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So Manly, Macho Ukraine President Fighting Wars And Befriending Americans Is NOT The Future Wingnuts Want?
It's all terribly confusing.
I don't know about you kids, but I started tearing up just a few minutes into Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy's speech to a joint session of Congress last night, as he said his thank yous to everyone gathered in the House chamber. When he addressed the "representatives of [the Ukrainian] diaspora" on hand for the speech, and I thought of the millions of refugees who have fled Ukraine following the Russian invasion. Yeah, I cry at nearly everything. But I was also impressed to see members of the House and Senate give a standing ovation to the 30 or so Ukrainians gathered in the gallery. Solidarity is pretty good. We should try it more often, huh?
Zelenskyy was in Washington yesterday on his first trip since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. That's a measure of how important the visit was: It simply hasn't been safe for Zelenskyy to be outside his own country, where he was targeted for assassination in the first week of the invasion. Yep, that's the guy Tucker Carlson and other MAGA Chuds have been griping about, because they are whiners who hate America and democracy.
The Ukrainian president came to meet with President Biden and to address Congress, to remind us that his country is still fighting for survival against the Russian invasion forces — and to point out that his country is "skill alive and kicking," contrary to all predictions. To have any hope of expelling the Russian invaders, Ukraine needs advanced US weapons systems, and yesterday Biden announced that the US will provide Ukraine for the first time with Patriot missiles, which can take down Russian missiles aimed at Ukraine.
Congress is set to vote this week on the big omnibus government funding bill, which contains $45 billion in new military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, so Zelenskyy had what writing teachers call a very clearly defined rhetorical situational: Move Ukraine's American allies to vote to keep his country's hopes alive.
Here's video of the speech:
Zelenskyy usually speaks Russian or Ukrainian. TV talking heads who've met him said last night that he doesn't usually speak at length in English, but his points were absolutely clear, even if he had to follow his text closely, a finger on the page. He emphasized not only the geopolitical reasons for aiding Ukraine, but the emotional echoes of his country's fight against a much larger invading army. He invoked Revolutionary War history that's probably unknown to most Americans, and 1944's Battle of the Bulge, in which outnumbered American soldiers fought off the last and largest Nazi counteroffensive of World War II — and in freezing winter weather like Ukrainian soldiers face now. He also mentioned the Pearl Harbor attack and 9/11 to underline the sudden transformation from peace to war, adding "Just remember it … Our country experiences the same every day right now."
Zelenskyy also made the case that helping Ukraine's fight is very much in the interests of the US, arguing that this is Ukraine's fight — but also a fight of the US and Europe: "I believe in us and our alliance. Ukraine never asked the American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us. I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves." That line drew laughs and applause; and we'll note that Biden acknowledged yesterday that American military personnel will be traveling to bases in Poland and Germany to train Ukrainians to use the sophisticated Patriot missiles.
Zelenskyy thanked Congress for its financial assistance to Ukraine, and added, "Your money is not charity. It's an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way." That was another big applause line; ABC News helpfully tallied all the standing ovations: 18, during a speech that ran around 25 minutes including all the applause.
There were some fuckheads in the audience, however: Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and that shithead with the beard remained seated during most of the standing ovations. ABC News notes that Gaetz appeared to be on his phone during most of the speech. That should teach those snotty Ukrainians their place!
Pointing out that many Ukrainians may spend Christmas celebrating in bomb shelters, lit only by candles because of Russian attacks on the country's electricity grid, Zelenskyy said, "Even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out."
If Russian missiles attack us, we'll do our best to protect ourselves. If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other, and we don't have to know everyone's wish as we know that all of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same: Victory. Only victory.
On MSNBC last night, Lawrence O'Donnell favorably compared Zelenskyy's address to the time Winston Churchill spoke before Congress on December 26, 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was an apt comparison even if the US is not currently at war. A small democracy is fighting to survive against an invader, and its charismatic leader is asking for help. That works.
Zelenskyy closed the speech by presenting Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi a Ukrainian flag he'd been given by soldiers on the front line the day before he came to the US. Pelosi returned the gesture, giving Zelenskyy a US flag that had flown above the Capitol while he was meeting with Biden.
You're damn right I cried again. I'm freaking John Boehner these days.
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