Speaker Johnson did the right thing for Ukraine. His stature is now enhanced.

The overwhelming congressional votes for aid to Taiwan, Israel, and Ukraine show just how out of touch the isolationists and Ukraine skeptics on both ends of the American political spectrum are.

They also show why it was inexcusable for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to wait so long to engineer passage of the aid bills. Nonetheless, against the noisy and noisome detractors on the Trumpian semi-Right, Johnson did take a belated stand, one that could mark his emergence as a leader of principle and savvy.

For the record, the individual aid bills were approved in the House by votes of 311-112 for Ukraine, 366-58 for Israel, and 385-34 for Taiwan. The combined legislation passed the Senate 79-18. The opponents were exposed as numerically weak minorities. Elected officials rarely range far from their constituents’ wishes, so this means well over 70% of the members of Congress must be hearing from at least strong pluralities of each of their home jurisdictions that U.S. engagement and support for allies is the right thing to do, not just out of altruism but in U.S. interests.

For six months, aid supporters told Johnson he should break up the aid packages and worry about unrelated border security matters separately. For six months, he could either have defied the anti-Ukraine agitators by structuring the aid bills this way or by allowing a discharge petition to advance aid legislation to the House floor without his blessing but also, importantly, without his implicit threats to punish Ukraine supporters. And all the while, Ukraine has been facing an existential threat, and its soldiers and many civilians have been slaughtered, largely because Ukraine lacked the basic ammunition to stop Russian attacks.

Still, far better late than never. Johnson worked with half of his own caucus, and far more in the cases of Israel and Taiwan, and the nearly unanimous Democrats, despite calls for his removal as speaker. By doing the will of national majorities or strong pluralities, against intense pressure, Johnson showed both wisdom and backbone. He also decided, rightly, that his job as speaker entails more than party leadership. As a constitutionally named official, he has a duty to the entire nation to let large majorities work their will unless strong moral considerations demand otherwise.

There is only one right side in Ukraine’s war. Ukraine did nothing to provoke any reasonable nation or leader to invade it. It merely wanted to be left alone and to be able to secure purely defensive diplomatic arrangements. Yet Russian murderer Vladimir Putin violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, said Ukraine had no right even to exist, and ordered the raping and butchering of its people.

If Putin wins, the peace of all Europe will be threatened. Putin has indicated he wants the Soviet Union effectively reconstituted. He would consolidate his hold on Ukraine, attack Moldova and Transnistria, directly threaten Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and give real worries to Poland. And he would be further emboldened to support anti-American causes worldwide.

While some dispute the degree to which the next consideration would influence other dangerous regimes, it is entirely logical that the message of Western weakness, allowance of the destruction of a sovereign state, would at least psychologically encourage American adversaries such as China, Iran, and North Korea to attack U.S. allies across the globe.


With the passage of the aid legislation, though, Ukraine quite literally has a fighting chance.

Meanwhile, Johnson emerges not politically weaker but stronger, which is what happens when one faces down bullies from all sides, including his own supposed side, and emerges undefeated and unbowed. Congratulations to him — and hopes for more such victories for principle and bipartisan accomplishment.

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