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March 20, 2014
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As Russian President Vladimir Putin works quickly to consolidate Russia's new hold on the Ukrainian province of Crimea, the West is trying to come up with a united and appropriate response. Most people are trying to find the right middle ground between sending in U.S. Marines to liberate Crimea and ignoring Putin's naked expansionist aggression. --Peter Weber

Kneecap Putin's cronies
The sanctions leveled against Russian officials by the U.S. and Europe are too weak and irrelevant to make any difference, says Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny in The New York Times. To get to Putin, "Western nations could deliver a serious blow to the luxurious lifestyles enjoyed by the Kremlin's cronies who shuttle between Russia and the West." After naming names, Navalny adds:

The invasion of Ukraine has polarized members of Russia's elite, many of whom view it as reckless. Real sanctions, such as blocking access to their plush London apartments, will show that Mr. Putin's folly comes with serious costs. [New York Times]

Meet Putin's fire with a thick blanket
The West needs to isolate Putin completely until he pulls out of Crimea, says Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in The Washington Post. "The Russian people should see that Putin's actions will bring about a decline of Russia's status as a global power, not a return to supposed Soviet glory." The U.S. and its NATO allies should also impose an arms embargo and open up NATO membership to "all interested partners in Europe." Finally, Rubio adds, Obama should up his reassurances to the former Soviet satellites nervous about Putin's neo-imperialist actions, providing "lethal military support" and deploying "additional military assets and even U.S. personnel to our allies, including Poland and the Baltic states."

Walk softly but carry a big stick
The point of U.S. and European actions should be to keep Putin out of the rest of Ukraine — Crimea is already in Russia's hands, says Fred Kaplan at Slate. But the key to boxing in Putin is understanding that his "actions have been driven less by a belief that the West is weak than his knowledge that Russia is." That doesn't mean the West can ignore Putin — "a bitter autocrat with a head full of grandiose daydreams can be a dangerous creature." What's needed is a ratcheting up of penalties while leaving room for diplomacy, he says:

Draw up plans for containing and countering Russian troops in the event of an incursion into Ukraine — not sending U.S. or NATO troops, but shipping arms, maybe some advisers and black-bag Delta forces — and talk about these plans with the allies, and Ukrainian officials, on open phone lines. Putin surely knows the limits of his army.... Over those same unencrypted phone lines, a senior official should also talk about some moves that would really isolate Russia from the rest of the world.... These are threats of actions to take place if Russia goes deeper into Ukraine — not reprisals for the seizure of Crimea, which would have no effect and probably wouldn't be enforced anyway. [Slate]

6:18 p.m. ET
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The Democratic National Convention got off to a rocky start Monday, as rowdy Bernie Sanders delegates and supporters repeatedly interrupted speeches and proceedings. The first mention of Hillary Clinton during the convocation led to prolonged boos and chants of "Bernie! Bernie!" which happened several more times during the succeeding speeches.

Sanders himself sent a text message to supporters pleading with them not to protest on the convention floor, but some refused to listen, chanting "stop TPP" (referencing the Trans-Pacific Partnership) while Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) gave a speech about his family history.

As the convention proceeded, things calmed down, but mentions of Clinton or procedural votes repeatedly turned into shouting contests between the two factions — Clinton's more numerous, but Sanders more energetic. The overall effect is akin being at a football grudge match, and not an auspicious start to a convention hoped to be a smooth and calm contrast to the Republican convention in Cleveland. Ryan Cooper

4:36 p.m. ET

The Democratic National Convention began Monday in Philadelphia, amid the inner turmoil plaguing the Democrats after a trove of internal party emails was leaked late last week. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation Sunday, after the emails implicated her in seemingly biased actions against Bernie Sanders during the primary race — but she had initially planned to retain her role opening and closing the party's proceedings, until, after being heavily booed by her own constituents Monday morning, she relinquished the honor.

Instead, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had the honor of banging the gavel. Only she forgot to do so:

With Democrats eager to cast their convention in contrast to the chaos of the Republican gathering last week, they should hope Rawlings-Blake's slip-up was not a harbinger of mistakes to come. Kimberly Alters

4:11 p.m. ET

Donald Trump didn't exactly have the smoothest Republican convention, but now that he's out of the hot seat, he can safely gloat over the spontaneous combustion that is the current Democratic National Convention. He weighed in on the Debbie Wasserman Schultz scandal on Monday using the catch phrase from his reality TV show, The Apprentice.

"They said Debbie, you're fired," Trump said, making a finger gun. "Get out, Debbie. Out. Boom."

It's nice to warm your hands over a dumpster fire, rather than, you know, be that dumpster fire, isn't it, Trump? Watch it all, below. Jeva Lange

3:34 p.m. ET

Al Gore must've had the words "better late than never" in mind when he finally got around to endorsing Hillary Clinton on Monday. The former vice president's endorsement arrived a whopping 49 days after Clinton clinched enough delegates to claim the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and on the very day that the Democratic National Convention begins:

Gore, who served as Bill Clinton's vice president for eight years, had said he was waiting until a nominee was officially selected before offering his opinion — though he didn't exactly speak up when Clinton secured the nomination in the beginning of June. When Gore finally endorsed Monday, he was "one of the last Democratic heavyweights" to do so, Politico reported.

Though Gore is a superdelegate, he'd already announced he won't be at the convention this week because of "obligations in Tennessee." Becca Stanek

3:18 p.m. ET
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Nobody is claiming Hillary Clinton's nomination isn't a historic moment for women, but some in her campaign are concerned that all the "ra ra feminism" might be alienating another important group of voters: men.

For the length of her campaign, Clinton has struggled to make inroads with men; male support of Clinton lagged in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll by 13 percentage points (women, on the other hand, supported Clinton by that same margin). And at the Democratic convention, her campaign has attempted to find a balance between celebrating her historic moment and sidelining those to whom the gender of a candidate is less of a motivating factor, including younger women. As campaign spokesman Brian Fallon dryly told The New York Times before declining to comment, "It will not be lost on anyone that she is a woman."

Already the tricky navigation has begun, with Clinton's campaign launching from New York City, as opposed to the modern women's rights epicenter of Seneca Falls — a location that had been kicked around by some of Clinton's advisers. Likewise, just as Clinton's story is inevitably tied up in the women's movement, at the convention organizers have aimed to address more universal experiences too, such as Clinton's work with the Children's Defense Fund.

That might not be enough for some people, still. "She drives me crazy with this woman thing," said Misty Leach, 43, a Sanders supporter. "'I'm going to be the first woman president' to me just feels like she's entitled." Jeva Lange

3:12 p.m. ET
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In a heated discussion Monday at an event sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) compared Jewish Israelis' settlement of the West Bank to termites' quiet destruction of homes. "There has been a steady [stream] — almost like termites can get into a residence and eat before you know that you've been eaten up, and you fall in on yourself — there has been settlement activity that has marched forward with impunity and at an ever-increasing rate to the point where it has become alarming," Johnson reportedly told the group. The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation advocates boycotting Israel.

Johnson also suggested "'Jewish people' routinely steal land and property from Palestinians," The Washington Free Beacon wrote. "You see one home after another being appropriated by Jewish people who come in to claim that land just because somebody did not spend the night there," Johnson said. "The home their [Palestinian] ancestors lived in for generations becomes an Israeli home and a flag goes up."

Head over to The Washington Free Beacon for the full story — including Johnson's comparison of the Israeli defense minister to Donald Trump. Becca Stanek

2:28 p.m. ET

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz probably could've benefited from the foresight one snarky Twitter user had before she fired off a tweet last week chuckling at the woes of her counterpart, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. One week after taunting Priebus with a tweet saying she was available if he needed assistance handling his own convention, the leak of thousands of internal DNC emails implicated Wasserman Schultz in potentially biased actions against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the primary race and prompted her to announce her resignation Sunday. "Regret" is probably a good word for what she might be feeling about this tweet:

With the convention not yet underway, Wasserman Schultz has already been booed by her Florida delegation at a Monday morning breakfast and relinquished her role gaveling the convention to order.

Priebus — probably wisely — has yet to volunteer to help keep the Democratic National Convention "in order." Becca Stanek

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