President Obama's staff keep subtly hinting that their boss is tougher with Russia over Ukraine than former President George W. Bush was in 2008 when Russian troops seized part of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

During a call with reporters Monday morning, a senior administration official indicated that the sanctions proposed by Obama against Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean officials were appropriately tough.

"These are by far and away the most comprehensive sanctions applied to Russia since the end of the Cold War, far and away so," he stressed.

"I'd note by comparison for instance, there weren't comparable sanctions after the Georgia intervention," chimed in a second senior administration official.

Technically, that's true, but the Bush administration took actions that had a more direct impact on the crisis, such as ordering U.S. military aircraft to transport Georgian troops home from Iraq and using the U.S. military to deliver humanitarian aid inside the country. The act of putting U.S. troops inside Georgia was calculated to temper Russian military advances toward the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, and it worked.

Further, Obama reversed two actions taken to punish Russia — the suspension of military contacts and work on a pending civilian nuclear agreement — shortly after taking office, as part of the "reset" that let Moscow off the hook.

As for Obama's sanctions, Russian officials were already laughing them off within minutes of the president's formal announcement.