Conservative cat fight: Heritage Foundation, ‘pro-war’ National Review clash over aid to Ukraine

Two formerly friendly conservative institutions — The Heritage Foundation and the National Review — are lobbing verbal salvos at each other over their respective takes on the seemingly endless amount of taxpayer dollars and weapons of war the U.S. is sending to Ukraine.

Last week, Heritage, a conservative think tank that has for more than 50 years promised to be a “champion” for “policy solutions that benefit all Americans,” compared the amount of money the Biden administration has sent to Ukraine to the amount of money he doled out to the victims of Maui’s devastating wildfire.

“Biden gave $700 to Hawaii victims, but he took $900 from them and sent it to Ukraine,” Heritage claimed.

“On the left is Kyiv,” the organization noted, pointing to a picture of pedestrians and bicyclists going about what appears to be a normal day, “on the right is Maui.”

The National Review’s Dominic Pino called the comparison “unconvincing” in a piece that perfectly illustrates the great divide between those conservatives who believe the struggling citizens of the United States could better benefit from the billions that have been sent to aid Ukraine and those “neoconservatives” who continue to support the unfettered flow of cash into Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s incessantly outstretched hands.

“The Heritage Foundation is exerting an enormous amount of effort to link the Hawaii wildfires with aid to Ukraine,” Pino wrote. “I find its argument unconvincing.”

Pino noted that he has already hit back at the conservative competition, in two posts “arguing against Heritage’s framing of Ukraine aid as costing $900 per household.”

“Some people on Twitter got very upset by my second post,” Pino said, “and now the Heritage Foundation, in a Daily Signal article by Rob Bluey, has repeated some misreadings of my post.”

In his piece for the Daily Signal, Heritage’s “news and commentary outlet,” Bluey wrote, “The Heritage Foundation’s Richard Stern, director of the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, ran the numbers on the $113 billion the U.S. has allocated in aid to Ukraine and found that it totals nearly $900 per American household, which will ultimately be paid through taxes or inflation (to be precise, it’s $884).”

“The eye-popping number helps put the massive 12-figure $113 billion in perspective,” he stated. “Using the same formula, albeit with the smaller Ukrainian population, Stern estimates that the aid comes out to roughly $6,848 per household in Ukraine. According to the country’s National Statistical Office, there are 16.5 million households in Ukraine.”

“It’s not hard to understand why some Americans, particularly those affected by a disaster like the Hawaii wildfire, might be upset about the disparity,” Bluey continued. “Unless, of course, you’re a neoconservative.”

Bluey called out the National Review by name, calling it “pro-war.”

“In the past few days, pro-war media outlets like National Review and ‘enlightened experts’ have expressed outrage at The Heritage Foundation for taking a commonsense position that’s supported by 55% of Americans,” he wrote.

“Heritage’s position is straightforward,” Bluey explained. “Congress shouldn’t attach the aid to domestic disaster relief as Biden proposed; Lawmakers shouldn’t appropriate anything more until Biden offers a robust plan to end the war soon; And the American people deserve transparency for how their money is being spent.”

“Regardless of your views on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine… these are not radical or controversial requirements to expect from the commander in chief and members of Congress,” he wrote. “Yet among the neoconservative crowd, these requirements have elicited howls on social media and long screeds on their websites.”

“Pino, whose flawed analysis Stern easily refuted, seems to indicate we should support aid to Ukraine because it helps our defense industry and creates jobs here,” Bluey stated. “Government spending for the sake of creating jobs is not a great policy choice, and it ignores what should really be debated: Is expending these resources—without a strategy, with no end in sight, in an environment of corruption—something we can afford? Is it the best use of resources? Should it be packaged with aid to American citizens?”

Under the leadership of Heritage President Kevin Roberts, Bluey said, the think tank “made the decision to refuse funding from the defense industry.”

“It’s not because we do not appreciate their contribution to the defense of our nation or the need we have for them to be strong so we can confront China and other adversaries and have a strong national defense,” Bluey said. “It’s a decision that protects our ability to provide independent analysis without even the perception of influence on the part of any defense contractor.”

Pino, in his rebuttal, parroted the prevailing neoconservative talking points and threw in some “Russia, Russia, Russia”-vibes for good measure.

“Without U.S. support, Ukraine is at a much greater risk of being overrun,” Pino wrote. “Russia knows that, which is likely part of the reason why Russian state-controlled news source RT is highlighting Roberts’s opposition to further support.”

“Obviously, Heritage has no control over what RT chooses to cover,” Pino conceded. “But when you’re being highlighted on Russian state media, it should make you think twice.”


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