[I’m struck by] the odd mix of fear and wish projection with which many conservatives view Putin. We hear how dangerous Putin is but also pretty clearly that they wish our leaders were like him - someone who bends history to his will and all that. I mentioned earlier that for all the carping about how President Obama encouraged Putin’s aggression and hasn’t responded to it with sufficient force - what about what happened in Georgia in 2008? President Bush did basically nothing. The truth is there was very little he could do.
The President’s critics talk about “resolve” and “leadership” and “toughness” because there are not any actual actions they can point to that they think he should do but isn’t. These phrases are plastic, can mean anything and can be puffed up with all manner of wish-projection and foreign policy fantasy untethered to any concrete and specifics actions. It recalls the glory days of #RomneyStrength.
It’s really that clear. Vague and ambiguous phrases are used to conceal this.
What President Obama could do is give Putin an ultimatum to leave Crimea or be forcibly expelled. Then we’d have a real test of strength and Putin would see deep potential costs to his actions. But even the President’s toughest critics recognize this would be insane. It’s really not a good idea to get into a land war with the world’s other major nuclear power on their own terrain.
I looked [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.
George W. Bush, 2001
Christopher Hitchens, 2010:
"No one here I suppose would have forgotten the moment when George Bush met Vladimir Putin, who had chosen for the day to decorate his chest with his grandmother’s ornate Russian Orthodox crucifix. Enough for the President to be convinced and to say that just to look into those beautiful limpid eyes was enough to see that he was a person of deep spirituality and sensitivity. I think by the way in a fairly strong field that’s one of the stupidest things any president has ever said."