The Impeachment Kaleidoscope: Part III

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Parts I and II (which are immediately below), I would start with those 😉

The most impressive figure in our current impeachment saga is obviously Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. She is literally running the clock down on the President. Through the continual drip of damning information about Mr. Trump’s coercion of the Ukrainians — including this week’s testimony by Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — Ms. Pelosi is shaping the attitude of that sliver of the electorate – I would guess between 10 and 20 percent — who aren’t already irrevocably committed to or against the President. She has so far withstood both the Republicans’ efforts to speed the process (the longer this goes, the shorter the President’s and their time to politically recover) and kept the inquiry focused on the President’s pressure on the Ukrainians (which polls show that a majority of Americans viscerally consider wrong) despite her own caucus’ desire to broaden it (which will blur the voters’ focus and give the Republicans more opportunity for distraction).

I’ve mentioned in these pages my concern that Congressional Impeachment proceedings would ultimately redound to the President’s benefit. Now, I’m not so sure. Although the Republicans’ impeachment initiative against President Bill Clinton ultimately politically benefited the Democrats, what Mr. Trump indisputably did with the Ukrainians seems different in kind from Mr. Clinton’s inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky and his attendant falsehoods (although I believe in retrospect that Mr. Clinton should have been removed from office for perjury). Since Ms. Pelosi has made it plain that she considers Mr. Trump manifestly unfit for the presidency, I hope she hopes (more on that below) that for the good of the country, Mr. Trump will be removed from office after the Senate trial; but there may be even greater Democratic political advantage arising from the proceedings – in which the evidence of the President’s and his agents’ activities will be brought before the American people once in the House, and again in the Senate — if the President is acquitted. Any Senate acquittal is likely to look like a Republican whitewash to the electoral sliver Ms. Pelosi is targeting and will put swing state Republican Senators running for reelection in 2020 in a bind between Trump loyalists and independents. I would suggest that in the seemingly unlikely event that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conjures up a Senate procedural maneuver to avoid bringing the House’s articles to a vote, enough of the electorate will be sufficiently outraged that such would result in an even greater national electoral rout of Republicans – and perhaps cost Mr. McConnell his seat.

I indicated above that I hope that Ms. Pelosi hopes that for the good of the country, President Trump should be removed from office as expeditiously as possible. That said, I’m not sure that a presumed succession by Vice President Mike Pence helps Democrats’ 2020 national prospects. By the time any such transition would occur, it will be too late for another Republican to meaningfully challenge Mr. Pence for the 2020 GOP nomination; it seems overwhelming probable that the Republican base, infuriated at Mr. Trump’s removal, will rally to the Republican cause; and Mr. Pence would have the power of the incumbency. Query, had Senate Democrats not acquitted Mr. Clinton when he was impeached, whether a President Al Gore might not have eked out an Electoral College victory over then-TX Gov. George W. Bush in a contest in which Mr. Gore won the popular vote. President Gerald Ford lost by only the slimmest of margins to then-former GA Gov. Jimmy Carter in 1976 although Mr. Ford was politically weakened by his pardon of President Richard Nixon (a decision with which I agree) and the disappointment of the diehard followers of then-former CA Gov. Ronald Reagan. I pose this: given the demographics that are still likely to prevail in 2020, if Mr. Pence succeeds to the presidency without being directly implicated in the President’s untoward interactions with the Ukrainians or other malign activities, and has former U.S. Amb. Nikki Haley or perhaps U.S. FL Sen. Marco Rubio join his ticket, which likely Democratic presidential candidate can beat him? A candidate’s prospects are in part measured by the candidate’s opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. I would submit that contrasted with Mr. Pence, to many independents Mr. Biden could look too old, U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders could look too old and crazy, U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren could look too feisty and disruptive, South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg could look too young and inexperienced, and U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris could look too “California.” Either U.S. NJ Sen. Cory Booker or U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar might have a chance against Mr. Pence, but they appear too far behind the other Democratic candidates to have a meaningful opportunity to secure the Democratic nomination and Mr. Pence’s election odds would still be better than either of theirs. Mr. Pence would have to finesse one hurdle similar to that faced by Mr. Ford: how to deal with the fallout – either way – arising from Trumpers’ demands that he pardon his predecessor.

As we plunge into the impeachment maelstrom, perhaps its facets are best considered not a kaleidoscope … but a roulette wheel. Clearly, much more to come.

The Impeachment Kaleidoscope: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there 😉

If the Wikipedia account of Hunter Biden is at all accurate, the younger Biden’s primary profession since his 1996 law school graduation has arguably been exploiting (albeit legally) his father’s name and position. While any parent can have sympathy for another parent’s desire to see his/her child get ahead, one would have to lack the sense God gave a goose not to recognize that a Ukrainian company’s selection of the son of the Vice President of the United States as a board member – a son who I understand had no specific qualifications for the post – was, legal or not, a blatant attempt by Ukrainian interests to curry favor with the United States. The elder Biden should have quashed the overture. While I continue to support the former Vice President (pending any meaningful advance by other moderate Democratic candidates), the Bidens’ actions or inactions relating to Hunter Biden’s appointment have sullied Mr. Biden’s candidacy and lowered my estimation of him. Their behavior was (there is no better word for it) … swampy.

The players who are perhaps drawing the most wry amusement from the President’s imbroglio are Chinese President Xi Jinping and his aides. In the midst of sensitive trade negotiations, Mr. Trump has called upon Mr. Xi and his administration to investigate allegedly illegal activities by the Bidens in China. If the President believes that he can pressure the Chinese due to the disruptions our tariffs can create for their economy, I would suggest that he has grossly misjudged the level of his leverage. Mr. Xi, unlike Mr. Trump, is President for Life. He can politically withstand a downturn in his economy much better than Mr. Trump can. Even aside from the fact that it would only hurt long term Chinese foreign policy and financial interests if Americans became inflamed because of Chinese meddling in American domestic politics, why would the China want to help Mr. Trump? From China’s point of view, his mercuriality and inconsistency have unsettled its and the world economy. I suspect that the Chinese leadership concluded some time ago that any successor to Mr. Trump will be better to deal with than he is – even if the American is tough, s/he will almost certainly be more consistent.

The player with the “X” on his back is former New York, NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has obviously emerged as the central figure in the Trump Administration’s efforts to influence the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens. While I have not researched the scope of a President’s Executive Privilege [I plan to read The United States v. Nixon in the near future ;)], I invite the savvy legal minds that read these pages to confirm or reject this premise: If Mr. Giuliani is subpoenaed to appear before Congress, his status as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer will not enable Mr. Trump to claim Attorney-Client privilege to limit Mr. Giuliani’s testimony about his discussions with Mr. Trump regarding the Ukrainian affair because there seems to be no legal claim or lawsuit between Mr. Trump and the Bidens related to Ukraine.  If Mr. Giuliani is himself facing criminal charges, he can obviously claim his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but may find himself facing a very difficult decision if offered broad immunity for his testimony about his Ukrainian-related communications with the President.

I mentioned in a recent post that we might have reached the end of what has arguably been a grace period our international adversaries have perhaps afforded Mr. Trump due to his emotional unpredictability tied to American military and financial might. As the impeachment proceedings obsess Mr. Trump, perhaps cause further erosion in his popular support, and probably cause him to become even more erratic, what could be the waning days of the Trump Presidency – i.e., before a President Pence would restore some sense of normalcy to American foreign policy – might be viewed as the best foreseeable window by Russia to secure its interests against Ukraine and NATO, by China to advance its positions in Hong Kong and Taiwan, by North Korea to leverage its military might to dominate the Korean Peninsula, and by the Taliban to overrun Afghanistan. Indeed, the President’s recent abrupt inexplicable withdrawal of our troops from the Syrian border so suddenly furthered Russian interests at the expense of our own as to make one ponder whether Mr. Putin hasn’t already decided that Mr. Trump’s value (perhaps merely as a Useful Idiot) is coming to an end.

My attempt to keep this post to a manageable length was, obviously, futile. I have left consideration of the person and some of the political aspects I find most intriguing in our impeachment saga to Part III, which I promise will bring this note to a merciful conclusion.

The Impeachment Kaleidoscope: Part I

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.

On Substantive Doubts about Elizabeth Warren: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there 😉

Disposition. U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren clearly is – and makes no bones about being – feisty. Some of her supporters consider it among her greatest strengths. I don’t. As noted above, most pundits predict that Republicans will maintain control of the Senate and that U.S. KY Sen. Mitch McConnell will retain his seat in 2020 and maintain his post as Senate Majority Leader in 2021. Every day of a Warren Administration will feature a blood feud between self-righteous ideologues. Her manner will provide Mr. McConnell the perfect foil to roil the conservative Republican base and trouble centrists. Say what you will about the despicable manner in which Mr. McConnell has performed his Senate leadership role – and I’ve said plenty in these posts, and thought more in terms not suitable for these pages — one of the few things that the vast majority of Americans agree upon: we are weary – indeed, exhausted – from all the fighting. I consider the toxic hyper-partisanship engulfing us to be by far our most pressing national problem. We need to quiet our differences, not further inflame them. We need healing if we are to ever move forward. Although Ms. Warren’s ascendency to the presidency would be an improvement by at least providing us a Chief Executive that respects our institutions and the rule of law, I fear that her natural combativeness will only exacerbate our rabid climate and give the nation a case of whiplash as she attempts to abruptly steer us from the alt-right to the avid-left. (Before I get assailed as sexist for expressing misgivings about an “uppity woman,” I will offer that my preferred candidate for the presidency remains U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who, unlike Ms. Warren, projects resolve without inciting undue antagonism in her adversaries.)

Finally: Attitude. “We need to … put economic and political power back in the hands of the people [Again, my underscore].” The Washington Post recently ran a piece, to which a link is provided below, that actually prompted me to write this note. It describes Ms. Warren’s answer when asked at a LGBTQ forum how she would respond to a voter whose faith teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman. I agree with the reactions reported in the Post that her response was sufficient to alienate some men, some people of faith, and some holding even moderate conservative tendencies. It exhibited – for someone who constantly touts her rearing in Oklahoma — a lack of understanding of and disdain – indeed, bordering on contempt — for the sincere sentiments of at least a third and perhaps as many as half of “the people” she claims that she wishes to serve. The account of Ms. Warren’s remarks reminded me – even before I had read far enough to see the article’s allusions to them – of former President Obama’s disparagement of those of our people who “cling to guns or religion” and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s labeling many of Mr. Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.” This is not the way to lead a citizenry that is – if one will excuse the jibe – as diverse as we are. Robert Galston wrote in his book, Anti-Pluralism:

“…[I]n May, 2016, candidate Donald Trump [declared] … ‘The only important thing is the unification of the people, [because] the other people don’t mean anything.’ There we have it: the people (that is, the real people) against the other people who are somehow outside and alien.”

I ask: how different, really, is the attitude Ms. Warren exhibited in her forum response from that of Mr. Trump? Does she intend to be inclusive – or exclusive? Is she seeking to lead all of our people – or only her version of “the people,” in the same way that Mr. Trump has made plain that he only wishes to lead his version of “the people”?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/warrens-same-sex-marriage-quip-captures-what-some-find-exciting–and-others-distressing–about-her/2019/10/11/f3e15a14-ec34-11e9-85c0-85a098e47b37_story.html

The more closely I have examined Sen. Warren, the more firmly I would suggest that former Vice President Joe Biden – despite the egregiously obtuse peccadillos involving his son — is not only the best handicapping choice against Mr. Trump among the Democratic frontrunners; given the seemingly imminent demise of Ms. Klobuchar’s candidacy, Mr. Biden is also by far the most qualified of the Democratic candidates to assume the presidency. I hope that for the future of our nation, he has it within him to show it.

On Substantive Doubts about Elizabeth Warren: Part I

Although impressions abound about Impeachment initiatives against President Trump, this week’s Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate has shifted my reflection more immediately to the candidacy of U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which pundits tell us is surging. All that read these pages are aware that I have serious handicapping reservations about Sen. Warren’s prospects in a general election contest against President Trump; I fear that the President will be able to engender sufficient alarm about her among his wavering 2016 supporters that, taken together with Ms. Warren’s relatively tepid support in the African American community, will enable him to duplicate his narrow 2016 Electoral College victory. Enough has been said here about that; but as Ms. Warren has reportedly begun edging past former Vice President Joe Biden, substantive factors about her are giving me perhaps even greater pause. Notwithstanding what follows: if Sen. Warren secures the Democratic presidential nomination and is running against Mr. Trump, she can rest assured of my vote; she doesn’t appear prone to the President’s character failings or likely to perpetuate his destructive malfeasance. Further, if she is running against a President Mike Pence, she will receive my vote; she has demonstrated strong will and independence throughout her career while Mr. Pence has exhausted my Thesaurus over the last couple of years as I’ve looked for ever-more blog-appropriate synonyms for the word, “sycophant.”

That said, I have deep reservations about her ability to successfully execute the presidency. The very introduction to the Senator’s campaign home page provides hints for my concerns:

“Elizabeth has a lot of plans, but they’re really one simple plan: We need to tackle the corruption in Washington that makes our government work for the wealthy and well-connected, but kicks dirt on everyone else, and put economic and political power back in the hands of the people [My underscore].”

Foreign Policy. I consider the highest responsibility of the President of the United States to safeguard us against foreign enemies. The President must conduct a foreign policy that reassures our allies and checks the unwarranted advances of our adversaries. These are perilous times – made more so by Mr. Trump’s boorishness, ignorance, and incompetence; the horrific tragedy unfolding in Syria as this is typed screams for a steady and knowledgeable steward for U.S. foreign relations. Even so, there is not a word about foreign relations in Ms. Warren’s introductory declaration. She appears to look at our international relations through her domestic prism, stating on her foreign policy page (consisting essentially of progressive slogans) that Washington’s foreign policy serves the “wealthy and well-connected” and calling for an end to “the stranglehold of defense contractors on our military policy.” She pledges to bring our troops home, but displays no understanding of the difficulties of achieving such a withdrawal without regional cataclysm and potential consequent risk to American and allied lives. Her pledge in the second debate not to use our nuclear arsenal in a first strike capacity amounts, in my view, to presidential malpractice. She cries for cuts in “our bloated defense budget,” and calls for a greater reliance on diplomacy; but although we need to ensure that our defense dollars are spent wisely, such railing is somewhat akin to Mr. Trump’s complaints about what he claims are insufficient alliance contributions by our NATO partners. She seems oblivious to the fact that Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are investing heavily in military and cyber capabilities and that these and other adversaries are responsive to diplomacy backed by strength, not by moral outrage or a “Pretty Please.”

Fiscal Responsibility. Interestingly, while calling our defense budget “unsustainable” (which it probably is; that’s why we need to nurture – not destroy — worldwide alliances to maintain an international balance supporting our interests), Sen. Warren is advocating for (1) a trillion-plus dollar federal expenditure to support free public college and student loan debt forgiveness and (2) what will amount to tens of trillions more for Medicare-for-All. While I support adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act, our current budget realities make these sweeping initiatives as fiscally unsustainable as the Republicans’ chronic obsession with tax cuts. I went into law because I couldn’t do numbers, but it’s clear even to me that we do not have enough rich people and big corporations that we can tax enough to support these programs.

Practicality. “Elizabeth has a lot of plans …” She sure does. Even if Democrats gain control of both Houses of Congress – an outcome that few pundits predict, and one made even less likely if Ms. Warren is the Democratic candidate – she won’t command sufficient support in Congress for the progressive agenda she is proposing; many Americans (including me, and the Democrats representing swing states and districts that are desirous of keeping their seats) will be looking to Congress to check her most progressive impulses. Democrats will appear extreme, out of touch, and inept in the same manner as Republicans did in 2017-18, when they controlled both houses and despite years of haranguing still weren’t able (thankfully) to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In an effort to keep these posts to at least a somewhat manageable length, what remains of this note will appear in Part II.

On our Kurdish Allies … and President Oz

The bulk of this note is excerpted from a post I published in April, 2018, pertaining to Syria. Rather than abandon our Kurdish allies – which President Trump in effect ordered this week — I am an unabashed supporter of the Kurds, and of the establishment of an independent Kurdistan — a position that is, for obvious reasons, anathema to the countries that would necessarily be ceding territory if such a state was established. [The “YPG” mentioned in the note is the military arm of the “Syrian Democratic Forces (‘SDF’)” referred to in the current accounts of the President’s decision.] I also left in that post’s paragraph on Ukraine since that nation has also been just a tiny bit in the news lately ;). Not surprisingly, none of the measures I suggested 18 months ago have been undertaken.

Bashar Al-Assad is a hollow man, propped up by Russia and Iran for their own purposes. Since Turkey has also engaged the conflict more as an ally of Russia and Iran than of the U.S., it could also be helpful to U.S. interests if it suffers repercussions for its forays. We might consider broadening our approach to give the Russians, the Iranians, and the Turks something more to think about, lessening their focus on their collaboration protecting Mr. Assad, including the following:

  1. Russia’s strategic interests are on its European border, not in the Middle East. Issue a ringing commitment to NATO. It will reassure our NATO allies, and make Mr. Putin aware that he has challenges in his own neighborhood.

 

  1. Put more than talk behind our support of Ukraine. After quiet consultation with Congress – and with the U.K. and France if they would collaborate — the Administration should execute a codicil to the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances pledging military assistance to Ukraine in the event its borders are infringed, and place a symbolic U.S. force at the Ukraine-Russia border.

 

 

  1. As to Turkey, double the number of U.S. troops assisting our Kurdish allies in the region of Syria in which the YPG is currently fighting ISIS on behalf of the alleged coalition. Inform the Turkish government that any military action against the YPG that results in American casualties will be dealt with severely.

 

  1. Call for dividing Syria into separate states, as was done in Bosnia: an independent Kurdish state – perhaps linked to the Kurdistan region in Iraq; a independent Sunni state (75% of Syrians are Sunni); and an Alawite state under Assad control.
  • It would give the Kurds something to continue to fight for, and would show the U.S. was firmly behind its staunchest and most effective ally against ISIS. Right now, the world doesn’t believe the U.S. can be trusted.
  • It would be unsettling to the Iranians, since Iran has a significant Kurdish population; only a positive.
  • Turkey would hate it. Turkey might require us to close our air bases in Turkey (that said, some analysts assert that the air bases are no longer strategic). Such a step – if a careful assessment is made that U.S. defenses can be maintained without the air bases — may be worth the price: President Erdogan has made himself a de facto dictator, abusing his people’s rights; Turkey has established too warm a relationship with Russia and Iran to be considered a reliable NATO ally; Turkey has condoned the beating of American protesters by Mr. Erdogan’s body guards when he visited the U.S.; Turkey has arguably conspired with Michael Flynn for a kidnapping of Mr. Gulan on American soil. Turkey is, at best, a neutral in the U.S. struggle with Russia and Iran. It should be treated that way.
  • Concededly, Iraq would hate it for giving strength to its Kurdistan regional government. Admittedly a factor that weighs against the move; some accommodation to the Iraqis would need to be made.
  • The Saudis and the other Gulf States would presumably welcome such a move, given the creation of another Sunni state to align against Iran.
  • Ironically, President Assad might favor such a move if it meant that he was able to safely remain in power without the concern that the U.S. would any longer try to have him deposed. (Admittedly, he might well feel that given the way events have unfolded, there is no need to give up any of his country.)

 

I recently suggested that the manner in which we responded to Iran’s September attack on Saudi Arabian oil assets would be closely monitored by adversaries such as the Russia, China, North Korea, and the Taliban. Although I am merely echoing the chorus here, I would similarly submit that Mr. Trump’s decision to pull our forces from our collaboration with the Kurds – in effect leaving hanging those who have most loyally and steadfastly advanced our efforts against ISIS — will be closely noted by our allies within the Middle East and throughout the world. We are riding in an unmoored rollercoaster.

 

The President of the United States, as part of a tweet issued on October 7, 2019, regarding his decision to withdraw U.S. troops:

“As I have stated strongly before … that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom …”

 

“I am Oz, the Great and Powerful … Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz? You ungrateful creatures! The Great Oz has spoken!”

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: 1939: The Wizard of Oz

Discerning the Don … in The Donald

If you haven’t yet read the Memorandum of the July 25, 2019, conversation between President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky released today, I recommend you do so; it’s but five typewritten pages and readily available online; you owe it to your country not to rely on either a news outlet or a Medicare-aged blogger.

It is undisputed that at the time of the call, the Administration was holding up the distribution of funds to Ukraine that Congress had appropriated to aid its defense against Russia. To me, the highlights:

Mr. Trump to Mr. Zelensky: “[T]he United States has been very very [duplicate in text] good to Ukraine….the United States has been very very [duplicate in text] good to Ukraine.”

Mr. Trump to Mr. Zelensky: “I would like [Mr. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani] to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General.”

Mr. Trump to Mr. Zelensky: “There’s a lot of talk about [former Vice President Joe] Biden’s son [Hunter Biden], that [Joe] Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. [Joe] Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … [ellipsis in text, indicating pause; no skipped text] It sounds horrible to me.”

Mr. Trump to Mr. Zelensky: “I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of [Joe Biden’s participation in the shutting down of a Ukranian prosecutor]. I’m sure you will figure it out. [My emphasis.]”

 

Mr. Zelensky to Mr. Trump: “Yes you are absolutely right. Not only 100%, but actually 1000% … I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes. [My only translation in this post: “Please give us the money. If you give us the money, we’ll buy American products. Please give us the money].”

Mr. Zelensky to Mr. Trump: “I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us … I also wanted to tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership ….”

Mr. Zelensky to Mr. Trump: “[T]he next prosecutor general will be 100% my person….I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us …”

Mr. Zelensky to Mr. Trump: “Actually the last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower…. I also want to ensure you that we will be very serious about the case [either about the Bidens, or about the Clintons; not clear] and will work on the investigation.”

 

I cast no aspersions toward Mr. Zelensky; his country is trying to maintain its independence against the onslaught of the second most powerful military force in the world. I would have prostrated myself in front of Mr. Trump at least as obsequiously as he did if I felt it was necessary to protect my country.

The President’s defenders argue that the President’s comments weren’t malfeasance because he neither threatened Mr. Zelensky nor specifically offered Mr. Zelensky a quid pro quo for reviewing the investigation of the Ukrainian activities of the Messrs. Biden.

 

“Vito Corleone raised his hands in surprise. ‘I’m asking you a favor, only that. One never knows when one might need a friend, isn’t that true? Here, take this money as a sign of my goodwill and make your own decision. I wouldn’t dare to quarrel with it.’ … He patted Mr. Roberto on the shoulder. ‘Do me this service, eh? I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighborhood about me, they’ll tell you I’m a man who believes in showing his gratitude.’” – Mario Puzo: Book III … The Godfather