Bill Straub: Barr shows true partisan colors with criticism of Biden’s response to Russia invasion

An all-but-forgotten author from New Orleans named Maurice Switzer is generally credited with coining the adage, “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”

Suffice to say Rep. Andy Barr, R- Lexington, has removed all doubt.

In a Kentucky congressional delegation that features loony tunes like Rep. Thomas Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty, who recently maintained lynching should be a states’ rights issue, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, who has worked tirelessly to undermine federal efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, a malady that has cost nearly 1 million American lives, poor Andy sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.

Barr has played the role of Republican face man since arriving in DC nine years ago, providing little more than a smile and a shoeshine. Apparently, he’s been feeling overlooked in the oddball sweepstakes dominated by his Bluegrass colleagues so last week he essentially accused President Biden of opening the door for Russian President Vladimir Putin, handing the Moscow madman his hat and his coat and wishing him a safe journey on his way to Kyiv.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at

In a statement regarding Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of neighboring Ukraine, our boy Andy jumped to the head of the peculiar caucus, declaring that, “The Biden Administration’s weak and feckless foreign policy not only failed to deter this aggression, it invited this outcome.”

That’s right. This whole mess isn’t attributable to the machinations of a war criminal. It all can be laid on the stoop of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue where Biden “sent a dangerous signal to Vladimir Putin that this President would not challenge him.”

Imagine, then, Vlad’s surprise when Biden took the lead in doing everything to thwart his land grab, invoking serious measures just this side of dispatching U.S. ground troops for Ukraine’s defense. Sanctions in place could conceivably bankrupt The Bear, and all sorts of armaments are headed Kyiv’s way from nations like Sweden and Switzerland who rarely if ever get so involved.

Biden has acted by rallying the members of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that his predecessor, former President Donald J. Trump, threatened to exit on any number of occasions. With Biden, the military alliance between 28 European nations, the United States, and Canada is re-emerging as a powerhouse.

Condoleeza Rice, secretary of state under President George W. Bush, a Republican, told Fox News that Biden has “managed to unite NATO in ways I didn’t think I would ever see again after the end of the Cold War.”

What Putin has done, Rice said, “is certainly against every principle of international law and international order, and that’s why throwing the book at them now in terms of economic sanctions and punishments is also a part of it. And I think the world is there. Certainly, NATO is there.”

Now, keep in mind that Barr’s “feckless” comment arrived just as Biden was endeavoring to get NATO allies on the same page regarding the Russia-induced calamity. Andy’s claim couldn’t have helped much in attaining that necessary cooperative atmosphere. And it threw to the wolves any notion, old and reliable as it may be, that the United States and its various factions come together in times of crisis.

The Ukraine predicament, most people would agree, qualifies as just such a crisis. Regardless, Andy found a grand time to stick his foot in it. For what benefit? Who, exactly, was Barr helping as Vlad’s tanks rolled across the Ukraine border by asserting it was all Biden’s doing?

To support his claim, Barr provided a laundry list of Biden foreign policy measures with which he disagreed, asserting that the administration’s “missteps (have) led us to this point.” Leading off, as usual, is that old right-wing canard, Afghanistan, which he termed a “disastrous retreat… which projected an unwillingness to defend our allies.”

Oh please, dear boy. This is just an unbelievably ridiculous assumption that marks the perpetrator as an unserious person. Does anyone – anyone – legitimately believe Vladimir Putin sat back on his high horse in the Kremlin, rubbed his hands in glee and thought, “Hey, the Americans are ditching Kabul. Odessa here I come!”

It’s silly. Barr’s assessment came at the precise time Biden was endeavoring to re-establish NATO’s authority in the face of potential crises like this. America’s misbegotten excursion into Afghanistan lasted 16 years and there was no end in sight. Afghans were either unable or unwilling to defend themselves despite this nation’s best effort and it was time to get out. If Trump had been re-elected, he would have vamoosed even sooner, a detail Andy seems to have forgotten.

The withdrawal, at the outset, was near-disastrous, undeniably, but eventually the United States evacuated 122,000 people, an unprecedented number. That’s beside the point. Putin is a war criminal, not an idiot. He understood that any invasion of Ukraine would result in a stern, organized retaliation led by the United States. His imperialism – he has always maintained Ukraine was truly a part of Russia – outweighed his sane judgment. It had nothing to do with America’s exit from Afghanistan and it’s stupid to suggest otherwise.

“Now on Ukrainian territory, our soldiers and officers are fighting for Russia, for a peaceful life for the citizens of Donbass (a region in south-eastern Ukraine), for the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, so that we can’t be threatened by an anti-Russia right on our borders that the West has been creating for years,” Putin said Thursday.

If Putin was caught off-guard by the strong European response, as has been suggested, it can only serve as a testament to Biden’s ability to work with world leaders on a common goal. He has not given Putin a free pass.

Barr added a few more examples to support his ill-conceived judgment, deriding the fact that Biden broached the possibility of withdrawing missile defense systems from Poland. That idea was expressed in advance of the president’s 2021 summit with Putin in Switzerland, an offer that would have required the Russian to make similar concessions. It was done to determine just how far Putin was willing to go in response – a common negotiating tactic.

Those missiles are still in Poland and have as much to do with Putin determining that Biden wouldn’t rush to Ukraine’s defense as concluding that the sun rose this morning because the cock crowed.

There are other, well, thoughts raised in Barr’s poorly timed and ill-considered diatribe – calling for sanctions even before Russia crossed the border, something akin to arresting someone for trespassing when they aren’t even on disputed property.

He may even have a point on some.

But to say, as he did, that the Biden administration “sent a dangerous signal to Vladimir Putin that this President would not challenge him” is asinine and stated for the pure pleasure of partisanship during a dangerous period for this nation.

And, like the morons who yelled and badgered Biden during his State of the Union address, and the one-and-only (thank God) Thomas Massie, who opposed a congressional resolution voicing support for Ukraine, Andy Barr has no shame.

6 thoughts on “Bill Straub: Barr shows true partisan colors with criticism of Biden’s response to Russia invasion

  1. Sadly, Putin was strengthened by the dishonesty and incompetence of D. Trump and his party of Russia-loving grifters, including Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Julian Assange, Dana Rohrbacher, and Devin Nunes.

    Trump did his best to divide and destroy NATO, just as Putin wanted. Luckily for everybody, Trump was not good at governing or anything else, so he failed and Biden has been able to get all our NATO Allie’s on the same page – standing united against Putin.

  2. In 2008, when George W. Bush was President, Russia invaded Georgia, marking the start of Europe’s first 21st century war. The repercussions of the Russo-Georgian War continue to reverberate 14 years later.

    The international reaction to Russia’s military campaign in Georgia was muted, with Moscow suffering few negative consequences. EU leaders led calls for a ceasefire that appeared to favor Russian interests.

    Putin interpreted this accommodating approach as an informal invitation for further acts of aggression in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. Six years after the Russo-Georgian War, Russia embarked on a far more comprehensive military campaign against Ukraine, and occupied Crimea and large swathes of Ukraine’s Donbas region.

    Neither Bush nor Obama had good options for influencing Putin. Now, because the West will not go to war over Ukraine, U.S. and European officials must rely on political, diplomatic and financial measures to punish Putin.

    Trump’s efforts to destroy NATO gave Putin strength and confidence that he could build on his earlier moves and make further incursions into Ukraine and beyond. To Putin’s surprise, the U.S. has acted decisively to consolidate NATO (and international) opposition, and provide military and humanitarian help for Ukraine. Putin will not succeed because Ukraine is pushing back and this time, thanks to Biden and other world leaders, they’re acquiring and using outside help.

  3. Trump was weak and tried to destroy the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. After four years of Trump undermining NATO, Putin thought he had an opportunity to strike with no concern about pushback from a united NATO.

    How’s that working Vlad?

  4. Putin said getting the U.S. out of NATO would be a boon for Russia. Trump was very clear about his interest in leaving the alliance.

    Trump’s Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly said one of his toughest jobs was dissuading Trump from leaving NATO.

    Trump’s talk of leaving NATO was the main reason NATO supporter Gen. Jim Mattis left his job as Sec. of Defense, and just last week, John Bolton said Trump would’ve pulled the U.S. out of NATO if he’d been elected to a second term.

    Thank God for a strong & united NATO, and thank God that Trump was defeated.

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