Republican efforts to blame officials in the United States for the Ukrainian crisis reached a strange level on Tuesday, when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued Russia’s invasion can be traced back to the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
Almost immediately, political observers of all stripes were eager to know one thing: what in the world Graham was thinking.
Yesterday, the senator defended his argument with CNN’s Dana Bash.
“The point I’m trying to make is that there’s been too many times in the last six months where the President has told people, ‘if you don’t do what I say, there’ll be consequences,’ and nothing’s happened,” Graham told CNN.
As Graham sees it, President Obama has barked orders to foreign nations, demanding that they do as he says or face adverse consequences. The South Carolina Republican believes those threats were hollow, which in turn undermined U.S. credibility, which in turn renewed Putin’s interests in Ukraine, which in turn inspired an invasion.
The problem with Graham’s defense is that it doesn’t make much sense.
Putting aside the great distance between what Graham said on Twitter and what he told Bash about the point he’s “trying to make,” there’s an even larger chasm between Graham’s perceptions of recent international events and reality.
As the senator sees it, Obama keeps making threats with no follow through. But that’s not what’s happened – the White House often urges foreign countries to pursue one course or another, but sovereign nations sometimes make their own decisions without much regard for the United States’ approval. It’s shocking, I know.
The exception is arguably the so-called “red line” in Syria, but even here, Obama ended up with more, not less, than he’d hoped for: an international agreement to rid Syria of its chemical weapons altogether.
What’s more, though Graham is convinced “nothing’s happened” to those who spur U.S. guidance, that’s not true, either – Obama is moving forward with a series of measures, for example, seeking to punish Russia economically for the Ukrainian crisis.
The smart move would be for Graham to say what’s obviously true, but which the senator is reluctant to admit: connecting Ukraine and Benghazi was a foolish mistake.