation that is mired in shame far into the future. We have to get through March.

Froma Harrop is an award-winning journalist, author and syndicated columnist.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.