Jeff Koterba shows that less is more with a simple response to Brittney Griner’s release. The ball/ball-and-chain transposition is solid without being excessively clever and he doesn’t presume the result of the throw. More important, he doesn’t argue over whether half a loaf is, indeed, better than none, but celebrates an American homecoming.
Granted, it’s fair commentary to ask whether the deal was equitable, but most of the commentary I’ve seen reminds me of a fellow Gabriel Kaplan used to talk about in his standup routine, a boyhood friend whose luck was so bad that they nicknamed him “Twice Around The Rim and Out.”
It has stuck in my mind lo these many years and it seems to apply to most of the commentary I’ve seen on this topic.
Deb Milbrath is an exception, since she captures the “Biden Derangement Syndrome” response well.
She tends to be wordy but it works well here because she captures not only the general bitchiness of the response — including the racism and homophobia — but slides in some significant, specific ripostes.
Trump has successfully played the “hates America” game, citing the fact that Griner publicly aligned with other Black athletes in the BLM protesting of the anthem before games, a deliberate misreading of the protest, and we’re seeing it in social media, along with some “she broke the law” carping, as if bringing in non-psychedelic CBD for personal use is a major crime.
It makes a nice cover for people too delicate to admit to not liking Black lesbians, though I’m also seeing complaints from the other side of the aisle, from those people who think it clever to say “sportsball” to prove they have narrow interests that don’t include “mens sana in corpore sano.”
For them, her status as a professional athlete negates her status as an American citizen. If only she’d confined her sweating to a Peloton!
Which factor doesn’t come into play for those who prefer no bread to half a loaf. Ed Hall is not the only commentator who is offended on behalf of Paul Whelan.
They seem to be alone in that position, or, at least, his family does not agree, publicly stating that, while they’re sorry Paul couldn’t have been part of the deal, they’re happy for Griner and do, indeed, prefer a deal that could be made to one that could not have happened.
Not only did they say that specifically, but brother David later tweeted:
Former President Trump appears to have mentioned my brother Paul Whelan‘s wrongful detention more in the last 24 hours than he did in the 2 years of his presidency in which Paul was held hostage by Russia (zero). I don’t suggest he cares now any more than he did then (zero)
If you don’t want to argue over whether the family has primacy over others in deciding what’s fair for their relative, you might consider, on a practical level, that they may have more knowledge of how the talks went down.
Not entirely inside knowledge, of course, but a few phone calls from the White House or State Department to keep their expectations reasonable, including assurances that there will be ongoing attempts to bring Paul Whelan home as well.
Juxtaposition of the Day
A more fruitful debate can be had over the imbalance in the swap, because Griner was clearly arrested to be used as a pawn, while Bout, the arms trader for whom she was traded, was arrested as a menace to the peace of the world.
Still, it seems more a matter of hot air than of hot lead.
Both Bramhall and Davies seem to suggest that Bout will get back into the business, but, IMHO, there are two factors that make this assumption a case of twice-around-the-rim-and-out.
One is that he’s been out of circulation for fourteen years, during which his underground contacts have certainly been diminished by time, if not by death, retirement and shifting politics. The notion of “getting the band back together” might make a fun caper film, but it seems awfully unlikely in real life.
The other is that he plied his trade in selling stockpiled Soviet arms, and, at the moment, Russia is in import, not export, mode. With Putin buying drones from Iran and sending his draftees off to Ukraine with outmoded, ill-maintained weapons, it seems unlikely Bout would find much of value lying around waiting to be sold to revolutionaries in other countries, even if he still knew who they were.
The trade, as Jeff Danziger (Counterpoint) notes, was unseemly from our point of view, though it’s a propaganda victory for Putin, who has very little except propaganda to bolster himself at the moment.
The State Department may have had to hold their noses and handle Bout with tongs, but Putin stands to gain a far more substantial victory from those in Congress who are so opposed to Biden that they are aligning with Putin and opposing aid to Ukraine.
Which is to say, it’s not one arms dealer returned to Moscow that we should worry about, but the pack of anti-arms dealers who haven’t left this country.
Finally, John Branch (KFS) reminds us of the time of year, and brings to mind that the Christmas carol he cites applies to both Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
Griner, of course, is home for Christmas, and we should all be glad of that. It’s good to celebrate the shots that go in rather than to dwell on the bricks that don’t.
But the song applies even moreso to Whelan, and to other Americans held in other countries.
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” was written and released in 1943, with lyrics written as if coming from a homesick GI stationed overseas in the midst of World War II, asking his family to have a traditional holiday, because he’ll be there, “If only in my dreams.”
Meanwhile, back home, the pumpkin pie and cranberry jelly was a result of families cooperating with the national effort by saving and pooling their sugar rations.
It was a different time, and a different America.