Senate Republicans voted unanimously Wednesday, December 6, to block $106 billion in new funding for Ukraine and Israel over the lack of attention being paid to America’s own southern border. President Joe Biden railed against the GOP, calling the legislative deadlock political blackmail and a gift to Russia President Vladimir Putin – and he’s one to talk. President Biden and congressional Democrats have routinely employed this very tactic he now labels political blackmail. Evidently, it’s only okay when the Democrats do it. As the old saying goes, if it weren’t for double standards, some folks wouldn’t have any at all.
The Stakes Are Too High
“Republicans in Congress are threatening to cut off support for Ukraine unless they can force through their extreme partisan policies,” Biden posted on X. “It’s political blackmail, pure and simple. The stakes are too high and the consequences are too significant for political brinksmanship.”
Anyone who pays attention to Congress and the president when there’s a spending bill chock-full of progressive pork or an attempt to raise the debt ceiling rather than spend responsibly likely sees the irony. Democrats won’t give Republicans a single-subject spending bill with a government shutdown looming. They won’t agree to any budget reduction while demanding a “clean” debt limit bill or nothing when the government’s credit nears the max. And they won’t give in on border security for the sake of sending aid to Ukraine and Israel.
“The stakes are too high and the consequences too significant,” yet it isn’t worth compromising with political nemeses across the aisle. “Republicans think they get everything they want without any bipartisan compromise,” Biden complained. “Now they’re willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield and damage our national security in the process.” Of course, that sword cuts both ways; as one X user posted, if you replace Republicans with Democrats in Biden’s post, it remains exactly as valid. The stalemate only continues for as long as both sides are willing to stand their ground no matter the cost. And somehow all the brinkmanship is on the part of Republicans? The inability – or unwillingness – to see the hypocrisy is astounding; Democrats are old hands at this method now termed political blackmail – and Biden is a master.
Political Blackmail, Pure and Simple
But if accusing Republicans of political blackmail and pretending they never do it themselves doesn’t change any minds, perhaps engaging in a little more will. That seems to be the reasoning behind President Biden’s and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s own threats. Both tie US foreign aid to Ukraine winning its war with Russia, and both suggest Putin would move on to NATO countries immediately after, requiring US troops in Europe fighting Russian soldiers.
All this hinges, of course, on Putin moving against NATO directly. He thought he could take Ukraine in a matter of weeks, else he wouldn’t have gone in. He still thinks he can win – once the West (namely, the US) grows tired of keeping the beleaguered nation supplied and funded. But he also knows that a war with the weakest member of NATO means fighting the strongest as well – along with everyone in between.
Does Putin want to absorb former Soviet states into a renewed Russian Empire? Of course. Would he love to see the US fall? Almost certainly. But both goals are mere fantasy, and Putin knows it. He also isn’t quite enthusiastic about nuclear war with the US and NATO allies, either, despite some saber rattling in the first year of his invasion.
“We haven’t gone mad,” the Russian President said in 2022. “We are fully aware of what nuclear weapons are.”
The stakes are always astronomical for politicians – though it seems Democrats are more prone to this hyperbole than Republicans, generally speaking. The end is always nigh and someone’s always going to die if they’re to be believed when they want more money for their pet causes. But Biden may well be on to something here. Political blackmail does seem to aptly describe one party holding hostage something vitally important – like the US government’s budget, the nation’s ability to borrow and pay debt, or in this case, funding for foreign wars and the very lives of American soldiers. Where he falls short is in recognizing – or admitting – that political blackmail is just politics as usual.