Some day, when historians get down to evaluating this worst of times in U.S history, let’s hope they don’t spend too much time on President Donald Trump, our unfit, untruthful, self-enriching, p-----grabbing, Narcissist in Chief.
No, let’s hope the scorn of history falls where it should, on the astounding number of people who enabled his corrupt administration and its attempts to flush every democratic norm down the toilet.
This came to mind Friday morning when I heard an entire NPR segment devoted to our own Rep. Andy Barr and his thoughts on the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s stumbling, typically inarticulate phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Like a good soldier in Trump’s sycophant army, Barr first tried to deflect the matter to the 2016 election and Russian interference, then said the phone call was a matter of routine diplomacy. Then he questioned why Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, with no energy experience, was being paid to serve on the board of an energy company.
That’s a great question. I often wonder why Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, with zero experience in anything but fashion and shady real estate deals, are in charge of Middle East peace and domestic policies in the Trump administration.
We are a long way from any conclusions on this matter, and it may very well be that there was no quid pro quo. But the fact that a whistleblower took it seriously enough to report to his superiors, and those superiors took it seriously enough to open a case should be enough for Republicans to ask their own questions. Or they should be concerned that the phone call transcript was whisked away by yet more enablers into a top secret system for highly classified information. At the very least, they should recognize a pattern.
Also, let’s just ponder for a minute what would have happened if President Barack Obama had been caught asking the Ukrainian president to investigate Mitt Romney around 2011?
Speaking of Romney, he’s hardly known as a man of steel. (Do you remember that utterly cringeworthy dinner with Trump in 2016 when he thought he might get the Secretary of State job?) But he at least is “deeply troubled” over the Ukraine matter.
Even Mitch McConnell opened a little space between himself and the president by calling for the whistleblower complaint to move forward. He even said publicly he didn’t know why the millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine had been held up. It’s probably more because because he wants to look tough on Russia and lose the nickname Moscow Mitch, which for some reason has caused him so much distress, but at least he called for evidence.
(Who am I kidding? Moscow Mitch has also shredded whatever was left of his dignity to stand behind someone who has turned the office of the president into a joke. I used to think McConnell at least cared for democratic norms, but it’s clear that his lust for power and party over country will continue to win the day.)
Barr, meanwhile, said the whistleblower report should be ignored because the whistleblower had not identified him or herself.
At this point, King had to interrupt: “Whistleblowers do not self-identify, that’s the point.”
Well, then, Barr continued, the whistleblower had “demonstrated political bias and criticism of this president.”
In the Nixon administration, Republicans of honor also criticized their president and helped force him from office. Today, it’s Republican heresy to even ask questions.
The truth is, it’s not clear where this latest scandal will end up. Trump’s corruption is so all pervasive that it’s hard for one phone call to stand out.
He is single-minded. He must stay in power because to lose the election might mean criminal charges from one federal court or another. He says he liked to make little jokes about staying on past 2024, but his mind is too unsubtle for these to be jokes. It’s not clear that the Ukraine call is an impeachable offense, but it’s quite clear he will do anything to get re-elected, including asking another government to dig for dirt on a political opponent.
Republicans of any intellectual honesty know this, even if they won’t admit it out loud. Barr and McConnell, in particular, are from relatively safe seats in a bright red state. They should have the honor and honesty to at least ask the questions. Instead, they’re blindly covering for the president in some kind of short-term gain. In the long run, history will judge them more harshly.
Linda Blackford writers columns and commentary for the Herald-Leader.