The Hot Take Boils Over

Earlier today I credited Alexander Vindman with the hottest take on Ukraine. Vindman blamed Russia’s aggression on conservative pundits in the United States. Because we have so much influence on the Biden administration, apparently.

But yesterday my old law professor Larry Tribe went Vindman one better with this bizarre tweet. Which, by the way, was published at 4:09 a.m., not generally seen as a time for clear, sober thinking:

Tribe thinks that Tucker Carlson and other unnamed Republicans in the “Trump wing” of the party are guilty of treason, and therefore subject to criminal prosecution and five years’ imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. § 2381. This is sheer lunacy, as the question at hand is whether the U.S. should support one side or the other in a foreign controversy, and if so, at what level, given that actual ground warfare is not on the table. There is no conceivable basis on which taking any position on such a question constitutes treason; otherwise there would be a far more substantial case that many Democrats who opposed the Vietnam War or the first and second Gulf Wars should be in prison.

I almost never watch television news, so I don’t know exactly what Tucker Carlson has been saying about Ukraine. I take it that he is a dove–as most Democrats have been in most foreign policy controversies–and thinks that the U.S. has little or no interest in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, that Russia’s case is not notably weaker than Ukraine’s, and that we should stay out of it. Whether you agree with that view or not, only a lunatic would say that it is treasonous.

As for the rest of the “Trump wing” of the Republican Party, is there any validity to Tribe’s claim that it is “throwing its weight behind Putin”? Trump himself has denounced Joe Biden for imposing only “weak” sanctions on Russia:

Russia has become very very rich during the Biden Administration, with oil prices doubling and soon to be tripling and quadrupling. The weak sanctions are insignificant relative to taking over a country and a massive piece of strategically located land….

Trump says–correctly, it seems–that “[Putin] would have never done during the Trump administration what he is doing now, no way!” It is hard to understand how this constitutes “throwing [Trump’s] weight behind Putin.”

How about the rest of the “Trump wing” of the Republican Party? The place to start, presumably, is with Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Has Pompeo been “throwing [his] weight behind Putin”? It doesn’t seem so. Pompeo says that “we should be crushing the Russians on this.”

How about other relevant Republicans? Idaho Senator Jim Risch is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said:

This is precisely the kind of action that many of us expected, and it is one step closer to Putin’s clear goal of dismantling Ukraine’s sovereignty. The U.S. and our allies must immediately implement harsh sanctions that Putin cannot ignore.

Not exactly “throwing his weight behind Putin.” Senator Tom Cotton was often identified with President Trump’s foreign policies. Has he “thrown his weight behind Putin”? This is what he had to say:

President Biden’s timid sanctions tonight are wholly unequal to this moment. Russia is invading Ukraine now. The time has come for the “swift and severe” sanctions that Joe Biden has long threatened but refused to impose. There is not a minute to lose.

How pro-Russia can you get? Obviously, apart from the idea that disagreeing with a Democratic President constitutes treason–which I think is perilously close to the view held by many Democrats, like Larry Tribe–this is, in a sane world, anti-Russian.

Ted Cruz is a prominent Republican Senator who generally sided with President Trump on foreign affairs. What does he have to say?

[The] United States must impose devastating sanctions against Putin’s interests, including immediate and mandatory sanctions permanently putting an end to his Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Larry Tribe’s suggestion that the “Trump wing” of the Republican Party is somehow pro-Putin is literally demented. It makes me sad that Tribe, whom I considered a friend and a normal and reasonable person when I knew him decades ago, has fallen so far.

For present purposes, though, what is sadder is that, as of the time of the screen shot embedded above, Tribe’s tweet had 4,998 retweets, 637 quote tweets, and 18,300 likes. There are a great many Democrats to whom even the most insane anti-Republican screed makes perfect sense. If they had their way, we would all be either unemployed or in prison.

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