Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: Remembering P.J. O'Rourke
TNL: Time To Go on Offense 🔐
JVL: The Kind of Guy Who'd Race a Ferrari 308 GTS Cross-Country 🔐
SECRET POD: Half Full or Half Empty? 🔐
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WILLIAM KRISTOL on Putin’s War.
One thing we know about international relations is that dictators matter. Dictators who feel threatened by democratic neighbors, who want to justify their rule in part by foreign conquest, who sense weakness—it is they who launch wars, unless deterred.
And our ability to deter is not what it could be. In his two decades in power, Putin has gotten away with an awful lot. Georgia in 2008, Ukraine in 2014, Syria in 2013 and then 2015, election interference in the United States in 2016. To say nothing of crushing democracy at home and poisoning dissidents abroad, and intimidating and bribing other governments and national elites into tolerating his behavior.
So is Putin likely to be intimidated this time? It may be that this time we and our allies are more serious, more resolute, more determined. But will Putin think so? Yes, he’ll figure, there could be serious sanctions at first. But six months from now won’t there be pressure to resume economic relations and adjust to the new status quo? Yes, he’ll know, we’ll send some troops to frontline NATO states. But how long before the voices of America First and Give Peace a Chance get louder, not just here in the United States, but in Germany and France? The Biden administration has done reasonably well in recent months in handling this crisis and signaling firmness. But what does Putin think when the American president feels he has to preface even relatively tough statements with reassurances that no U.S. troops will ever set foot on Ukrainian soil? Or even, presumably, fly above such soil to enforce, say, a no-fly-zone?
BRIAN STEWART wonders: Where Are the Anti-Putin Anti-Imperialists?
The response from those who are usually most vociferously opposed to imperialism has been somewhat confused. While a few progressive commentators have seen through Putin’s rhetoric, the typical response has been disappointing. The progressive writer Peter Beinart has argued that the United States ought to recognize a capacious Russian “sphere of influence” in Eastern Europe and urged a “Finland model” of a neutral Ukraine. The Congressional Progressive Caucus called for “compromise.” Diplomacy, de-escalation, peaceful conflict resolution—good! But compromise with a hostile, imperialist power? Compromise means giving each side part of what it wants. In this case, that would mean giving Russia partial dictatorial power and quasi-imperial control over Ukraine. Those don’t sound like progressive values.
With Biden in the White House, Putin thought this was the time to deliver the final blow to NATO. But he has been surprised by the West's response to Ukraine. His game isn't chess, it's poker — and he may have overplayed his hand. Garry Kasparov joins Charlie Sykes on today's podcast.
JVL on Why Writers Loved P.J. O’Rourke.
There’s an Oscar Wilde line about how “anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend” but it takes “a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.” Gore Vidal’s version: “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” These are very real phenomena. And yet they never touched P.J.
No matter how much success he saw, P.J.’s peers were never jealous. There were never any knives out for him. Quite the opposite, actually. We cheered for him. We admired him.
Because P.J. was what every writer hoped we might someday be: The best version of ourselves. Talented and kind. A champion for others. A workhorse. A wit and a gentleman. A writer. A tremendous writer.
MONA CHAREN: The Verdict Is In: Trump Wasn’t Right About China.
The data are also now in on Trump’s own “momentous” 2020 trade deal with China. As part of his strategy to get this supposedly history-making deal, Trump had imposed tariffs (taxes) on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. China retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion in American products, particularly targeting farmers. Trump incessantly claimed that China was paying those tariffs—everything Trump utters should be considered false until proven otherwise—but as a new report for the Petersen Institute for International Economics underlines, that was untrue. Trump’s import taxes were paid entirely by American businesses and consumers. This brought the Treasury $66 billion, almost exactly the amount Trump paid out to U.S. farmers to compensate them for lost exports. Had the trade war never started, the PIIE estimates, U.S. exports to China would have been nearly 20 percent higher in 2020.
PHILIP ROTNER: Mazars Thumps Trump.
In a letter dated February 9, Mazars informed Trump’s company that its statements of financial condition spanning the period from 2011 to 2020 “should no longer be relied upon” and advised the company to inform anyone relying on those statements that they “should not be relied upon.” Without revealing its specific reasons for casting shade on a decade of Trump’s financial disclosures, Mazars said its conclusions were based on filings made by the New York attorney general, its own investigation, and information obtained from unnamed “internal and external sources.”
Mazars also fired the Trump Organization as a client, stating that due to its decision regarding the financial statements and “the totality of the circumstances,” it had “a non-waivable conflict of interest with the Trump Organization.”
Ted Cruz doesn’t want to be a Senator anymore. The latest edition in thread form.
Can we talk about this case in Florida? Because every sentence here makes less sense than the last one.
Spoiler alert: The GOP is good at the culture war. But they’re bad at governing. Campaign accordingly.
Let’s not make this into a movie… A shooter in Denver made a movie about his murders, before he did them.
Happy Retirement, Zimm! “Mr. National” exits stage right.
A good look at the Ohio Senate craziness… From the NY Times.
Do GOP Senators think Joe Biden has lost it? Because zero of them were on this letter.
The strange thing about Dr. Oz… Stu Stevens on GOP ads.
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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. For full credits, please consult the article.