Writer schools Kevin McCarthy on why Ukraine aid isn’t a 'blank check'
During a mid-October interview with Punchbowl News, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made it clear that U.S. aid to Ukraine could be in danger if Republicans retake the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2022 midterms.
The California Republican, who may very well be House speaker three months from now, told Punchbowl, “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession, and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine. They just won’t do it.… And then, there’s the things (the Biden Administration) is not doing domestically. Not doing the border, and people begin to weigh that. Ukraine is important, but at the same time, it can’t be the only thing they do — and it can’t be a blank check.”
In a biting article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on October 20, writer Shay Khatiri is highly critical of McCarthy — comparing him to America First isolationists who “objected to aid to Britain before Pearl Harbor” and offering some reasons why helping Ukraine military is beneficial for the United States.
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“In light of Kevin McCarthy’s remarks about discontinuing aid, it’s worth setting the record straight about the aid the Biden Administration has sent Ukraine so far,” Khatiri explains. “Americans today are not supplying weapons to a militia taking part in an anarchic civil war. We are materially supporting a democratically elected government that retains civilian control over its military, a professionalized fighting force that has spent decades training with NATO and American forces, including Ukrainian officers studying at American military academies.”
Khatiri views McCarthy’s remarks as an example of the MAGA movement’s isolationist tendencies.
“Given the bipartisan popularity of the Ukrainian cause — nearly three quarters of Americans agree that the United States should continue to materially support Ukraine in spite of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s nuclear threats, including two thirds of polled Republicans — why is Kevin McCarthy signaling his intention to reduce aid to Ukraine.?” Khatiri writes. “One explanation: conservative concern about spending. Another explanation: Republicans don’t give their own base enough credit for supporting Ukraine. Yet another explanation: a desire to please Donald Trump, who tends to oppose foreign aid and has, shall we say, a track record of being friendlier to Russia than to Ukraine. And finally, a more cynical explanation: a desire to turn Ukraine into a wedge issue that can help Republicans.”
Khatiri continues, “No matter the explanation, if Republican legislators are losing their nerve and moral clarity about Ukraine, it’s up to Joe Biden to work proactively to clarify what the critics have obscured and once again galvanize public enthusiasm for Ukrainian freedom. Kevin McCarthy and his conference may want to walk away from Ukraine; President Biden, whose leadership on Ukraine has so far been praiseworthy, must make this painful for McCarthy and his conference. It is way overdue for the president to address the nation and make the case for Ukraine. And the good news is that he can rely on the backing of Mitch McConnell, who to his credit, has not wavered in his support of Ukraine.”
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Another writer for The Bulwark, Never Trump conservative Charlie Sykes, is equally critical of McCarthy’s Ukraine comments in a column published on October 19. Sykes argues that as House speaker, McCarthy will — in order to appease far-right extremists like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — pursue “crazy” policies such as abandoning Ukraine and threatening to default on the United States’ debt obligations.
“In signaling the possible abandonment of Ukraine,” Sykes writes, “McCarthy is echoing a common theme in right-wing media circles and among MAGA candidates like J.D. Vance, Blake Masters, et al. And the central dynamic of a McCarthy speakership will be his utter inability to defy the GOP’s new id…. Obviously, that applies not just to the investigations, impeachments, and assorted crazy stuff that the fever swamps will demand, but also, to the likelihood that McCarthy would trigger a debt crisis and cut off Ukraine. So, what we have here is McCarthy telegraphing two possible — and quite plausible — policy disasters.”
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