Did it ever occur to Joe Biden or his handlers that Ukraine might win the war?
It now seems that Ukraine, improbably, is poised to defeat Russia, or at the very least, Putin's armies are in shambles, countless thousands of his soldiers have been killed or wounded, much of Russia's military equipment has been destroyed, and dissent is rising at home. Draft evasion is the top of the news.
The conventional wisdom is that a cornered Putin is a dangerous Putin. And we've all heard Russia's very loud saber-rattling about its potential use of nuclear weapons.
So now what? Conventional wisdom, part two, is that the West must devise an "off-ramp," for Putin, providing him a way to end the war without appearing to have suffered an ignominious defeat.
And so it was that Friday's Morning Joe went into full off-ramp-mania mode. During the show's first 70 minutes, assorted panelists pronounced the o-word no fewer than 17 times.
There was just one problem: no one was able to describe a realistic scenario of just what such an off-ramp might be.
The closest anyone came was the suggestion by Ed Luce of the Financial Times that we have to create a scenario in which it looks like Putin didn't lose. But Putin certainly appears to be losing. Badly. So how do you spin that?
Where's Baghdad Bob now when we need him?
Note: now we've got Biden warning about the threat of "Armageddon" resulting from the Ukraine war. Did the possibility of such a literally existential danger ever occur to Biden before he went all-in on the war? Was he counting on Putin just taking his remaining marbles and going quietly home? Putin made a disastrous miscalculation about his odds of winning. Did Biden make a potentially disastrous miscalculation of his own?
Here's the transcript.
6:09 am EDT
EUGENE ROBINSON: I don't what it is that gives Putin that reassurance and that fabled, missing, off-ramp.
KEIR SIMMONS: One of those notable things that President Biden said was that question of, you know, I'm trying to figure out what the off-ramp means to President Putin.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: You have foreign-policy thinkers still talking about what they talked about at the beginning of this crisi: trying to find the so-called off-ramp for Vladimir Putin; trying to find an off-ramp for Russia . . . It doesn't sound like anybody in Russia, based on what you're saying, is looking for a way out of this, an off-ramp.
SIMMONS: Joe, I don't think we know what the off-ramp would be.
ED LUCE: If there is any realistic way an off-ramp could be created by the West, it would be to help give him the appearance of not having lost this war. Any settlement, any off-ramp includes, here's the bill, Russia. And it's very hard to imagine Putin accepting that bill . . . So I'm very pessimistic there is any realistic off-ramp at the moment.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: It is Vladimir Putin's 70th birthday. We wonder about his psychological state, what he's thinking at this point. I don't hear that he wants an off-ramp.
SCARBOROUGH: Everybody's talking about this off-ramp, this off-ramp.
DAVID REMNICK: [whispered] Off-ramp.
MIKA: Reading all the updates about this, what I don't hear is anything about Vladimir Putin, I believe it's his 70th birthday today, wanting an off-ramp.
MIKE BARNICLE: Well, when we discuss off-ramps, I mean, there's one key element, one key party to the off-ramp, and that's the Ukrainians. We glibly talk about, we've got to come up with an off-ramp here in Washington D.C., or London. No. This is going to take place in Kyiv, if any discussion of an off-ramp is going to have any legitimacy.