Taken together, the Memorandum of the July 25, 2019, conversation between President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Whistleblower Complaint, which collectively provide details regarding efforts of Mr. Trump and his cohort to pressure Ukraine to investigate debunked claims related to former Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and a phantom email server allegedly linked to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are literally the most disturbing things I have ever read. I don’t understand any of the material facts set forth by the Whistleblower (a man or woman of extraordinary courage) to be substantively disputed. Even without White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s recent de facto admission that the Administration’s investigations demand was a “quid pro quo” for the transmission of Congressionally-approved American aid to Ukraine or Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor’s recent Congressional testimony, I submit that any objective observer acquainted with the context of events surrounding the Presidents’ conversation would consider Mr. Trump’s requests of Mr. Zelenskyy to be abuse of American resources in coercive pursuit of his own self-interest – and counter to our national interest in helping to secure Ukraine’s defenses against Russia. Until reading these documents, I had not been in favor of Congressional Impeachment-related proceedings; I felt that the effort was politically counterproductive for those seeking Mr. Trump’s 2020 defeat, was certain to invite divisive antagonism, and was, from an objective standpoint, almost certainly destined to fail.
Now, I don’t see how we can stand by in the face of such flagrant malfeasance.
The rest of these are ancillary thoughts:
Quite a while ago, I posted a note about conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s 1998 book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton. When I bought the book I assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that Ms. Coulter had asserted that the bar for impeachable behavior was pretty low. Ms. Coulter argued persuasively (and for her, given our current state of affairs, ironically) that the Founding Fathers considered grounds for impeachment in the American system to be primarily related to a moral standard, not necessarily linked or limited to legally criminal behavior, and that the standard was simply that the official “behave amiss.” I recommend the volume as a well-researched resource on impeachment issues.
I am obviously no fan of Vice President Mike Pence. That said, and although Mr. Pence has, as I noted recently, continually had me searching for additional synonyms for the word, “sycophant,” I fervently hope that he is not implicated in the President’s untoward interactions with the Ukrainians or other malign activities. Given my view that straightforwardness, support of our institutions, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for all of our citizens as persons supersede justified sincerely-held policy disagreements, I would, given the current state of our Republic, be comfortable with Mr. Pence serving as president until January, 2021. Joe Biden has called Mr. Pence a “decent guy” and South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg has called Mr. Pence “a super-nice guy.” Right now, what we most need is a President who doesn’t incite hate. Later, we as a people can decide whether he’s the right person to lead us into the future; at this point, the priority is to stabilize our ship, and Mr. Pence’s disposition is suited to do that.
The victims in this sordid drama for whom I have the utmost sympathy are Ukraine President Zelenskyy and the Ukranian people. They need America’s goodwill, financial and military assistance to withstand one of the world’s most powerful military forces. Given the President’s extortive overture, what does Mr. Zelenskyy do? Ukraine needs assistance now. If Mr. Zelenskyy he defies Mr. Trump, his country might not be there by January, 2021, when a Democrat might replace Mr. Trump. (One needs to look no further for an object lesson in Russian behavior than Crimea or the Turkish-Syrian border.) If he cooperates with the President, he will be labeled an American stooge by his domestic political rivals, undermined by Russia and Hungary, and run the risk that any Democrat that succeeds Mr. Trump might look less favorably on Ukraine. Mr. Trump’s despicable behavior has placed Mr. Zelenskyy squarely on the horns of an untenable dilemma.
The actors in this sordid drama for whom I have the most contempt are the President’s abetting Republican lickspittles. They know – they know – that he has compromised his office. And yet, for fear of their own careers, they – with the exception of U.S. UT Sen. Mitt Romney, whom I would now support for President if ever again given the opportunity – cravenly cower in the corner, hoping that this cup will pass them by. (I’m ashamed that my state is represented by Sen. Ron Johnson.) In The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt asserts that loyalty to a group is a more prominent intuitive characteristic in our people who lean conservative/Republican. Clearly, a significant share of Congressional Republicans, and I fear many of the President’s rank-and-file followers, have morphed from being Americans into being Trumpers.
Partisan bias remains a two-way street. During the week of October 21, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe pressed Democratic U.S. DE Sen. Christopher Coons to admit that even if Hunter Biden’s appointment to the Ukrainian board was legal, Joe Biden’s failure to quash the appointment was bad judgment on the elder Biden’s part. (More on the Bidens in Part II of this note.) Mr. Coons refused to admit to the obvious. Although I have found Mr. Coons a knowledgeable voice on foreign policy and a measured commentator of Mr. Trump’s inappropriate behavior, his unwillingness to concede the obvious smacked of Republicans’ partisan defense of Mr. Trump.
Benjamin Franklin noted in his Autobiography: “[As a young man] I grew convinc’d that truth, sincerity and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life, and I form’d … resolutions … to practice them ever while I lived [Emphasis Mr. Franklin’s].”
Clearly, few national politicians of either stripe are now drawing lessons from Mr. Franklin. The next segment of this note will appear in Part II.