Let me state at the outset that some of my best friends are Republicans and independents. This missive is addressed to all of my fellow Americans, but especially to Republicans and independents. Here’s the deal with the impeachment rumpus, as I see it.
The first Americans to be alarmed by our president’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president were not Democrats. They were White House aides, presumably rock solid Republicans all.
They were so alarmed they went into full lockdown mode, trying to keep what the president said from getting out. This is not what people do after listening to what the president termed a “perfect” phone call.
All that the president’s aides managed to accomplish was to put themselves in legal jeopardy.
What alarmed them so was witnessing the man they work for, the purported leader of the free world, shaking down a needy ally and using as leverage national security funds, which had passed the U.S. Congress in a bipartisan vote. Our president wanted “a favor” when talk of military aid came up during the July 25 phone call, and the favor included asking Ukraine to launch an investigation of Joe Biden, the leading Democratic candidate for president in 2020.
The embargoed funds, nearly $400 million, were earmarked for training and equipping Ukrainian forces in their fight to stave off Russian aggression. I’m in favor of that. How about you?
The White House put a hold on the money a week before the July 25 phone call between the two presidents. After intense lobbying from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the White House released the funds on September 11.
No one has proffered a believable explanation for why the White House blocked the release of the money for nearly two months. None other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, confessed to being kept in dark on the White House rationale. No reason was given because it couldn’t stand the light of day.
Having been called out on his blockage of the funds, our president has since given two distinct explanations on two separate occasions. One was that the Ukraine is too corrupt to get the aid. That argument was contradicted in May by the U.S. Department of Defense, which gave Ukraine its seal of approval in a letter to congressional committees, citing it for taking “substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability.”
Reason number two was that our other allies weren’t doing enough to help Ukraine. The logic here, if logic is the right word, is that we’ll show our skinflint allies: we won’t do enough to help Ukraine either.
If the word had not gotten out about the now infamous phone call, one might have surmised that our president was against aid aimed at keeping Russia at bay because of his bromance with Vladimir Putin. Our president has already forgiven the Vlad the Invader for his illegal annexation of Crimea, and has been lobbying the Group of Seven (G7) economic organization to readmit the unrepentant Russia.
To those who think our president did nothing wrong in the July 25 phone call, that leaning on a foreign leader like that for personal political gain is proper, if not “perfect,” consider what road that leads us all down. Do we really want politics without borders? Should the outcome of the next election really trump national security in the calculations of our presidents? Whatever lines your guy crosses and gets away with, my guy or gal can cross when she or he becomes president.
Without objective standards and accountability, it is a race to the bottom. Ask yourself, “What if former president Barack Obama had done what our current president did on July 25?” Would that have been perfectly all right with you?
The road we are sliding down together leads not simply to an ever more imperial presidency. It leads to an American Mussolini.
David Holahan is a freelance writer from East Haddam.