During our leisure hours, we here at Meme Killler occasionally put down the whiskey and try something different–Kentucky bourbon, for example. Today we thought we’d put this into practice on the job–we’re not going to kill a poorly-punctuated meme (or image macro, for you nit-picking redditors out there) but rather a baffling post on Joe Miller’s
campaign news site, the Tea Party News Network, and other online outlets.
For reasons not entirely clear, Miller and his team are investing time and effort in rehabilitating the image of Sarah Palin, who may or may not actually live in Alaska anymore and enjoys approval ratings so low that Hillary Clinton–that pant-suited spectre haunting the primal fears of Republicans everywhere — would beat her in Alaska. While we admire Mr. Miller’s charity towards those fallen on hard times, at Meme Killer we are not so full of the milk of human kindness, and will shoot down silly arguments from even the most pitiable characters.
Watching this video takes us back to a strange time; an era when the Republican Party still presented itself as the party of boisterous Wilsonian democracy, and when large numbers of people other than meth-addled devotees of TLC reality shows took Sarah Palin seriously. Listen to the crowds “boo” Obama’s effeteness and unwillingness to Support The Troops! Listen to them cheer the prospects of the imminent victory in Iraq! Ah, those were ancient days. But set all that aside — did she really predict a Russian invasion of Ukraine resulting from Obama’s election, get mocked by the “high-brow” Liberal Elites/Lamestream Media for her troubles, and ultimately see her savvy analysis of post-Soviet Eastern Europe validated at last?
Let’s start by noting Sarah Palin herself did not actually write any of her campaign speeches; a guy named Matthew Scully did that. We know what it sounds like when Sarah Palin writes her own speeches — that is, like an ambitious 7th-grader with shaky sentence-construction skills — and the speech in question is something very different. So, at best, what Sarah Palin actually did was read the words of someone who predicted that an Obama victory would lead to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. So were the words right?
The complexities and fine details of post-Soviet Eastern European history are a bit beyond the analytical skills of those assembled here at MK headquarters, but here’s a layperson’s brief primer on what was going on in Russia, Georgia, Ukraine (and America) in the summer and fall of 2008.
Georgia (formerly part of the USSR) has some territories with large ethnic minorities, most importantly a group called the Ossetians. Ever since the Soviet Union broke up, Ossetians, encouraged by Russians, have been agitating for independence in various violent and non-violent ways, and in the mid-90s succeeded in establishing a largely-autonomous, Russian-supported territory called South Ossetia. In August of 2008, following a summer of military build-up on both sides, Georgia launched an invasion intended to regain control of South Ossetia, and Russia responded in kind.
If you’ve been following the news from Ukraine in much detail, you probably know that Russia has a very large naval base in Ukraine, called Sevastopol. Since the fleet based there played a role in the fighting between Georgia and Russia, the President of Ukraine at the time (Viktor Yuschenko, perhaps best known for surviving an assassination-by-poisoning attempt) demanded advanced notice of any Russian fleet movement in and out of Sevastopol; he also condemned the Russian attacks on Georgia.
Back in America, all of this was great fodder for the McCain campaign. Struggling to gain traction on domestic issues, his camp latched onto this kind of old-fashioned Russians-fighting-for-territory crisis to show that the international arena was a dangerous place, for which a Chicago community organizer was not suited. We needed the gravitas and expertise of a battle-tested veteran, one who “knows how to win a war” (let’s pass by the claim that McCain’s experiences as a naval aviator in Vietnam, repeat Vietnam, constitute evidence he knows how to win a war).
Cue Sarah Palin’s scripted squawkings about Russia: “After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.” It’s not exactly clear (to those who have a nodding acquaintance with the U.S. Constitution) what would consistute a “decisive” response to a foreign-policy “crisis” by a U.S. Senator, but Palin made what we in the meme-killing business call a testable claim: The lack of a sufficiently muscular US response to the Russian attack on Georgia–demonstrated by, let’s say, the American people choosing a weak-willed elitist rather than a serious warrior as their next President–would lead to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. So, what actually happened? The American Commander-in-Chief in the summer of 2008 (that would be this guy) did pretty much nothing beyond stern condemnation; just like every other U.S. President who has had to deal with Russian/Soviet territorial expansion since the Soviets developed atomic weapons back in 1950.
South Ossetia remains occupied by the Russian military to this day, with U.S. strategic interests not noticeably damaged. In Ukraine, President Yuschenko’s anti-Russian stance precipated a long-brewing conflict between himself and his somewhat more pro-Rusisan Prime Minster, the fantastically-coiffed Yulia Tymoshenko.
This led to a political crisis in Ukraine in the winter of 2008, during which Russia… did not invade Ukraine, although it did suspend the delivery of the Russian natural gas on which Ukraine depends to meet its energy needs. In 2009, there were negotations between Tymoshenko and Vladimir Putin to get the gas lines turned on again, which ended in… the gas lines being turned back on again.
A year later, Tymoshenko ran for President and lost to the much more pro-Russian Yanukovych. Almost three years after that, Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia, which led to demonstrations by pro-Western factions in Kiev, which led to violent suppression of those demonstrations by Yanukovych, which led to even more widespread resistance, which led to the removal of Yanukovych from power by the Ukranian parliament, which might–or might not, as of the time this piece was written–lead to a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
So it might end up being true that Obama became President and then (nearly six years later) “Russia’s Putin” invaded the Ukraine, in the same sense that Dwight Eisenhower became President and then the Soviet Union invaded Hungary. But for Joe Miller’s people to suggest that there is a causal relationship between those two events, and that Sarah Palin has been Vindicated By History, is at least an absurd a claim as anything that has issued forth from Sarah Palin’s own mouth.
[Footnote: An entire article whose central topics are Russia and Sarah Palin, and Meme Killer did not make a “see Russia from my house” joke! We consider ourselves above certain things.]