Russian President Vladimir Putin (Yuri Kadobnov/AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Yuri Kadobnov/AP)

The words of the late Sen. Arthur Vandenberg (R-Mich.) have been ringing my ears these past few days. The then-chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in 1947 that “partisan politics [must stop] at the water’s edge.” Translation: No matter the domestic battles with the president, international crises demand we speak with one voice. Those days are long gone judging by the cacophony of ridicule of President Obama because of the actions taken in Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on CNN, “We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) slammed Obama on Monday for having “a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.” And Sarah Palin, the person McCain saw fit to make his 2008 vice presidential running mate said later that night, “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”

My Post colleague David Ignatius’s column today was a needed tonic. He got former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the phone to talk about Republican bashing of the president over Ukraine.

Gates, a Republican himself, urged the GOP senators to “tone down” their criticism and “try to be supportive of the president rather than natter at the president.”

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Not only that, Gates told Ignatius that Putin “holds most of the high cards” and that “considerable care needs to be taken in terms of what is said, so that the rhetoric doesn’t threaten what policy can’t deliver.” Ah, such reasonableness from the GOP. Pity Gates, now the chancellor of the College of William and Mary, isn’t in the Senate.

In the end, even he shared my lament. “It seems to me that trying to speak with one voice — one American voice — seems to have become a quaint thing of the past,” Gates told Ignatius. “I regret that enormously.” At least I’m in good company.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.