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2008 Bush White House: Will not punish Russia or Putin for conflict with Georgia

Lindsey Graham and John McCain have been sharply critical of President Barack Obama and nearly every move he makes on the foreign policy front. Both are Republicans and their Obama criticisms are political, as evidenced by their silence in 2008, when an eerily similar situation occurred where Putin invaded a former U.S.S.R. state.

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (R), and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (L) speak to the press during a news conference on the terror attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi February 14, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (R), and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (L) speak to the press during a news conference on the terror attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi February 14, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The New York Times reported that the White House has decided that the recent "Russian incursion" into its neighbor's sovereign terrorist, that it will not take "direct punitive action against Russia for its conflict." The White House concluded that it has "little leverage if it acts unilaterally and that it would be better off pressing for a chorus of international criticism to be led by Europe."

The White House had also "concluded that American punishments like economic sanctions or blocking Russia from world trade groups would only backfire, deepening Russia's intransigence and allowing the Kremlin to narrow the regional and global implications of its invasion of Georgia to an old-fashioned Washington-Moscow dispute."

The White House referred to is the 2008 Bush administration and the quotes from the New York Times dated Sept. 9, 2008. The country referred to is not Ukraine, but the former U.S.S.R. state of Georgia.

Lindsey Graham, Republican U.S. Senator from South Carolina, said, "Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin — or anyone like Putin — everybody’s eyes roll, including mine." That was this past Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" show with Candy Crowley.

John McCain, Republican U.S. Senator from Arizona, sharply condemned President Obama on Monday, blasting the administration’s foreign policy as "feckless" and partially responsible for the mounting crisis over the advance of Russian forces into Ukraine.

In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, McCain said the "blatant act" by Russian President Vladi­mir Putin "cannot stand," even as he acknowledged that the United States does not have a realistic military option to force Russian troops to withdrawal.

What did Graham and McCain say about the Russian incursion?

Nothing.

McCain was running for President as was silent in the campaign.

It is about politics and it is about the color of President Barack Obama's skin. Why was criticism not ok in 2008, but ok in 2014? That is the question.

Graham and McCain did not dare to criticize Bush for the exact same thing.

In the process, Graham and McCain have both managed to give encouragement to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and in doing so, have given "aid and comfort" to the enemy.

Graham and McCain would be outraged should a President of the United States have been Republican and Democrats attacked the actions of that president in the early stages.

In that same New York Time article, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, described the administration as having come to a unified position that calls for "a long-term strategic approach — not one where we react tactically in a way that has negative strategic consequences."

Gates said: "We are all agreed that we need to stay very much in close collaboration with the Europeans and others. I think there is a sense that we do have the time to calibrate reactions carefully. And I think there is agreement not to take any precipitous actions. But there is also agreement on the importance of continued support for Georgia's territorial integrity."

He cautioned, "If we act too precipitously, we could be the ones who are isolated."

More recently, Gates was critical of the criticism coming from McCain and Graham. It was Graham called Obama "a weak and indecisive president [who] invites aggression."

Gates was interviewed by David Ignatius of the Washington Post. Gates told Ignatius, "I think considerable care needs to be taken in terms of what is said, so that the rhetoric doesn’t threaten what policy can’t deliver."

Russian President Vladimir Putin "holds most of the high cards" in Crimea and Ukraine Gates told Ignatius. Gates would tell the GOP to "cool it" on the criticism.

In other words, McCain and Graham should "shut up."

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Sources:

Washington Post - David Ignatius interview of Robert Gates

New York Times - Russia invades Georgia - Sept. 9, 2008

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Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, johnpresta@att.net.

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