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Boehner’s Hawkish Demagoguery

John Boehner is working on his foreign policy demagoguery on the campaign trail:

House Speaker John Boehner is trashing President Obama’s foreign policy on the campaign trail by talking up someone Republicans have spent years running from: George W. Bush.

“Does anybody think that Vladimir Putin would have gone into Crimea had George W. Bush been president of the United States? No!” Boehner asked, and answered, before a group of Republican volunteers here.

“Even Putin is smart enough to know that Bush would have punched him in the nose in about 10 seconds!” Boehner said to an applauding crowd.

Boehner’s comments are absurd, but they are revealing of how many hawks think about these things. On one level, this is just mindless partisanship. However, it does reflect a delusion that the U.S. would ever be prepared to “punch” Russia in response to seizing control of Crimea and that this would be a good thing. Had Bush been president during the Ukraine crisis over the last year, it is doubtful that he would have responded all that differently. Despite making lots of noise during the war in Georgia, Bush wasn’t so crazy as to involve U.S. forces, and he would presumably have done much the same when Russia took control of Crimea. It is possible that Bush would have used more obnoxious rhetoric, and he might have made the bad decision to provide arms to Ukrainian forces, but there is virtually no chance that the U.S. would have resorted to force to prevent the annexation of Crimea no matter who the president was. With the possible exception of McCain, no president would so irresponsible as to risk or to start a major war with the Russians over the territory of a non-allied country. The worrisome thing is that Boehner thinks that a president from his party would be that irresponsible, and he thinks that this is something to be praised. If Americans need to be reminded why his party can’t be trusted on foreign policy, these comments from Boehner should do the trick.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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