Mid-Day Odds and Ends

Lots of us have been focused on U.S. politics lately because one of our two viable political parties has signaled they’re done with democracy and Republicans + 2 won’t let the sole remaining pro-democracy party address that. But the world ain’t sleeping; here’s one for the “Not now, Putin!” file, via CNN:

The US has information that indicates Russia has prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine, a US official told CNN on Friday, in an attempt to create a pretext for an invasion.

The official said the US has evidence that the operatives are trained in urban warfare and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces.

The allegation echoes a statement released by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense on Friday, which said that Russian special services are preparing provocations against Russian forces in an attempt to frame Ukraine. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hinted at the intelligence during a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I’d seen some reassuring speculation that the Russian troop buildup was a feint. Maybe not. My guess is the antics of the Republicans + 2 are emboldening the world’s autocrats, so we should expect more of this.

Next up, some Tony Jay bait — BoJo hosted a staff party on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, even though pandemic restrictions were such that the Queen sat alone at her husband’s service:

Surely BoJo is toast now, right? Not even Netanyahu could survive a choreographed, cascading scandal like this, right? Should we start a political dead pool, UK edition?

Lastly, closer to home, here are thoughts about midterm messaging if Republicans + 2 succeed in tanking Biden’s domestic agenda, from Crooked Media’s Brian Beutler (Big Tent newsletter):

Biden gave a great speech at the Capitol on the anniversary of the riot; he gave another great one this week in Atlanta, where he framed the democracy fight in simple good vs. evil terms. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” That’s more or less the pacing and the tone he needs to maintain if he wants the midterms to be about democracy. He’ll also need the rest of the party to be similarly focused and unsparing.

Instead, Republicans pretended to be mad, and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said, “perhaps the President went a little too far in his rhetoric…” I think a lot will turn on whether Democrats comport themselves more like Biden has over the past week, or more like Dick Durbin.

I agree with Beutler on that. As I mentioned in the morning thread, Con Media is unified on this theme: Biden promised to heal divisions, but instead, he’s demonizing Republicans — even Democrats Manchin and Sinema don’t take Biden’s claims about voter suppression and election subversion seriously.

But perhaps Biden has a hidden strength here. As the old Vulcan proverb says, “Only Nixon could go to China.” Well, Biden built his senate career on reaching across the aisle and was famously friends with vipers like Lindsey Graham back in the day. So who better to make a convincing case that this ain’t your grandfather’s Republican Party? That they really are trying to dismantle American democracy, and oh by the way, lets review the footage from January 6th?

I’m not saying it will work. I’m saying it could work. But it would require message discipline, so put a sock in it, Durbin.

Open thread.

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