When Tommy Tuberville launched a U.S. Senate campaign two years ago, it quickly became clear that he would not be a traditional candidate. As regular readers may recall, the Alabama Republican and former college football coach settled on a specific kind of strategy American voters generally don’t see among those seeking statewide office: He said very little, did very little, and expected to win while maintaining a relatively low public profile.
During the GOP primaries, for example, Tuberville refused to debate former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. During the general election, he also refused to debate incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. After struggling to discuss what the Voting Rights Act is, the retired coach seemed to retreat even further from microphones.
With just a few weeks remaining before Election Day, the Alabama Media Group’s Kyle Whitmire noted, “Tuberville is in hiding.” The columnist added, “[I]f a campaign won’t let its candidate speak openly because he can’t do so without saying dumb things that hurt his chances of winning the election, what the heck is going to happen when he’s in the United States Senate?”
As it turns out, we can now answer that question. AL.com reported yesterday:
Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine because Russia is a “communist country” and he needs more farmland to feed his people, according to Sen. Tommy Tuberville. “He can’t feed his people,” the senator reportedly told the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, according to 1819 News. “It’s a communist country, so he can’t feed his people, so they need more farmland.”
This reporting hasn’t been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, but if it’s accurate, it’s more than a little discouraging.
Let’s quickly review some of the glaring factual errors the confused senator appears to have made. Right off the bat, it’s curious that Tuberville believes Russia is a “communist country,” given that the Soviet Union collapsed more than three decades ago. Similarly, the idea that Russia is incapable of feeding its population is plainly wrong.
Especially glaring was the Alabaman arguing that Russia needs more farmland. Not to put too fine a point on this, but Russia is a country so large, it spans 11 time zones. By square miles, it is the largest country on the planet by a wide margin. Russia is in need of a great many things, but land for agriculture isn’t one of them.
According to a local report, it was at the same public appearance when Tuberville complained that China’s economy has surpassed the United States’, which also isn’t even close to being true.
The Republican is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He attends its hearings. He receives its briefings. Even if he arrived on Capitol Hill with no meaningful understanding of these basic details, it stands to reason he’d pick up a few things about international affairs through his day-to-day work.
It’s tempting to think the senator may have simply been having a rough day, but there’s also a larger context to consider. Over the course of the last year, Tuberville has also flubbed the basics of World War II. And how recent presidential elections have been resolved. And the three branches of the United States government.
Finally, it’s likely that the Republican is trying to come to terms with why Putin launched this attack on Ukraine. That’s understandable; much of the world is asking the same question. But if Tuberville concluded that Russia had to invade its neighbor in order to acquire “more farmland,” we can only hope he won’t be playing a leadership role in the Senate on the U.S. response to the crisis.