U.S. President George W. Bush shares a laugh with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Crawford, Texas, in this November 15, 2001 file photo.
Win McNamee/Reuters

Boehner: Bush would have punched Putin ‘in the nose’

Updated
I’m not sure which is worse: the notion that House Speaker John Boehner says ridiculous things to get votes or that the Ohio Republican actually believes his own rhetoric.
 
Take yesterday, for example. As Jay Bookman noted, Boehner was in Iowa and made these comments to a group of voters.
“Five years ago, the president of the United States went to Europe and he went to the Middle East on what I’ll call his ‘apology tour’ – apologizing for America being strong, apologizing for America leading.
 
“And the manifestation of that apology tour is what we see in the chaos going on around the world today. I talk to world leaders every week. They want America to lead. They’re begging America to lead. Because when America leads and America’s strong, the world is a safer place.
 
“When you look at this chaos that’s going on, does anybody think that Vladimir Putin would have gone into Crimea had George W. Bush been president of the United States? No! Even Putin is smart enough to know that Bush would have punched him in the nose in about 10 seconds.”
Obviously, the “apology tour” line is tiresome garbage. What Boehner said isn’t true, and the Speaker must realize at a certain level that he knows he’s lying, whether he’s prepared to admit it or not.
 
But more alarming is Boehner’s painfully silly vision of international affairs. In the Speaker’s mind, Obama’s responsible for Putin going into Crimea. Bush would have dealt with such a crisis with a swift punch to Putin’s nose.
 
And while the Speaker is welcome to cherish the failed former Republican president, Boehner might benefit from a remedial reminder about recent history.
 
Far from getting tough with Putin, Bush told the world that he’d looked into Putin’s eyes and “was able to get a sense of his soul.” Bush vouched for the former KGB official’s character, and bragged about calling him “Vladimir” because the two were so close.
 
When conflict erupted between Russia and Georgia in 2008, Putin seemed wholly unconcerned with Bush’s reaction. And as it turns out, Bush did practically nothing about Putin’s aggression, which is roughly in line with Reagan’s reaction when Russia killed 269 people, including an American congressman, on a civilian airliner.
 
In contrast, Obama has imposed tough economic sanctions on Russia, which have taken a real toll on Putin – isolating him both diplomatically and economically. It’s the difference between politicians who talk tough and leaders who actually make tough calls that have an effect.
 
Does Boehner understand any of this? Could someone maybe explain it to him?
 
Republicans desperately want the public to believe that if there’s tumult in the world, everyone should blame American leadership first – as if all world events can be controlled by and dictated from the Oval Office. Obama goes on an apology tour that exists only in far-right imaginations, which leads to chaos, which leads to Putin’s nose going un-punched.
 
It’s like listening to a middle-school child trying to make sense of a complex world.
 

Foreign Policy, George W. Bush, John Boehner, Russia and Vladimir Putin

Boehner: Bush would have punched Putin 'in the nose'

Updated