by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Zach Kessel uses a National Review Online column to revisit a key dispute from the 2012 presidential election campaign.
The bounties, the electoral interference, and Russia’s multifarious acts of aggression are all bullet points on the long list of reasons why Mitt Romney deserves an apology. …
… During the 2012 general-election campaign, Romney called Russia “our number one geopolitical foe.” In the cycle’s final debate, Obama mocked Romney’s warning, remarking that, “the 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” It was a canned, stale one-liner even at the time, but the media voraciously lapped it up. With the benefit of eight years of hindsight, it reads more like Gerald Ford’s “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” than the Reaganesque zinger it was meant to be. In fact, Reagan often used a Russian proverb — “trust, but verify” — to describe his approach to negotiations with Gorbachev. The Obama administration’s approach to Putin wasn’t so cautious. …
… Alongside revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election came limited recognition that Obama and his ilk were wrong to turn Romney’s prescient warning into a joke. But now, amid news of the bounty program and the NCSC’s warning of repeated Russian election interference, the Obama administration’s negligence has become even more apparent.
In light of the current political moment, appropriate criticisms of previous administrations seem trite. Under a president seemingly in thrall to various authoritarian leaders, during a mismanaged global pandemic, Obama’s foreign-policy missteps might appear undeserving of too much attention. But much like ideas, policies have consequences, and the Obama administration’s reckless handling of Russia paved the way for a resurgent Putin regime’s belligerence.
Where does that leave us now? In much the same place we were under Obama: saddled with a government that needs to wake up and take the Russian threat seriously.