Jim Beam column:Johnson, Scalise challenged

Published 6:48 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

When conservative columnists begin to talk about the folly of refusing to send aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia, it’s time for all of us to take notice. The latest is Quin Hillyer, a New Orleans native and senior commentary writer and editor for the Washington Examiner whose columns appear in The Advocate.

Hillyer said, “A new poll from the Pew Research Center found that a whopping 74% supermajority of the American public considers Ukraine’s fight to be in the U.S. national interests.”

Yes, Ukrainians are technically fighting our war against Russia’s President Putin.

Email newsletter signup

Hillyer said last week’s “death-by-gulag of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny” reminded the world just how evil the regime of Putin can be.

Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, called Navalny “my friend” in a Thursday column in this newspaper. McFaul offered some encouraging words for all of us at the end of that column.

McFaul said, “Navalny dreamed of a free Russia. Barbaric dictators such as Putin can kill men, but they cannot kill ideas. I do not know when, but I am confident that Navalny’s ideas of freedom will outlive Putin’s ideas of tyranny.

Yes they will, and the sooner the better.

In some of his strongest language, Hillyer said it’s time for U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Benton, and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, “to stop kowtowing to the rump caucus of pro-Putinists in the House Republican Conference.”

As I reminded readers Wednesday, Hillyer in his column laid the blame for refusing aid to Ukraine squarely on the shoulders of this state’s top two leaders — Johnson and Scalise. He calls their actions, “an appalling abdication of moral leadership, all for the sake of domestic political gamesmanship.”

Hillyer said the two men “inexplicably sent the House on a two-week recess just as the military aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan finally had passed the Senate, and just as Russia began making its first significant battlefield gains in many, many months.”

Rich Lowry on Twitter in a column titled, “It makes no sense to abandon Ukraine,” said according to U.S. estimates, Russia has suffered more than 300,000 casualties and has lost 3,000 tanks and 20 ships in the Black Sea. It has spent more than $200 billion on the war, and it has seen about $1 trillion in anticipated economic growth disappear.

Lowry said it would be difficult to predict how a Ukrainian defeat would reverberate, but abandoning allies in a humiliating fashion has unpredictable consequences. He said the abandonment of South Vietnam in the 1970s catalyzed an anti-Western offensive around the world. Lowry then added that President Joe Biden’s botched pull-out from Afghanistan may have tempted Putin into Ukraine.

Hillyer said Ukraine’s loss of the strategic city of Avdivka in Eastern Ukraine didn’t come because Ukraine lacks the will to fight. It was primarily because its supplies were literally running out.

If Ukraine loses the war, Hillyer said “China’s sense of Western weakness also would be enhanced, making more likely a Chinese military adventure against either Taiwan or American commerce in the entire Pacific region.”

Border policy and border spending have no realistic connection to the Ukraine war, Hillyer said. He added, “Tying the issues together is as senseless as telling a farmer something as ludicrous as — well, as that he won’t be allowed to sell apples unless he buys basketballs.”

While it isn’t likely to happen, Hillyer said Johnson and Scalise should call the House back into session and debate and vote on the Senate-passed bill on aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

Eddy Hayes, honorary consul to Ukraine in Louisiana, and Arnie Fielkow, a former New Orleans city councilman-at-large, in a letter to The Advocate, said “isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.”

They quoted Ronald Reagan who said, “It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost.”

The U.S. response to Ukraine’s appeal for help is a small investment, the two men said, “in the world we leave our children and grandchildren.”

Speaker Johnson and Scalise have a rare opportunity to display some real statesmanship. However, little time is left for them to demonstrate they have the necessary courage to seize the moment.