Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
“I gotta be honest with you. I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another,” J.D. Vance declared in February, shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his brutal war on the Ukrainian people.
The GOP Senate candidate in Ohio later flip-flopped, saying that he wanted “the Ukrainians to be successful.” But as The Washington Post detailed on Sunday, Vance’s original remark is causing Ukrainian Americans who are lifelong Republicans to support his Democratic opponent, Tim Ryan, in that too-close-to-call Senate race.
Vance’s initial reaction was callous and inflammatory, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent comments were even more alarming. McCarthy said that if Republicans win the House in November, Ukraine can no longer expect that US assistance would be a “blank check.”
My guess is, no one would be happier to hear McCarthy’s words than Putin. The United States is the world leader in helping Ukraine, providing more than $18 billion since January 2021, far more than any other nation. These funds have given Ukrainians desperately needed humanitarian aid, along with a wide range of weapons from artillery munitions to defensive systems.
This military support for Ukraine — together with the leadership of the Biden administration in rallying Western assistance for this democratic nation — has been credited with allowing Ukrainians to limit Russia’s invasion and has enabled successful counteroffensives that have recaptured territory seized by Russia.
This month, the Biden administration authorized an additional $725 million in security aid for Ukraine after Putin’s forces launched a brutal barrage of missiles against Ukrainian civilian targets and power facilities that led to “massive blackouts” across the nation.
As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter last week after Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities, “Another kind of Russian terrorist attacks: targeting energy & critical infrastructure. Since Oct. 10, 30% of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country.”
In fact, around the same time that Russia was destroying Ukrainian power plants, McCarthy was suggesting that a GOP-led Congress might no longer provide robust funding to help Ukraine fight back against Putin’s illegal war — a position that Republican Rep. Liz Cheney called a “dangerous” move motivated by political self-interest.
“The notion that now Kevin McCarthy is going to make himself the leader of the pro-Putin wing of my party is just a stunning thing. It’s dangerous,” Cheney said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“He knows better, but the fact that he’s willing to go down the path of suggesting that America will no longer stand for freedom, I think, tells you he’s willing to sacrifice everything for his own political gain.”
Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — who recently declared that if Republicans win the House in next month’s elections that she expects McCarthy “to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway” — blamed Ukraine for the war shortly after Russia’s attack, saying that “Ukraine just kept poking the bear and poking the bear, which is Russia, and Russia invaded.”
Greene —- who joined 56 other House Republicans in May to oppose aid to Ukraine — has likened US aid to Kyiv to a “money laundering scheme.”
Conservative Fox News stars, including Laura Ingraham and especially Tucker Carlson, have been laying the groundwork with members of the Republican base, readying them for the possibility of an end to US assistance for Ukraine.
Carlson — who declared on his show in 2019 when there was a potential conflict between the neighboring countries that he was “root(ing) for Russia” — did his best in the months before Putin’s attack to paint Ukraine in a negative light. For example, Carlson falsely claimed Ukraine was “not a democracy” and called Ukrainian leader Zelensky a “puppet of the Biden administration.”
And just last week, Ingraham derided former Vice President Mike Pence for referring to the United States as the “arsenal of democracy” and suggested our massive military is too depleted to help other countries such as Ukraine. During that same episode, Ingraham welcomed GOP Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who echoed McCarthy’s comments about aid for Ukraine, saying, “We can’t put America first by giving blank checks to those around the world to solve their problems.”
President Joe Biden rightly criticized McCarthy and other Republicans who want to reduce or end aid to Ukraine, remarking last week, “These guys don’t get it. It’s a lot bigger than Ukraine — it’s Eastern Europe. It’s NATO. It’s real, serious, serious consequential outcomes.”
As Biden suggested, McCarthy and some of his fellow Republicans may or may not get it. But there’s one person who fully gets it: Vladmir Putin. Few people will have greater cause for celebration if the GOP wins back control of the House.