Democratic messaging on Ukraine

In a post titled Failing at the Basics, Josh Marshall leads with this:

A new AP poll says that 54% of Americans think President Biden has been “not tough enough” on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. These kinds of public perceptions can be shaped by perceptions of a leader as much as they drive them. So you think Biden is weak as your starting point and therefore you think he’s not being tough enough on Russia rather than the other way around. Also notable, Americans’ hawkishness over Ukraine has dipped a bit from a month ago. But the first, second and third most important thing about this poll is that this is what you get when you’re not reminding Americans every day — and I mean every god-damned day — that the GOP has spent the last 7 years boosting, allying with and even conspiring with Russia.

I agree that many people who think Biden is not being tough enough on Russia are basing this on their general attitudes and beliefs about Biden rather than an evaluation of his actions on the merits.  But I disagree that Biden and the Democrats should attack the GOP for it’s shameful support of Russia.

Emphasizing Trump/Republican support for Russia against Ukraine is risky – it may well lead some Republican partisans to shift their allegiance to Russia, especially if Trump continues to support Russia and Putin, which is certainly possible if not likely.  The time to attack Republicans for their Putinism is in the future. 

In any event, focusing on the bad acts of Republicans doesn’t do much to make Biden look like a strong leader.  My two cents is that Biden should emphasize how tough he is being, and what a high price Russia is paying for this invasion.  He should emphasize NATO unity and his leadership, how Putin was wrong to think that Ukraine would fold and the U.S./NATO would stand by.  He should be saying this every day.  He has an opportunity to mug for the cameras here, but he isn’t taking it, perhaps because he/his team are worried about putting him in front of a microphone.

(Biden should not focus his criticism on Putin, since there is nothing we can do to topple him, and in fact it is very much in our interest to negotiate a deal that preserves Ukrainian sovereignty and gives Russia a path back into the community of nations.  Vilifying Putin, as evil as he clearly is, makes this already daunting task harder.)