Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance appears to think his path out of a hole he dug for his flailing campaign runs through the center of the earth.
“I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another,” Vance told Steve Bannon on February 19. Vance and his campaign broadcast his comments:
When Americans from across the political spectrum responded with disgust, Vance spewed invective at center-left commentators. He focused his performative outrage on Bill Kristol and retired general Barry McCaffrey:
Vance continued fuming about McCaffrey in a Feb. 21 interview with Bannon, and retweeted his campaign quoting him saying, “There is not a dead American son or daughter overseas that hasn’t made Barry McCaffrey richer.”
When Russia invaded Ukraine later that week, Vance found himself standing on more isolationist ground than national populist Sen. Josh Hawley – the only senator who has endorsed him – and doing so more callously than Donald Trump.
Vance’s comments rose from frustration that Vladimir Putin was drowning out poll-tested immigration talking points meant to pull Vance up from a brawl for third place in the Republican primary. But instead of laying down his shovel when Putin began bombing Ukrainian civilians, Vance dug in and kept digging.
Vance, a venture capitalist who moved back to Ohio from San Francisco to run for office, got famous by criticizing Trump during the book tour for his New York Times bestseller Hillbilly Elegy. To atone for his past, the Yale Law grad has railed against “elites” and emphasized his troubled blue-collar upbringing with help from Bannon, Fox News star Tucker Carlson, and other out-of-state MAGA celebrities.
Primary opponents responded to the threat posed by tech billionaire Peter Thiel – who gave an unprecedented $10,000,000 to Vance’s super PAC last spring – with ads airing Vance’s most pointed complaints about Trump. This led Vance to strike an increasingly angry populist pose to prove his MAGA conversion, even campaigning with QAnon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene.
So, when Ohio Senate candidates Mike Gibbons and Jane Timken issued statements of support for Ukraine in the face of Putin’s saber-rattling, Vance attacked them for it… and then proceeded to oppose any policy suggestion that may conceivably help the Ukrainian people.
“Vladimir Putin is an evil man, who has done a number of evil things during his time in government. But spare me the performative affection for the Ukraine, a corrupt nation run by oligarchs, that is as close to a functional democracy in 2022 as Afghanistan was when Joe Biden handed it over to the Taliban in 2021,” Vance snarled in a Feb. 22 press release.
“The media and political elites are seething at me because I uttered aloud what everyone deep down knows is true: that the Russia-Ukraine border dispute has nothing to do with our national security, no American interest is served by our intervention, and that the obsession with Ukraine from our idiot leaders serves no function except to distract us from our actual problems,” he added, before calling Gibbons and Timken “Cheney Republicans” who are “on the America last bandwagon.”
Vance’s rhetoric on Ukraine follows a familiar pattern:
- Only Vance cares about what’s best for Americans
- Vance’s critics are corrupt oligarchs getting rich on the backs of the middle class
- Voters must choose between agreeing with Vance, or endorsing the single dumbest alternative mentioned on CNN in the past 72 hours
In a Feb. 22 Newsmax interview, Vance said, “You look behind the curtains here, you find that the people who are pushing us into a war with Russia over Ukraine, they very often have a financial interest in us doing so, in the same way that they had a financial interest in us going into Iraq and Afghanistan.”
On Tucker Carlson’s show the next night, Carlson nodded in amazement as Vance spun soiled horse stall straw into gold. With his trademark subtle pandering, Vance boasted that poll results indicating Americans don’t want America to play a major role in Ukraine proved “the Tucker Carlson, JD Vance, and Donald Trump view of foreign policy” was popular.
Tweeting an excerpt from the segment, Vance wrote, “The foreign policy establishment gets rich when American children die for dumb ideas; they make nothing when our leaders solve real problems. This is why we focus so much on Ukraine and so little on our own border.”
In a statement issued after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, Vance said, “Russia has earned sanctions, but whatever sanctions we apply will have little effect. So the experts will demand we do ‘something’ without spelling out what it even means. Sadly, all the other Republicans in the Ohio Senate race have echoed those calls. They should try being honest with the American people and admit what they really want: military intervention from American or NATO troops. This would be a disaster, and we must stand against it under any circumstance.”
During his Feb. 26 speech at CPAC, Vance offered an equally false binary choice between caring that Putin is massacring civilians and caring about America’s opioid epidemic. “I’m sick of being told that we have to care more about people 6,000 miles away than we do people like my mom, my grandparents, and all the kids that are affected by this crisis,” he said.
Having spent a week smearing any U.S. official who wanted to help Ukraine as a bloodthirsty military-industrial elitist, Vance complained in a March 3 interview with Carlson that Republicans should not vote for financial aid to Ukraine unless Democrats agreed to fund a wall on our southern border.
Days later, Vance was retweeting Kremlin propaganda from longtime Putin apologist Glenn Greenwald, and saying that Biden’s just-announced ban on Russian oil imports would have “the obvious effect” of “freezing and starving normal Americans.”
At one March 9 campaign stop, Vance argued that the United States government should do nothing to support Ukraine:
Vance, acknowledging his opinion is not popular, said after the forum Wednesday night that he still does not think the invasion should be “a matter of government policy.”
“I think people, as individuals, we can express concern, we can pray at our churches and we can even donate resources,” he said. “I still don’t think it’s in our vital national interest.”“U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance makes campaign stop in East Canton,” The Canton Repository, 3/10/2022
At another March 9 campaign stop, Vance suggested that going to war with Russia was the only way the United States could hep Ukraine:
He said it’s fine to feel bad for Ukrainians and to hope the best for them, but there are more pressing issues at hand for Americans.
“Three weeks now I’ve prayed for Ukraine at church,” Vance said.
Aside from prayer, he said he doesn’t think there’s much the United States could do for Ukraine.
“The one thing we could do is go to war with the Russians,” Vance said. “I think that would be a terrible mistake.”“‘We’re in for a real fight’: J.D. Vance labels himself as an outsider in race for Portman’s seat,” Mansfield News Journal, 3/11/2022
Reuters reported on March 3 that, after being banned from several large social media platforms, Russian state media network RT would be broadcasting on Rumble – a Canadian YouTube clone funded by Vance and Thiel.
A week later, Vance retweeted a complaint from Rumble’s CEO about search engine DuckDuckGo “rolling out search updates that down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation.”
If Peter Thiel thinks Vance can win President Trump’s endorsement by making himself universally reviled and then complaining about how “the right people hate him,” well… Vance is halfway there.