“Pro-democracy” Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin — she long ago ditched the “conservative” descriptor — had a howler of a tweet about foreign policy the other day. On the subject of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Rubin wrote that “we don’t have to guess what Trump would have done – he would have praised Putin and rolled out the red carpet to the rest of Europe. THIS is who the GOP follows.”

Rubin was joined in this opinion by novelist Stephen King, who tweeted that “Mr. Putin has made a serious miscalculation. He forgot he is no...

“Pro-democracy” Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin — she long ago ditched the “conservative” descriptor — had a howler of a tweet about foreign policy the other day. On the subject of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Rubin wrote that “we don’t have to guess what Trump would have done – he would have praised Putin and rolled out the red carpet to the rest of Europe. THIS is who the GOP follows.”

Rubin was joined in this opinion by novelist Stephen King, who tweeted that “Mr. Putin has made a serious miscalculation. He forgot he is no longer dealing with Trump.” King is right in at least one key respect: Putin is not dealing with Trump. And we need not speculate — contra Rubin’s advice — as to what Trump would have done.

Because Russia’s incursion did not happen under Trump. It happened under Joe Biden.

Why would America’s blue-check intelligentsia seek to deflect from what is actually happening, instead focusing their brainpower on some alternate universe where Donald Trump is still president? Perhaps it is because they do not want to contend with the awkward fact that Putin did not make good on his saber-rattling towards Ukraine under Trump. And, of course, this relative peace was bookended by Russia’s advances into Crimea during the Obama administration. None of this furthers the narrative that Trump was in the Kremlin’s pocket.

You don’t need to be a red hat-wearing MAGA enthusiast to see how defensive this posture appears. As writer Jay Caruso — no Trumpist — put it to me, “not to give credit to Trump, but if he was such a Putin bootlicker, wouldn’t the Russian strongman have invaded when his best bud was in the White House? The whole ‘Oh thank GOD Biden is the president!’ stuff I am seeing is weird.” It is reminiscent of someone describing their dire case of Covid-19 and then hastily adding “it would’ve been so much worse if I didn’t have the vaccine.” Maybe, but it still comes across as an odd thing to say.

I make no attempt to vindicate Trump’s approach to foreign policy. There are those, including the former president and members of his administration, who have made the case that he was tougher on Russia than those who came before and after. There are obviously those who have made the case to the contrary. Foreign policy is complex.

But this cognitive dissonance comes at a sharp opportunity cost: it pulls the focus away from what’s actually happening. Again, this situation is not occurring under Donald Trump. We should be debating the appropriate response to Russian aggression, not wasting mental energy on retread fanfics about the Orange Man.

Brent Orrell of the American Enterprise Institute, someone with whom I find in frequent disagreement and even more frequent admiration, chastised me for criticizing the attention paid by Never Trumpers to what-ifs. “US failure across three administrations to understand and grapple with Putin/Russia problem got us where we are today,” he tweeted at me. “We can’t fix it if we don’t agree on what’s broken. Trump is part of that and his grotesque toadying, plus his historical proximity, puts him front and center.”

To be sure, there can be no disagreement with the understanding that present actions should be guided by study of the past. It’s just that Jennifer Rubin and her ilk are engaged in partisan deflection, not historical inquiry.

In any event, Rubin quickly switched her gaze toward domestic policy. “Democrats need to go on the offense,” she wrote, tweeting out her latest column on how the Republican focus on cultural issues has supposedly failed. “That means talking about the concerns of real voters — crime, missed schooling, inflation…”

For once, we agree. Hopefully Democrats will talk about these hallmarks of the Biden era as often and as loudly as possible.

Bill Zeiser is the editor of RealClearPolicy.