Juan Williams: Biden must rebut GOP attacks on war

President Biden addresses the ongoing situation in Ukraine
Associated Press/Alex Brandon

Pay attention to the politics of war — inside the United States.

Some Congressional Republicans are probing for weak links in bipartisan opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

They do not want to see voters rally in support of American foreign policy behind a leader who is a Democrat — President Biden.

{mosads}The wildest GOP attack against Biden now is to blame him for starting the war.

But so far most Americans — including most Republicans — say Putin is to blame.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll earlier this month reported nearly 70 percent of Americans, including 66 percent of Republicans, say Putin is responsible for the death and destruction in Ukraine.

That did not stop Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who is up for reelection this year, from blaming Biden and Democrats.

“I don’t think Vladimir Putin would have moved on Ukraine were it not for the weakness displayed ― certainly by the Biden administration, but by the West in general,” Johnson told Fox News.

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, went on television to blame Biden for emboldening Putin because of the way the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan.

Haley also pointed to Biden’s effort to revive the Iran nuclear deal. And Haley suggested Biden’s approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany was also a trigger.

The next biggest push, so far, is to try to blame Biden for rising gas prices.

Biden gave a head-on response to the GOP’s libel by calling the rapid increase in gas prices since Russia invaded “Putin’s price hike.”

That is not stopping the GOP assault.

“Democrats want to blame surging [gas] prices on Russia,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R- Calif.). He pointed to Biden halting permits to drill for oil on federal land as well as cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline.

A New York Times factcheck concluded last week “these claims are misleading.” The “primary reason” for the increase in gas prices, the paper noted, was the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic disruption that it caused.

The Biden White House directly pushed back on GOP claims by pointing out that there are thousands of permits for drilling in the U.S. that have yet to be used by oil companies.

Right now, 71 percent of Americans support Biden’s decision to ban Russian oil imports to the U.S. even if it leads to higher gas prices, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

That includes 66 percent of Republicans who agree Americans should make a sacrifice to ensure Russia pays for its unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

Those polls show the steady GOP attacks on the commander in chief have not paid off yet — even with former President Trump spreading ‘America First’ isolationism among Republicans.

But it is early in the Ukraine war.

As fighting drags on, Democrats worry bipartisan support could fade even if Biden responsibly manages America’s foreign policy.

Since Biden took office, the right wing’s steady assault has led to 91 percent of Republicans disapproving of his performance as president, according to Quinnipiac.

A similar but slightly smaller percentage of Republicans, 76 percent, disapprove of how he is handling the war. The strong negativity among Republicans results in a split decision in overall public opinion of Biden’s war leadership, with 42 percent approval and 45 percent disapproval.

What happened in Afghanistan stands as a painful reminder for Democrats.

An overwhelming majority of Americans over more than a decade told polls they wanted an end to the longest war in U.S. history.

Biden got it done. He even managed to evacuate a record number of people. But the GOP trashed the long overdue withdrawal because 13 Americans in uniform tragically died in a terror attack at the airport in Kabul.

{mossecondads}Now, Biden is succeeding in rallying international support for Ukraine against Russia’s aggression. Again, the GOP wants him to pay a political price.

In my lifetime, I have seen presidents pay a price for war.

After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, American initially supported a war on terror led by a Republican, President George W. Bush. When that effort went astray in Iraq, voters gave control of Congress to the Democrats at the 2006 midterms.

In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) won the presidency by drawing a stark contrast by pointing out that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and then-Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — Obama’s main opponents in the Democratic primary and the general election, respectively — had cast Senate votes in support of the Iraq war.

Now as commander-in-chief, Biden is understandably hesitant to call out Republicans for playing politics with foreign policy as the nation faces the possibility of World War III with a nuclear Russia. 

But some Democrats worry that voters’ memories are short-lived. That is especially true of partisan GOP voters who do not want to be reminded of Trump’s obsequiousness to Putin, which emboldened the Russian dictator.

No president should ever play politics with America’s foreign policy. But Democrats would be foolish to ignore the potential for a political storm at home over this crisis.

Putin is counting on it.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel. 

Tags 2022 midterm elections Barack Obama Donald Trump gas prices Hillary Clinton Joe Biden John McCain Kevin McCarthy Nikki Haley Ron Johnson Ukraine Vladimir Putin

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