Crises have a way of separating the leaderlike wheat from the opportunistic chaff. Coronavirus is the crisis of our time, and the political winnowing is something to behold.
Example: The Trump administration spent this week distributing ventilators, standing up small-business loans, dispatching hospital ships, erecting alternate care facilities, explaining virus modeling, revamping regulations to keep truckers on the road, and plastering the airwaves with information about hygiene and social distancing. Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent this week setting up a new House committee to investigate Donald Trump.
Nothing separates the shallow from the serious faster than high-stakes moments. At the federal level, Americans are seeing the serious in the White House task force briefings that provide daily updates on the government’s actions. When this is all over, we will find that the federal response was far from perfect. But we’ll also see that once the executive branch grasped the enormity of the problem, it moved with soberness, speed and a spirit of cooperation.
Mr. Trump is at the head of this operation, and while his leadership style isn’t for everyone, he’s certainly leading. He addresses the virus in stark terms but also insists on optimism—something that’s important from leaders in tough times. While punching back at some critics, he’s also reached across the aisle. He embraced Democratic calls for more-stringent corporate rules in Congress’s relief bill. Asked about the $25 million Democrats slipped in for the Kennedy Center, he defended it: “I really believe that we’ve had a very good back and forth.” He’s rushed to the aid of blue-state governors, and has praised Democratic state leaders, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, for their efforts.
And at least some of those Democratic state leaders are reciprocating, proving neither party has a monopoly on character. CNN’s Jake Tapper this week practically begged Mr. Newsom to recant his recent praise for the president, suggesting the Democrat had given it only out of fear that Mr. Trump would “punish” his state’s citizens. Mr. Newsom was having none of it. “The fact is, every time I’ve called the president he’s quickly gotten on the line,” he said. “There’s just too many Americans—40 million that live in this state—that deserve us to get together and get along.” Mr. Cuomo has taken the same approach, saying of president: “His team is on it. They’ve been responsive.” He added: “I want to say thank you.” This week he chided partisans: “Not now,” he said. “The virus doesn’t attack and kill red Americans or blue Americans—it attacks and kills all Americans.”
Contrast this with Mrs. Pelosi, who seems to view the pandemic as one big political opportunity. She held up last week’s relief bill for days, attempting to cram into it unrelated election and climate provisions. She used a Sunday CNN appearance to accuse Mr. Trump of killing Americans. This week she announced a new special House committee that will “examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus” and will have subpoena power. This is yet the latest Democratic machinery for investigating Trump and ginning up scandals.
Or contrast the governors with the guy carping from his Delaware basement. Joe Biden might have used this moment to buttress his claims to be the more dignified candidate by throwing his support behind the federal effort and making clear he’d save his policy disputes for later. He instead spread the false claim that the president had called the virus a “hoax.” Mr. Biden has bashed Mr. Trump on testing and on the use of the Defense Production Act. He’s accused the president of “failing to prepare our nation” for a pandemic (never mind the Obama-Biden role in any such failure). He even blames Mr. Trump for soaring unemployment numbers.
Or contrast the governors who are leading with the one who is using today’s crisis as an audition to be Mr. Biden’s running mate. For every Mr. Cuomo there is a Gretchen Whitmer. The Michigan Democrat has spent weeks accusing the administration of failing to have a “national strategy,” and of “cuts to the CDC” that put us “behind the eight ball.” She’s insisted “we’re still not getting what we need from the federal government,” and even insinuated the administration was directing suppliers to withhold equipment to her state—a ludicrous suggestion.
Democratic partisans are playing a risky game here. Mr. Trump is currently clocking the best approval ratings of his presidency, and a late March Gallup poll found 60% of respondents approve of his virus response. Americans have traditionally looked dimly on those who undercut presidents and other elected leaders in time of crisis. Some on the left are making it easy to separate the politicians who are fighting for their people from the politicians who are fighting for their self-interest. That may come back to haunt them in November.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you only read one article this month- maybe this year, this should be the one. What is happening in America is not about Trump, its about the progressive agenda, the liberal view of what the United States should be. And they are at the point where the ends justify the means. – mrossol
December 19, 2019. In this interview for the American Thought Leaders series, Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek talks with Victor Davis Hanson, a historian and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, about the impeachment push against President Donald Trump, the so-called deep state, and how Trump is dismantling what Hanson describes as “the progressive project.”
Jan Jekielek: On my mind lately has been this idea of the deep state.
People are saying, “The deep state is this conspiracy theory. What are you talking about?” There are other people that are happy that a deep state exists and is presumably protecting Americans. And there’s some people who even identify themselves as being members of it.
Victor Davis Hanson: Ex-CIA John McLaughlin, the interim director, and John Brennan both praised it: “Thank God for the deep state.”
Mr. Jekielek: What does “deep state” really even mean? Does it exist?
Mr. Hanson: It does exist. And the classic definition is “a state within a state.” By that, they mean that the permanent bureaucracies at the highest levels that have the levers of power, the ability to do damage to you or me—the IRS, the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, some of the top cabinet officials—they are people who transcend elections. They’re not elected. Or if they are, they participate in an administration, they revolve back and forth. They go from the State Department to the Council on Foreign Relations to the Treasury Department to high office in the CIA. But the point about it all is they have a particular loyalty as if they’re an organic entity … And they feel that when an administration comes in, they step up.
… And they never say to themselves, “I’m not elected.” The constitution says an elected president sets foreign policy. Period. So there’s this sense that they, as credential experts, have a value system, and the value system is they have an inordinate respect for an Ivy League degree or a particular alphabetic combination after their name: a J.D., a Ph.D., an MBA, or a particular resume. I worked at the NSC, then I transferred over to the NSA, and then, I went into the State Department. And we saw that in really vivid examples during the Adam Schiff impeachment inquiries, where a series of State Department people, before they could even talk, [they] said, “I’m the third generation to serve in my family. This is my resume. This is where I went to school. This is where I was posted.” And in the case of Adam Schiff, we saw these law professors, who had gone in and out of government, and they had these academic billets.
And to condense all that, it could be distilled by saying the deep state makes arguments by authority: “I’m an authority, and I have credentials, and therefore, ipse dixit, what I say matters.” And they don’t want to be cross-examined, they don’t want to have their argument in the arena of ideas and cross-examination. They think it deserves authority, and they have contempt—and I mean that literally—contempt for elected officials. [They think:] “These are buffoons in private enterprise. They are the CEO in some company; they’re some local Rotary Club member. They get elected to Congress, and then we have to school them on the international order or the rules-based order.” They have a certain lingo, a proper, sober, and judicious comportment.
So you can imagine that Donald Trump—to take a metaphor, Rodney Dangerfield out of Caddyshack—comes in as this, what they would say, stereotype buffoon and starts screaming and yelling. And he looks different. He talks different. And he has no respect for these people at all. Maybe that’s a little extreme that he doesn’t, but he surely doesn’t. And that frightens them. And then they coalesce. And I’m being literal now. Remember the anonymous Sept. 5, 2018, op-ed writer who said, “I’m here actively trying to oppose Donald Trump.” He actually said that he wanted him to leave office. Then, Admiral [William] McRaven said, “the sooner, the better.” This is a four-star admiral, retired. [He] says a year before the election … Trump should leave: “the sooner, the better.” That’s a pretty frightening idea. And when you have Mark Zaid, the lawyer for the whistleblower and also the lawyer for some of the other people involved in this—I think it’s a conspiracy—saying that one coup leads to another. … People are talking about a coup, then we have to take them at their own word.
Mr. Jekielek: You said that the greatest irony is that Trump was falsely accused by people who were actually colluding. And by pursuing largely innocent people, the special counsel team basically provided a model for the people who are actually guilty of collusion to be prosecuted?
Mr. Hanson: They did. We saw that specifically with [retired Lt. Gen.] Michael Flynn, who was picked up supposedly on an excerpt, a surveillance excerpt, targeting the Russian ambassador. But it was actually reverse-targeting him. And then he was interviewed by [former FBI agent] Peter Strzok, who felt that he was veracious. And then notes of that interview were altered by none other than [former FBI lawyer] Lisa Page. And then that was transmogrified into an indictment of him. That was sort of a projection because they had a lot of culpability. And what was that culpability? It was people like [former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations] Samantha Power requesting 260 names to be leaked. It was
James Comey going right outside of a confidential presidential conversation, writing a memo on an FBI machine, and then later using that as insurance and leaking it and then, subject to criminal exposure. Except post facto, somebody in the FBI decided, well, we have to classify those memos, whether they were just confidential or secret. If they’re secret, he committed a felony.
But who were those people who post facto adjudicated the classification? Lisa Page and Peter Strzok and a couple of others. So it was pretty damning, I think. And [it’s] the same thing we’re seeing in Ukraine. It’s the same modus operandi. [Former Vice President] Joe Biden brags to everybody … of all places, the Council on Foreign Relations, that he’s gone over there and said, “… six hours, I’m going to cut $1 billion in aid [to Ukraine].” Now, we’re not talking about lethal aid, because it didn’t exist. The Obama administration would not give Javelin missiles. They would not help Ukraine in its hour of need. That’s very important to remember that because that’s the accusation against Trump—thinking about cutting lethal aid, which had been given in their hour of need, as a felony or impeachable offense. But never even giving it is OK. But what he said is, “I’m going to cut non-lethal aid, which would be humanitarian aid, all aid, everything, unless you fire [Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor] Shokin.”
And now, the fired prosecutor has gone to an Austrian court and now he’s giving more filmed interviews, in which he says, “I was investigating Hunter Biden [Joe Biden’s son]. And I was going to cut off all resources for Burisma, and Joe Biden knew that and was sent over to get me fired.” I don’t know if that’s veracious or not, but that’s a quid pro quo. And instead of investigating that, we have this strange doctrine that because Joe Biden is now running for president, that provides him with legal immunity from even discussing what he did as a vice president. We’ve flipped it all around. We’re saying because he’s a candidate, Donald Trump tried to quid pro quo U.S. security interests for his own personal campaign. Donald Trump’s not the nominee of the Republican party [since the primaries haven’t taken place yet]. Joe Biden is not the nominee of the Democratic Party in 2020. We don’t know what the race is going to be like, but the idea that we have to give him an exemption from suspect behavior, because now, two years later, three years later, he’s running for president is absurd. And again, it’s part of this projection mentality that the best defense is an offense.
Mr. Jekielek: You have given this historical perspective you have on these sorts of scenarios, that this is what hubris and nemesis are all about. I’m wondering if you could take that same lens and put it onto impeachment? You’ve already started doing that.
Mr. Hanson: Joe Biden didn’t have to do any of that. He didn’t have to tell us at the Council on Foreign Relations that he had basically squashed an independent Ukrainian investigation by threatening to withhold aid. But his ego and his sense of self-importance and his desire to run for president in the future thought that this would be another “Corn Pop” or all these moments he has, where he brags about his masculinity and his toughness. OK. But the way nemesis works is that creates this narrative so that when people accused Donald Trump of that, they say, well, we’re basically looking at Donald Trump’s thought crime, that he considered cutting aid that he gave—that Obama did not give, lethal aid—and he delayed it. He thought about it, and then he maybe, at the worst, he thought about talking about an investigator who was never relieved.
But here’s Joe Biden, who really did do that. And he’s bragging about it, because he’s arrogant and nemesis is starting to take its toll. And the same thing was true of the Mueller investigation. Remember they said, well, [Trump] obstructed justice, we think, we sort of believe, he kind of did, but it’s not actionable because he thought about it almost in a Murder-in-the-Cathedral style. Who will relieve me of Mueller? You know, he didn’t say “go fire Mueller.” And, of course, he had the ability to do so under the Constitution. But he didn’t. He didn’t do what Richard Nixon did and fire Archibald Cox. But it was the idea that he thought about it, the idea that he thought about certain things with Ukraine, when we have other examples of people [who] actually did that. And that’s where nemesis [comes in], because they’re so emboldened.
And a good example of hubris and nemesis is Adam Schiff. So Adam Schiff gets away with leaking these lies throughout the Mueller investigation. “I know what’s going on. It’s a bombshell. You can’t believe it. Everyone is wrong.” And then he says, “I or my staff have never met with the whistleblower.” We know that was a lie. It’s a demonstrable lie. Then, he reads a caricature of the actual transcript of the phone call with Trump and the Ukrainian president. And it’s completely fantastic. It’s not factual. Then when he’s caught, he said, “Oh, that was just a parody.” So he’s becoming hubristic to a point where the ultimate nemesis is waiting for him at the opportune moment.
And the opportune moment was, next thing we know, he’s so emboldened that he starts, for the first time in the history of the U.S. Congress, to surveil the metadata of phone calls of his own ranking minority member, Devin Nunes, [and] of the president’s own lawyer and other people. And then he not only does this stealthily, but he’s so arrogant, he puts it in his report because he thinks he can get away with it. And I think nemesis is going to catch him. … You know, the wheels of the gods grind slowly, but they do grind finally. So I think finally we’re going to learn.
Mr. Jekielek: So I get the sense that you don’t think that the president is being treated very fairly in these impeachment proceedings?
Mr. Hanson: I think that people feel that for a variety of reasons—cultural, social, political—that Trump is not deserving of the respect that most presidents receive, and therefore any means necessary to get rid of him are justified. And for some, it’s the idea that he’s had neither political or military prior experience. For others, it’s his outlandish appearance, his Queens accent, as I said, his Rodney Dangerfield presence. And for others—I think this is really underestimated—he is systematically undoing the progressive agenda of Barack Obama, which remember, was supposed to be not just an eight-year regnum, but 16 years with Hillary Clinton. That would’ve reformed the court. It would have shut down fossil fuel exploration, pipelines, more regulations—well, pretty much what Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are talking about right now. That was going to happen. And so for a lot of people, they think, “Wow, if Donald Trump is elected in 2020”—and he will be, according to the fears of Representatives Al Green or [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez or Nancy Pelosi; remember, they keep saying this impeachment is about the 2020 [election]—“we’ve got to ensure the integrity.” That’s what Nadler said today.
But if Trump is elected, that would mean eventually in five more years, [we’d have a] 7–2 Supreme Court, 75 percent of the federal judiciary [would be] conservative and traditional and constructionist. … We are the world’s largest oil and gas producer and exporter, but we probably would be even bigger. And when you look at a lot of issues, such as abortion, or identity politics, or the securing of the border, or the nature of the economy or foreign policy, they think America as we know it will be—to use a phrase from Barack Obama—“fundamentally transformed.” So that’s the subtext of it. Stop this man right now before he destroys the whole progressive project—and with it, the reputation of the media. Because the media saw this happening and they said, “You know what?”—as Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times or Christiane Amanpour have said—“… you really don’t need to be disinterested.”
Trump is beyond the pale, so it’s OK to editorialize in your news coverage. And so the Shorenstein Center has reported that 90 percent of all news coverage [of Trump] is negative. So they’ve thrown their hat in the ring and said, we’re going to be part of the Democratic progressive agenda to destroy this president. But if they fail, then their reputation goes down with the progressive project. And that’s happening now. CNN is at all-time low ratings, at least the last four years. And the network news is losing audiences, and most of the major newspapers are, as well. So there’s a lot of high stakes here. And if Donald Trump survives and were to be reelected, I don’t know what would happen on the left. It would make the 2016 reaction look tame in comparison.
Mr. Jekielek: Can you outline in a broader sense what the progressive project is?
Mr. Hanson: Yeah, because I want to be clear about what I meant and not just throw out terms. So the progressive project started in the 19th century. And it took hold with Woodrow Wilson in the early ’20s, and its basic belief was that the U.S. Constitution erred on the side of liberty rather than equality. We should have been like the French Revolution, more of a fluid concept that would change with the times and use the power of government not to ensure equality of opportunity but to mandate equality of result. And therefore, there were certain things in the Constitution that prevented that project.
And we’ve changed a lot of them. We now have senators elected by direct vote and not appointed by the legislatures. The states cannot have property qualifications. Some of these were justified as archaic in the 18th-century sense.
But given those reforms, we’re still not to where we want to be. And what do I mean by that? The Supreme Court can be an obstacle. And so we need to pack the court. Now, Democratic candidates no longer see the 1937 FDR effort to pack the court as disreputable, but an honorable attempt. So they’re all endorsing [this idea of] let’s pack the court and make 15 judges, if we can’t get our guys on the court. Let’s abolish the Electoral College and all the arguments that these people with powdered wigs in the 18th century came up with. Let’s just have a direct vote and let California and New York and the Great Lakes, big cities [like] Chicago, determine the election. And why do you have to go out in a place like Wyoming or Utah? And let’s get rid of this archaic idea of two senators from Utah or from Wyoming having as much clout as two senators in California. And here, we’re speaking in California. My senator represents 20 million people. A senator in Wyoming represents 250,000. One man, one vote. Let’s get rid of it, even though it’s in the Constitution.
What I am getting at is they want to streamline the Constitution continually in an effort to make a country of radical equality; that requires certain things like this impeachment or to prune the Second Amendment. Or to say that the First Amendment does not apply here at Stanford University, because we can say, “That’s hate speech, what he said. He has no right to say hate speech. I declare that ‘hate speech,’ therefore, don’t speak.” And so the First Amendment, the Second Amendment are being pruned. Due process on college campuses … If I say that I was sexually assaulted by that person over there … I don’t have to come forward to identify myself. That person is not given constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments as he would in a criminal trial off-campus. The ACLU, they used to be the champion of free speech, is now a grassroots organizer, it says, political organizer. You don’t see any ACLU outrage [that] Adam Schiff is now going into the phone records of members of Congress, even though when the U.S. government looked in the phone records of terrorists in 2001 after 9/11, the ACLU said that was a violation of residents’ rights—not U.S. citizens, but residents.
So what I’m getting at is that the progressive project is a multifaceted effort by intellectuals, academics, foundations, progressive members of the Democratic Party to change, formally, the Constitution and to change the mindset of the American people, so that we can make people all the same by the powers of government. We see what’s going on. We’ve seen it in Cuba, we’ve seen it in Russia, we’ve seen it in Venezuela, we’ve seen it in China. And we’ve seen a soft benign form in Europe.
And the United States is really the only major country in the world that says, “You know what, that process inevitably leads to an Orwellian totalitarian state, and it crushes liberty and individual freedom, and we’re not going to do it here.” That’s why we have a Bill of Rights and a Constitution.
Mr. Jekielek: I think a question on a lot of people’s minds is how can they get through this idea that they’re bigots and have serious problems?
Mr. Hanson: At this late day, passive defense does not work. And by that, I mean, if you sit there—and I have family that disagree with me myself, my siblings are Bernie and Clinton supporters—and wait for all of these accusations to be made against you, and then you think that in sober and judicious terms, you’re going to refute them, it’s not going to work. So what you have to do is, when somebody—you can be reactive in the sense that you don’t want to go out and force altercations or unpleasant moments—but when somebody starts in on that, you don’t want to say, “I’m not a racist.” You want to say, “Anytime that you adjudicate what a person thinks, or you categorize a person by his color or his religion or her gender, that is racist and it’s sexist, and we’re not. I’m not going to take it anymore.”
I don’t want to suggest that if a person is dark or white or Chinese or whatever term it is, I don’t want to live like that. And you do and you’re projecting your own racism upon me because you have a real problem. You can’t be empirical. Or when somebody talks about, “Well, you want to build a wall, you’re a nativist.” You say to them, “I don’t have a wall around my house. You have a wall around your house.” Barbra Streisand has a wall around her house. Mark Zuckerberg has a wall around his house. My children are in public schools; where are Elizabeth Warren’s children? They’re not in public schools. So this whole progressive idea in some ways is projection: “I want to live around elite people. I want to make a lot of money. I want to live in a nice neighborhood. I want to have a lot of servants, and I feel real guilty. So then, I project racism, homophobic, nativism, protectionism, all of these ‘-isms’ on you.”
And I’m not going to take it anymore. And so that’s what I try to do. When people talk to me in this area, especially, because we’re in Silicon Valley, I always say to them, “Did you put your children in public schools?” I put all three of mine in public schools. “Do you live in a racially diverse neighborhood?” Ninety percent of my neighbors are Hispanic. “Do you have a sanctuary around you? Do you have private guards? Do you have bodyguards?” I don’t. “Do you have a large bank account?” All of these things that you suggest are toxic actually are a psychological mechanism to protect [yourself]. And I’m not exaggerating. Just look at … the Democratic Party [field] right now. Elizabeth Warren wrote a book about how to flip houses and profit. She put her kids in private school. She lives in one of the most tony neighborhoods in Boston: Cambridge. She’s a multimillionaire. And she parlayed a fake ethnic identity in the most cynical fashion to take a spot from somebody else to become a Harvard law professor. Without that Native American identity, she wouldn’t have been a Harvard professor. Bernie Sanders owns three homes. He’s a multimillionaire. Joe Biden is a multimillionaire …
[Senator] Cory Booker is now saying you guys are all racist because no black people are on the [debate] stage. And then what are the white people saying? They’re saying, “Well, wait a minute. It was a free poll and fundraising is free. And if you really like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker … black people and white people should vote for them to get higher in the polls. Our only crime is we’re beating them.” And then we, watching this, said, “No, no, no. You’re guilty under your own ideologies of disparate impact.” Because, according to your own philosophy, if the proportions of a particular profession are not reflective of the actual numbers in the population, and even if racism doesn’t exist, it does exist. It’s implicit. Therefore, there’s six people on that stage, they’re all white, [then] somebody is racist. Why do we know that? Because you told us that.
And that’s what happens in these revolutionary movements. Yesterday’s revolutionary is today’s counterrevolutionary, and tomorrow’s enemy of the people. And they get into that Jacobin phase and that’s what happened to the Democratic Party. Now, nobody can be pure enough. And what happened? They’re all white, elite, wealthy people on this stage, and they stand convicted by the hypocrisies of their own ideologies that they impose on all the rest of us. And we get to watch it. It’s theater to see this in action.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
“American Thought Leaders” is an Epoch Times show available on Facebook, YouTube, and the Epoch Times website.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.Follow Jan on Twitter: @JanJekielek
This is almost unreal. To think the Democrats actually think the Constitution is worth consideration. If you don’t see the hypocrisy please give me a call. (419-349-1406)
One satisfying feature of the impeachment drama is the outbreak among Democrats of enthusiasm for the Constitution. What a refreshing change from years past, when every time a conservative raised a constitutional point, the liberals would roll their eyes and complain that the right was trying to “weaponize” the national parchment. The left seemed to detest the Constitution and the white male nationalists who wrote it.
This attitude came to a head in 2011, after the Republicans won control of the House and decided to open the 112th Congress by reading the Constitution aloud on the floor. What a fracas broke out. The New York Times called it “a ghastly waste of time.” Ezra Klein, now editor at large of Vox, said on TV that the parchment “is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago.” It was ironic. Liberals, after all, had won some of their greatest causes by wielding the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. School desegregation, free speech, restrictions on public prayer, the right to abortion— these were among the liberal causes won by wrestling on the bedrock of the American constitution.
Never mind all that. Salon headlined a piece, “Let’s stop pretending the Constitution is sacred,” and illustrated it with a photo of a protest sign: “I Believe in the Constitution. I’m a ‘Right-Wing Extremist.’ ” The Daily Kos later called the reading the “most boring circus ever.”
What a difference a decade makes. Today you can’t open your browser without seeing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her camarilla kvelling about the Constitution. The first thing the House Judiciary Committee did was trot out four law professors to talk about not only the Constitution but—wait for it—the Founding Fathers’ original intent.
The impeachment effort has Pelosi and even leftist law professors touting the Founding Fathers’ intent.
Then Mrs. Pelosi marched up to a podium and instructed the Democratic caucus to go ahead and impeach President Trump. “When crafting the Constitution,” she said, “the Founders feared the return of a monarchy in America and, having just fought a war of independence, they specifically feared the prospect of a king-president corrupted by foreign influence.” Madison, she said, feared “that a president might betray his trust to foreign powers.”
She hauled in that old rascal Gouverneur Morris, the constitutional wordsmith. Morris feared, she said, that a president might be “bribed” to “betray his trust” and emphasized that “the people are the king.” She inadvertently likened Mr. Trump to George Washington, who was also accused of kingly airs.
She rattled on about George Mason, who “insisted that a president who procured his appointment in his first instance through improper and corrupt acts might repeat his guilt and return to power” and during the debate over impeachment asked: “Shall any man be above justice?” The speaker actually spoke of Mason, a major slaveholder, as acting “in his great wisdom.”
Mr. Trump’s wrongdoing, Mrs. Pelosi averred, “strikes at the very heart of our Constitution: a separation of powers, three coequal branches, each a check and balance on the other.” She may not have proffered any evidence, but it was nice to hear her quoting the Constitution in Republican terms. The Democrats have come a long way.
Mr. Lipsky is editor of The New York Sun.
Hearings were hardly necessary to show that Donald Trump, in all too characteristic a fashion, took interest in his administration’s Ukraine policy only when he saw a chance to lard on Ukrainian announcements that he could throw back in the face of domestic critics who questioned his 2016 legitimacy.
So why does Adam Schiff feel the need to stretch every truth beyond the breaking point in a House Intelligence Committee impeachment report released this week?
A media transcript plainly shows that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was not referring to a Ukraine quid pro quo when he said politics will influence foreign policy and that critics should “get over it.” Ambassador Gordon Sondland merely “presumed” that Mr. Trump sought a quid pro quo from Ukraine. Why falsely characterize these men’s statements, as the Schiff report does, when doing so is unnecessary to convince anyone that Mr. Trump nevertheless envisioned a quid pro quo?
Mr. Schiff claims Mr. Trump delayed “critical military aid” to Ukraine, but offers no evidence that the aid was critical. (The missiles discussed in Mr. Trump’s supposedly incriminating call with Ukraine’s president were not even part of the holdup.) He insists Mr. Trump’s dealings undermined U.S. national interests, but a president is perfectly entitled to differ with Mr. Schiff over what constitutes the national interest. With a casualness you expect only from the media, he relies heavily on the fallacy that wishing to examine Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election is tantamount to denying Russian meddling.
Mr. Schiff must gild the few lilies in his possession to distract from a glaring omission in his own proceedings. “Fact witnesses” were called to discuss whether there was a quid pro quo, but none were called to give evidence on whether the “quos” Mr. Trump sought from Ukraine were unfounded or illegal.
Don’t underestimate this sign of Mr. Schiff’s disingenuousness. However much the media lies about it now, a Ukrainian official allied with the then-Poroshenko government spoke openly to the Financial Times in 2016 of his work to ensure Mr. Trump’s defeat. Ditto the Bidens: Mr. Trump may be barking up the wrong tree in some ways, but Joe Biden is not just Mr. Trump’s present-day “political rival.” He is a former vice president who, when tasked to help clean up corruption in Ukraine, allowed his unqualified, drug-addict son to receive a lucrative board seat at a Ukrainian company under investigation for corruption.
These are subjects whose illegitimacy must be proved, not just assumed. And yet missing from the final report is any evidence that broaching them with the Ukrainians amounted to the crimes of bribery, extortion or campaign-law violation that Mr. Schiff once told us it did.
Instead, Mr. Schiff insinuates a motive he’s not prepared to state clearly, one designed as much to rescue his own reputation as slur Mr. Trump’s. This is his report’s reference to Mr. Trump as a president “elected in 2016 with the benefit of an unprecedented and sweeping campaign of election interference undertaken by Russia in his favor.”
In fact, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society painstakingly examined the social-media evidence and found Russia’s impact on the election to be trivial. More to the point, the authors concluded: “If the biggest win for Russian information operations is to disorient American political communications, then overstating the impact of those efforts actually helps consolidate their success.”
Bingo. Mr. Schiff may not be a Russian agent but he qualifies as a Kremlin asset in the sense that Hillary Clinton has been known to use the term. Example: Nothing in Mr. Trump’s words and actions, and nothing in the testimony of any witness, supported the claim with which Mr. Schiff began his hearings, that Mr. Trump asked Ukraine to “make up dirt, lots of it” on the Bidens.
Is this not the kind of shameless twisting of the facts the Kremlin’s own propagandists use to sow discord and bitterness? Mr. Schiff later fibbed and said he was engaging in “parody,” but anybody can listen to his remarks and hear him insisting his rendition is the accurate “essence” of Mr. Trump’s “rambling” presentation.
Which raises a question. Festooning their impeachment case with lies and innuendo of the sort Mr. Schiff specialized in during the collusion fiasco is hardly a way for Democrats to win over the noncommitted. Indeed, why allow someone so discredited with Trump voters and Middle America to be the face of this effort in the first place? Answer: Because we’re having this impeachment for no other reason than to appease the House left and save Nancy Pelosi’s speakership when and if Donald Trump is re-elected.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.