President Trump talks to reporters at the White House, November 29, 2018. (Jim Young/Reuters)
Contrary to suggestions by some, most Trump supporters are not automatons or blind supporters. What bothers them, and should bother others, about the latest Ukraine hysterias is the familiar monotony of this latest scripted psychodrama.
The whistleblower admits to hearsay (“I was not a direct witness to most of the events described”). His term-paper report is laden with anonymously sourced rumors, e.g., “According to multiple White House officials I spoke with,” “I was told by White House officials,” “Based on my understanding,” “I learned from multiple officials,” “I do not know whether similar measures were taken,” “I do not know whether those officials spoke with or met with . . . ”
Between references to Internet news accounts and “I heard from” and “I learned from” and “I do not know” anonymous officials, there is nothing here to launch an impeachment of any president.
In the complaint are all the now-familiar tell-tale signs of pseudo-exactness, in the form of Mueller-report-like footnotes and page references to liberal media outlets such as Bloomberg, ABC, and the New York Times. There is the accustomed Steele-dossier scare bullet points. We see again Comey-memo-like disputes over classification status with capital letters UNCLASSIFIED stamped as headers and footers and TOP SECRET lined out.
Scary references abound to the supposed laws that the legal-eagle whistleblower believes were violated. In sum, there is all the usual evidence of an administrative-state bureaucrat, likely to be some third-tier Brennan or Clapper-like intelligence operative, who is canvassing disgruntled White House staffers, writing a report that imitates intelligence-department formats, combing the Internet, in “dream-team” and “all-star” footnote fashion, for scare quotes and anti-Trump stories, and then likely having it dressed up in legalese by an activist lawyer. Take all that away, and one is left with “I heard.”
After nearly three years of this, we know the delivery system that ensues. Along with the sensationalized initial media hype, the promised “smoking gun” leak usually follows. But when the “overwhelming” evidence or “walls are closing in” documents are released, there is no criminal act to be found other than occasional art-of-the-deal bluster from Trump. And then on to the next crude coup attempt, since the line of wannabe Glen Simpsons, Bruce Ohrs, Andrew McCabes, and John Brennans seems endless.
Lost in the conundrum is the reality that no president in recent memory has been so investigated, audited, sued, and examined as Trump without finding evidence of criminal behavior. Certainly, in the present instance, we have never before demanded and obtained transcripts of private and confidential presidential calls to foreign leaders. I assume that, from now on, such disclosures will be the standard practice (as will be the demand to disclose FBI notes of private presidential conversations). So historians can now delve into the archives to have access to any private conversation that took place between foreign leaders and our presidents in any previous administration.
Any president has a perfect right to tell a foreign head of state and recipient of major U.S. aid that his corruption-plagued country has played a destabilizing but still murky role in recent American elections and in scandals that have affected the American people, and in particular the current president of the United States — and that it would be a good thing to get to the bottom of it.
Americans, left and right, would like to know the exact nature of Ukrainian-Russian interference and the degree, if any, to which CrowdStrike played a role in the Clinton-email imbroglio and why CrowdStrike (which analyzed the server that the DNC refused to turn over to the FBI) was apparently exempt from FBI investigation.
That Biden is now a Democratic front-runner does not provide immunity or excuse the fact that he was vice president of the United States tasked with Ukrainian affairs when his problem-plagued son, without any energy or foreign-policy experience, made a great deal of money for apparently nothing more than lending his Biden name to benefit a corrupt Ukrainian-Russian-related company. Nor should we overlook that Joe Biden threatened to cut off U.S. aid — $1 billion — to Ukraine if it did not within six hours fire the too-curious prosecutor who was looking into the mess. And that prosecutor was fired. And that $1 billion in aid was not cut off. And Hunter Biden was no longer a target of any investigation. And he made a great deal of money.
The VP emeritus had the temerity, in Biden signature mock-heroic style, to boast of his intervention — he was impressing a foreign-policy symposium with his seasoned clout. “Well, son a b****, he got fired,” he bragged, prompting laughter from symposium attendees. Note that he was also emphasizing his own absolute exemption from any legal repercussions for such a blatant and explicit quid pro quo gambit.
Not just Trump supporters but the public is baffled by the apparent asymmetry in the application of the law, or at least the intention to apply the law. The Biden-Obama experience between 2009 and 2017 apparently had set a de facto precedent of what does and what does not constitute collusion.
It is apparently not improper for the president of the United States, caught in a hot-mic exchange with the Russian president, to offer a quid pro quo deal in which the United States suggests it will pull back from missile-defense agendas in exchange for good Russian behavior designed to help the president and hurt his opponent in the forthcoming reelection. And such a deal, from what we can tell, was then more or less carried out, as subsequent events suggest.
It is also not improper for a vice president or for U.S. senators to threaten a foreign government with cut-offs of designated American aid if it does not go easy (or hard) on particular American citizens, and such leverage is unapologetically memorialized in letters or public appearances, with the overt assumption that such behavior will never be questioned, much less seen as improper or illegal.
We are now witnessing just one more episode in many, and with many still to come. Yet the public is exhausted with the number of “scandals” that, despite being hyped in the press, have all failed to reveal any wrongdoing.
Ukraine comes after the suits alleging voting-machine fraud, efforts to warp the Electoral College voting, initial articles of impeachment, allegations that Trump violated the emoluments clause (while he has lost money during his presidential tenure), the would-be invocation of the Logan Act against the Trump national-security advisor, the months consumed with the 25th Amendment that at times reached the bathos of a Yale psychiatrist diagnosing the president as mentally impaired without ever examining her patient firsthand, the Comey-memo leak effort, and the appointment of Robert Mueller’s “dream team” and “all-stars” at a cost of over $30 million and 22 months in a failed effort to prove Russian “collusion” and Trump’s “obstruction” efforts to interfere with the investigation of a non-crime.
And now the Ukraine chapter. In between all these maneuvers, we have witnessed mass hysterias of Stormy! Tax Returns! Recession! Racism! along with the Covington Kids and Kavanaugh 1.0 and 2.0 manias (so far nuns have not started biting each other or investors cornering the Dutch tulip market) — and the constant celebrity and media effort to compete over the best way of metamorphically burning up, shooting, decapitating, beating up, stabbing, dismembering, or caging the president, in an age when a Missouri State Fair clown was banned for wearing a comic Obama mask.
These episodes are not just designed to drive down polls or crowd out coverage of real achievement on economic growth, energy development, low unemployment, judicial appointments, deregulation, tax reform, and clarity overseas on Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea. They are veritable coups aimed at aborting a presidency before a scheduled election, either out of unhinged hatred for Trump or out of desperation that an extremist counter-agenda, as witnessed in the first three Democratic debates, is apt to turn off most voters.
And there is a monotony in the scripts. So often we hear from a whistleblower who claims to have a superior moral conscious — “higher loyalty” Jim Comey, or the anonymous “Resistance” fighter who wrote the 2018 New York Times op-ed, or boy scout Andy McCabe forced to initiate a veritable coup to surveille and catch the president in an incriminating statement, or an outraged John Brennan or James Clapper or Bruce Ohr coming forward with “damning” information on Trump. Then the requisite Democratic senate staffer or administrative-state bureaucrat takes action, often with the help of some congressional official, Fusion GPS factotum, or Lawfare busybody, but not before the accusation is leaked and blared on cable news, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, etc. and billed as the magic bullet that will finally bring down the Trump monster.
After nearly three years of this, the mystery is not that it continues, given the opposition’s perceived limited alternatives, but that there is still any expectation of novelty, sincerity, or believability. A wearied public has reached the point of no return. From now on, it is far more likely that each new feigned outrage will have the opposite effect of helping Trump and hurting his accusers. After all, we are now reduced to Representative Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) supposedly reading the transcript of the Trump phone call, but instead making things up as he does, editorializing, and adding and subtracting, as he pleases, from what was actually said. And when caught, Schiff can only stammer that as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee he was actually offering a “parody” of the supposed grounds-for-impeachment document.
In this entire melodrama Biden will become the real casualty, and Trump the benefactor, at least in the long term.
When the entire nature of the whistleblower, his handlers, and his media enablers is fully known, when attention turns, as it already has, to Biden’s real legal exposure, two things will follow:
Biden will get snappy, befuddled, and indignant to questions, to the extent he will even entertain them — all the while losing ground to Elizabeth Warren. Trump will be the eventual beneficiary of Warren’s more likely and more alienating candidacy. And, even if impeached, Trump will be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as growing stronger for enduring ever shriller and more monotonous attacks.