The main dish on Sunday’s political talk show circuit was the ongoing unrest in Ukraine, along with a side of speculative electoral politics.
In what Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) referred to as a “Soviet-style election,” residents in Ukraine’s Crimea region voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining Russia, rather than naming the region as an independent state, on Sunday. Durbin was not alone in his skepticism, as the 93 percent vote in favor of joining Russia arose suspicion from most keeping an eye on the region.
Before the vote even occurred, the White House declared that its results would be illegitimate.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer used a question about whether Crimea was “lost at this point” to marginalize Russia’s power and international standing.
“Look, we are putting as much pressure on the Russians as we can to do the right thing. We have given them the opportunity in the past to de-escalate and get this in the right place,” he said. “They know there are costs to their action here.
“The costs are economic. The Russian economy, the Russian stock market and the ruble are at five-year lows. Russia’s isolated in the world. You saw that in the U.N. Security Council yesterday. The more they escalate, the longer the cost will be.”
Asked about Crimea’s apparent decision to embrace the idea of becoming a Russian asset, Pfeiffer reiterated the White House’s position on the Sunday election.
“The United States is not going to recognize the results of that referendum,” he said. “And we are working with our partners around the world, the Europeans in particular, to marshal forces against the Russians to put pressure on them in the form of sanctions. The President has signed an executive order last week that gives him authority to do this.”
The White House adviser said that Americans can expect to see international sanctions levied against Russia in the coming days.
On “This Week” Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) weighed in on the situation with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, saying that Russia probably didn’t expect the strong international condemnation that has followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to march forces into Ukrainian territory.
“Clearly, this is a longer-term effort to build up the Ukrainian military,” said Murphy. “But if on Monday, we announce — with the European Union — a set of crippling sanctions coming after not only individuals, but Russian business entities, I think that sends a strong message to Putin.”
“I think [Putin] marched into Crimea because he didn’t believe that the United States and Europe would actually take a chunk of flesh out of his economy,” he added. “And, if we stand together on Monday, that gives us a chance, at least, to change the calculus in Moscow.”
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) took his usual hawkish stance with regard to the Ukrainian crisis. In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union,” McCain called energy-rich Russia “a gas station masquerading as a country” and advocated for pumping U.S. tax dollars into Ukraine.
Calling for humanitarian and military assistance, McCain said, “Get some military assistance to Ukrainians at least so they can defend themselves.”
The Senator added that the U.S. should make a “long-term commitment” to Ukraine.
With regard to a long-term strategy for U.S. and Russian relations, McCain called for a reset.
“That does not mean we issue a Cold War. But it does mean treating him in the way that we understand an individual who believes in restoring the Old Russian Empire,” McCain said.
Some of the Sunday talk eschewed the Ukrainian crisis for discussions of the fast-approaching 2014 election season.
On CNN, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that Florida Republican David Jolly didn’t win his recent District 13 special election by running solely on Obamacare — but, he added, it’s clear that Obamacare is hurting the Democrats.
“Obamacare is complete poison out there in the field,” Priebus said, “… [S]o the lesson is going to be number one, you have to hit your main target which is Obamacare.
“But secondly, David Jolly gave a positive vision. He had a position on Obamacare which was positive for him, a positive message besides Obamacare.”
The RNC chair said that he’s confident that the GOP is poised to take control of the Senate.
Unsurprisingly, Pfeiffer disagreed, saying that Democrats in 2014 have a secret weapon: President Barack Obama.
“This President wrote the book on running and winning modern campaigns. We’re going to help Democrats up and down the ballots,” he said.
“I believe [Democrats] will keep the Senate,” he also said.