Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s charm offensive is working in Washington but not everyone is a fan.
“Ukraine unites Americans like little else,” waxed Juan Williams poetically for the Hill on December 26.
Not everyone agrees.
“Putin’s Useful Idiots: Right Wingers Lose It Over Zelensky Visit,” quipped The Bulwark on December 22. “The anti-Ukraine right can’t stand America standing as the arsenal of democracy.”
While many progressive media outlets lobbed insults nearly identical to The Bulwark’s take and made much of what Donald Trump’s son said about Zelensky’s speech, conservative media weighed in with equal ferocity.
“Volodymyr Zelensky Plays Our Corrupt Elites Like A Fiddle,” clapped back John Nolte of Breitbart News. “If Volodymyr Zelensky ever gets tired of being president of Ukraine, Breitbart News should hire him to decode just how corrupt, dangerous, and grotesque America’s self-appointed elites are.”
“I have no issue whatsoever with Zelensky,” prefaced Nolte. “He’s facing an existential threat from Russia and doing everything he can to save his country. Good for him. I wish Joe Biden and the rest of the establishment loved America even half as much as Zelensky loves Ukraine.”
“Zelensky understands just how shallow, pathetic, grasping, insecure, and easily manipulated America’s media, entertainment, and political establishment are and how to control those character deficits to his advantage,” Nolte remarked.
“This patriot and former comedian has transformed himself into the precise thing he must be to get what he wants, and that’s a status symbol of virtue,” Nolte observed.
In this observation, conservative news commentators and progressive media outlets are in complete agreement: Supporting Zelensky has become a symbol of virtue.
“The Power of Volodymyr Zelensky’s Charm Offensive,” praised progressive-leaning Slate unashamedly the day after Zelensky’s recent speech to a joint session of Congress.
“If anyone in the world — Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, European leaders, the American public — thought that the new Congress might slash support for Ukraine, out of war-fatigue or penny-pinching or MAGA isolationism, Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech in the House chamber Wednesday night should have convinced them otherwise,” gushed Slate.
“The Ukrainian president,” wrote the progressive magazine, echoing John Nolte, if unknowingly, “who read his address in sometimes-halting English, knew all the right buttons to push.”
“Zelenskyy in Person,” sighed AMAC on December 26, sounding like a fan magazine. “The surprise visit of Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelenskyy to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Joe Biden and address a joint session of Congress was an event full of drama, tension, and ceremony befitting both the circumstances and the individual who performed it.”
“Wearing his iconic military-green sweatshirt, speaking excellent if heavily accented English, quoting the words of past statesmen, and citing a canny choice of past events in world and U.S. history, Mr. Zelenskyy brought the otherwise warring legislators of the two major U.S. political parties together in repeated standing ovations,” reported the AMAC Newsline.
“Why Zelensky’s Speech To Congress Was A Masterclass In Crisis Communication,” reported Forbes admiringly. “His televised remarks provide several lessons business leaders should remember when telling their side of the story about a business crisis.”
With takeaways like, “Deliver Your Message In Person,” and, “Capture Their Attention,” and, “Know Your Audience,” Forbes dissected key elements from Zelensky’s speech.
“Just as Zelensky’s references to our shared values, narratives, and history, as well as his use of powerful imagery, made his words resonate with us, business leaders can use their organizations’ core values and mission to reassure their people and guide them through crisis,” wrote Forbes.
“Explain What’s At Stake,” Forbes advised executives looking to learn from Zelensky’s example, along with, “Choose Your Words Carefully,” and, “Express Gratitude,” and, “Convey A Sense of Urgency.”
“Use Visuals,” Forbes told its readers.
“The Ukrainian president used another well-used but effective tactic in his speech: He gave a battlefield flag to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” noted one of the corporate consultants quoted in the Forbes article. “Presenting a flag from frontline soldiers offered another emotional connection, a way to prove the war is real, and a display of gratitude. It shows Ukrainians are fighting.”
Forbes, like AMAC and so many other media outlets, also complimented Zelensky’s, “Military Green Activewear.”
“He didn’t wear a suit out of principle,” said one president of a marketing and communications agency quoted by Forbes. “He hasn’t worn one since the war started. He’s also not wearing a formal military uniform, decorations, or insignias. It’s a way to communicate that he’s in the trenches with his people, not a bureaucrat who’s above them.”
The opposing opinions on Zelensky, and by extension, the conflict in Ukraine, is yet another example of the deep polarization currently afflicting the American electorate.
Complicating this media morass, looming over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, is the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin might escalate the conflict, retaliating against Western nations for supporting Ukraine with military aid and weapons.
The prospect of a global thermonuclear war should perhaps be giving all media outlets — left, right, and center — a pause. While support for the conflict in Ukraine remains high — in polls — missed U.S. military recruitment goals are saying otherwise.
Americans aren’t enlisting: They seem to have lost their taste for war if indeed they ever had one — a fact enemies like Vladimir Putin know well.
Coverage of Ukraine — from left and right — should perhaps be less about cheerleading or complaining and more about bringing a close to this terrible armed conflict.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)