In a previous post about John McCain's early response to the MH17 tragedy, you saw Josh Rogin's reporting on members of Congress who were already speculating about Russia's role in the event.* Sen. Chris Murphy, who is fast establishing himself as a foreign policy leader among Senate Democrats, added this:
If this plane went down as a consequence of the #Ukraine conflict, then Russia has blood on its hands no matter who fired.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 17, 2014
That came a little while after Vice President Biden opened his speech to Netroots Nation, the annual progressive conference, by saying with great confidence that the plane had been "blown out of the sky" by a missile.
So the only daylight is between members of Congress and the administration saying that the plane was brought down and it's too soon to say by whom, and members saying it was brought down and it's time to turn the screws on Russia.
Conservatives are starting to recall how President Reagan handled a comparable tragedy, the 1987 downing of Korean Airlines Flight 007. Reagan immediately called it a "wanton misdeed," assigning blame before getting entirely specific. Three days after the tragedy, he gave an Oval Office address in which he blamed the "Soviet Union" for "violating human rights."
Again, some Democrats are already walking this path. The White House is not yet.
Update: Hillary Clinton said this about the crisis, in remarks that will air on Charlie Rose's show:
From my perspective, and I have the benefit of not being in the government, if there is evidence linking Russia to this, that should inspire the Europeans to do much more on three counts. One, toughen their own sanctions. Make it very clear there has to be a price to pay. Number two, immediately accelerate efforts and announce they are doing so to find alternatives to Gazprom. You know, Russia has not diversified its economy. It is still largely dependent upon natural resources, principally gas and oil. And thirdly, do more in concert with us to support the Ukrainians.
"The benefit of not being in the government" is that she can immediately freelance about responses if/when the Russians turn out to be behind it. Turning every news story into a test of Barack Obama's willpower can get a little tedious, but there's undeniably pressure on the White House now.
*Correction, July 18, 2014: This post originally misidentified MH17 as MA17.
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