April 20th, 2014
03:32 PM ET
5 months ago

Political chatter: Three different takes on Ukraine, the role of the Pope and midterm politics

What will happen in Ukraine depends on who you ask. Officials from Russia, Ukraine and the United States appeared on the political talk shows to spin their narrative of events on the ground in the eastern European country embroiled in turmoil.

If you spent the Easter holiday doing something other than watching the Sunday political talk shows but want to get up to speed on this Monday morning for the week ahead, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive take on all-things politics.




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Ukraine: Russian troops are still massing on Ukraine’s eastern border, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. Key players in the crisis weighed in on the political talk shows.

The United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, sounded optimistic after a series of meetings with Ukrainian, Russian and European officials Sunday.

“I think we all reaffirmed today in this setting our collective commitment to trying to make the Geneva framework a success,” Pyatt said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to the international document that aims to ease tensions in Ukraine.

While he said there are “some real challenges,” including fresh violence in the town of Slavyansk, Pyatt believes that there has been “some progress.” He points to reports that one of the government buildings in Ukraine that had been taken over by pro-Russian militants is once again flying a Ukrainian flag.

“So, right now, we're planning for success.”

But the Ukrainian Prime Minister sounded more panicked. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk said “it’s crystal clear” that Russia is a threat to entire world and Ukraine.

Yatsenyuk said Russia’s security forces and “former KGB agents” operating in Ukraine make up the “so-called peaceful protestors” and are causing violence and divisiveness.

Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine ignore new Geneva pact aimed at easing tensions

He said that if Russia pulls back, “this would definitely calm down the situation and stabilize the situation in Eastern Ukraine.”

But on “Fox News Sunday,” Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak said, “The whole message of the Geneva document, as far as I'm concerned, is that the Ukrainians need to resolve these issues themselves.”

He added that if the pro-Russian groups are to lay down their arms, then all groups, including pro-Ukrainian groups, must do so as well.

Pyatt seemed to downplay Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine, saying that international monitors blame “small, isolated groups” for the violence.

“There is an apparent effort from outside to try to stir division, as you say. But I'm convinced that those who are trying to stimulate separatism, who are preaching violence, are not going to find resonance, because that's not what I hear from the people of Ukraine in terms of what they want,” Pyatt said.

As for the disturbing reports of identifying Jewish people in eastern Ukraine, Yatsenyuk said he told the Ukrainian military and appropriate agencies to “urgently … find these bastards and to bring them to justice.”

Kislyak denied that Russia has anything to do with the anti-Jewish action, calling the accusations “an outrageous provocation.”

“We certainly condemn any manifestations of anti-Semitism,” he said on Fox.

While the United States has refused to commit military aid to Ukraine, whose military is depleted, Pyatt said that “there is no military solution” and that the crisis must be solved diplomatically.

But the Ukrainian Prime Minister said their military needs help. “We need to have and to get the real support from our Western partners.”

Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, said that the United States should sanction Russian energy companies and banks, a step that hasn’t been taken because of the economic impact on the United States and Europe.

The Russian ambassador denounced the sanctions and flipped the Cold War accusation back on the United States, saying the sanctions are a “significant gesture of the cold world mentality.” Some analysts have said Putin’s aggressions signify his desire to reinstate a Cold War.

Politics of 2014: The Republicans continue to insist the 2014 midterm elections are all about the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s clear that Obamacare is still the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 issue going into this election,” Sean Spicer, communications director of the Republican National Committee said, on “State of the Union.”

In the 36 Senate seats up for election this year, Democrats are defending 21 of them. Republicans are running close races in several of those states, including North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, Michigan and Alaska.

And Obamacare is the reason Republicans are “expanding the map” to about a dozen races, including races that Democrats say are safely in their hands.

Predictably, Spicer’s counterpart at the Democratic National Committee, Mo Elleithee, laughed.

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Special coverage: 2014 midterms

“The only thing more unpopular than the Affordable Care Act is taking it away,” Elleithee said.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the DNC, echoed Elleithee.

“The President is right: We have a law that is working,” she said on “Meet the Press.”

But Wasserman Schultz, of Florida, admitted that some Democrats, including Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, Arkansas’ Mark Pryor and Alaska’s Mark Begich have to run away from the unpopular President this election cycle.

“What's the case is that each of these candidates have to run their own race. They have to talk about and focus on the issues that are important to their constituents,” she said.

Independent pollster Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report said, “It’s hard for me to believe that Republicans can run from now until November just on ACA.”

“I think the cake has been baked on ACA,” he added.

The three “State of the Union” guests made their 2014 predictions:

Spicer: Republicans are competitive in New Hampshire, Oregon, Minnesota and Virginia, which are now part of the Republican’s expanded map.

Elleithee: Democrats win Kentucky and Georgia. Both states currently have Republican senators. In Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn is competing against a yet-to-be determined Republican for the seat that current Sen. Saxby Chambliss is vacating. And in Kentucky, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to run in a close race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, if he wins the primary against Matt Bevin.

Rothenberg: Republicans pick up the Colorado Senate seat, where incumbent Democrat Mark Udall is running against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner.

Boston Marathon: In the aftermath of the deadly bombing at the finish line of last year’s Boston Marathon, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who sits on the house Homeland Security Committee, said he thinks the race this year, which will be run Monday, is “well-fortified.”

“I feel confident we are going to have a safe and successful marathon,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said the Boston Marathon will be safe but that officials are also trying to preserve the “family feel.”

Patrick said backpacks will be banned, and he described what will be different this year: “There will be considerably more police presence. There are tactical units strategically placed at different points along the route. There are a number of undercover people and assets that will be deployed,” he said on “Face the Nation.”

“We also don't want to have it kind of a race through a militarized zone,” he added.

Veteran Suicide: The issue of veteran suicide is a quiet but persistent problem, with 22 vets committing suicide each day. The only Iraq War veteran serving in the Senate, John Walsh, D-Montana, is attempting to address the issue.

When asked by “State of the Union” host Candy Crowley if the government is fulfilling its promises to veterans, Walsh said, “I do not.”

“I think we do … a very good job of taking that citizen soldier and making a warrior out of him, but we aren't doing a very good job of taking that warrior and reintegrating him back into society,” he said.

Walsh’s Suicide Prevention Act for American Veterans attempts to address mental health by, among other things, providing care for veterans for 15 years instead of five.

The cost of the bill is not yet known but will likely be expensive. It’s “part of the cost of war,” said Tom Tarantino, head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
On this Easter

Iraq war vet introduces military suicide prevention bill

The Uncounted

This Easter season, Pope Francis performed more firsts for the modern Catholic church, including washing the feet of a woman. It’s the latest act by the Pope that has captured the interest of people around the world.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, said that Francis is captivating because of his sincerity and simplicity.

“He just does it with a genuineness and a naturalness that people are shaking their heads and saying, ‘This guy's the real thing,’” Dolan said on “Face the Nation.”

Washington D.C. archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl said on “Fox News Sunday” that a “Francis effect” exists.

“There is a sense of spirit. There's a sense of being uplifted. There's a great sense of people feeling a lot closer to the church than they did, say, two years ago,” he said.

Dolan said he thinks Francis will address the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the church for more than a decade. “We’ve got to give him some time. He knows it’s a problem.”

While Dolan didn’t say whether the Pope would change church belief regarding same sex marriage, Dolan said marriage between a man and a woman is “the natural law,” adding that “we can’t tamper with that.”

However, Dolan said same sex couples should be given equal economic opportunity, including insurance and housing.

He also weighed in on presidential politics and the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court.

As for the craft store chain’s effort to be exempt from Obamacare’s mandate that employers provide contraception coverage in health care plans, Dolan said, “I would be inspired by the Hobby Lobby … I think they're just true Americans.”

Dolan on 2016: On the 2016 presidential race – and there’s no denying it, it’s already a race - Dolan nearly endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for president.

“I like Jeb Bush a lot,” he said of the politician who is said to be thinking about a presidential run in 2016. “I sure admire him, and I especially appreciate the priority he gives to education and immigration.”

Kicker: Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has a solution for the Second Amendment: add some words.

The current wording: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Stevens’ proposal: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed."

When asked by George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” if that would lead to a ban on an individual’s ability to own guns, Stevens said, “I think that’s right.”

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2014 • Boston Marathon bombing • Obamacare • Pope Francis • Russia • Ukraine • Uncategorized
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    It its a war against dictators and corruption , where can I enlist ?

    Take no Prisoners .

    Maga Churches , Mafia's , Cartels , Corporate Criminals, Fascist nationalist religious fundamentalists.

    April 21, 2014 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  2. Fed Up

    While I am 100 percent for stronger regulation and expanding background checks, it is absurd to consider disarming the American public altogether. Enforce the laws that are already in place! And if you want to change something, right now penalty for possession of an illegal weapon is no stricter than driving without a licence!

    April 21, 2014 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  3. Fed Up

    God bless Pope Francis. Here's to hoping love is as contagious as hate. Nice just to see kindness make the news.

    April 21, 2014 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  4. Marie MD

    Let NATO take care of Russia and Putin.
    Better yet have the children of those in congress go fight another war to keep the Rep from TN quiet!

    April 21, 2014 06:12 am at 6:12 am |