Psaki frequently cites judgment of 'history books' when talking Russian invasion, voting rights

Psaki on China: 'Has to make a decision for themselves about where they want to stand and how they want the history books to look at them'

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki provided nearly identical answers in recent months when fielding questions from reporters on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Democrats’ push to federalize voting laws.

In at least five separate instances, Psaki asserted that Russia and its economic allies should be thinking about how they want to be remembered in history books and what side of history they would like to fall on when pressed on the world response to the war in Ukraine.

Psaki was asked Friday why President Biden had not made specific requests to Chinese President Xi Jinping that morning during their conversation about Vladimir Putin’s recent attacks against Ukrainian cities. She suggested China could be cowed by how it will be judged in history.

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks with reporters at the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Washington. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks with reporters at the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

"Because China has to make a decision for themselves about where they want to stand and how they want the history books to look at them and view their actions," Psaki said.

Just one day earlier Psaki fielded another question about China’s relationship with Russia, arguing that it was a question for any country of "where you want to be as the history books are written."

Just two days before that, on March 15, Psaki was asked about the possibility of India accepting Russia’s offer to provide them with discounted crude oil. The White House press secretary urged India and other countries considering business opportunities with Russia to think about where they want to stand "when the history books are written in this moment of time." She added that support for Russian leadership is tantamount to support for the invasion of Ukraine.

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On Feb. 25, just one day after Putin first attacked Ukraine, Psaki again gave a similar response, stating that "every country" should be considering "what side of history" they want to be on as the conflict escalates.

Two days later, Psaki joined Jonathan Capehart on MSNBC to discuss China’s alliance with Russia. 

"This is really a moment for every country to decide what part of history they want to stand on," Psaki said. Moments later, she urged Chinese leadership to look at themselves and "assess where they want to stand as the history books are written."

This is not the first time Psaki has repeatedly used such language to condemn a specific group during discussion of current events. On Jan. 6, the one-year anniversary of the 2021 Capitol riot, Psaki was asked by NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker about the "sharp partisan divide" growing in the U.S. and whether Biden had done enough to unify the country since taking office. 

U.S. President Joe Biden takes off his protective mask before speaking at the Atlanta University Center Consortium in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.

U.S. President Joe Biden takes off his protective mask before speaking at the Atlanta University Center Consortium in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. ( Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Psaki quickly pivoted to criticizing Republicans who supported the idea that Biden’s election was illegitimate.

"We’re talking about some Republicans in Congress, not all, many, far too many, who in our view and the president’s view, need to take a look at themselves and think about what role they want to play in the history books. When their children and grandchildren look at the history books, do they want to be perpetuating the big lie?" she asked.

On Jan. 13 while responding to a question on voting rights legislation, Psaki said that members of Congress would soon have an opportunity to vote and determine "what side of history they want to be on."

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She made a similar comment on voting rights legislation just two days earlier when she said that congressmen needed to take a "hard look" at where they want to be "at this moment in history."

That same day Biden echoed the words of Psaki in Georgia when he claimed in a speech that every member of the Senate would be "judged by history" on where they stood before and after the vote on federal election changes. 

The rhetoric is reminiscent of former President Obama – under whom Biden served as vice president – who frequently castigated opponents as being on "the wrong side of history."