The author writes a blog titled “The Last Zwerd.” He lives in Carpinteria.
Some have opined that the Democrats’ case for impeachment was clearer and more compelling before rather than after the recent House impeachment hearings, and that a vote should have been taken immediately after President Trump released a transcript of his telephone call to the Ukrainian president. Early polls seem to support this contention, as the percentage of voters supporting impeachment has declined as compared to a month ago.
But, even for the doubters, there were some benefits gained by holding hearings. For those who believe more government legislation and regulation is bad for the country, public hearings with many TV cameras always draw the attention and energy of Congress away from advancing and voting on bills before it. For those who enjoy the ongoing irony of so much of politics, a public hearing inevitably brings forward posturing, speechmaking to witnesses rather and questioning them, harumphing and hypocrisy.
Democrats and liberal pundits regularly chastised Mr. Trump for jeopardizing Ukrainian and U.S. security by delaying the transfer of weapons to a country fighting for its survival against the Russians. Mr. Trump, under duress, perhaps, did provide lethal aid, including Javelin missiles. By contrast, then President Obama did not delay but refused to supply any lethal aid. While there was some support among Democrats for increasing lethal aid to Ukraine, there was little or no criticism of Mr. Obama for failing during his entire term to do so and, certainly, few, if any, endlessly repeated accusations by Democrats about Mr. Obama jeopardizing national security.
Democrats and the media loudly proclaimed about Mr. Trump ignoring and bypassing seasoned and expert diplomats and relying on his own and a chosen adviser to make foreign policy decisions, as if this were a rare practice among presidents.
Perhaps they didn’t see the irony in failing to note that one of the most important foreign policy actions of the past 50 years, the opening to China, was taken outside diplomatic channels by Henry Kissinger, the president’s key adviser, who conducted the negotiations without State Department involvement.
In a Los Angeles Times obituary for William Rogers, the Secretary of State at the time, it was noted that he (Rogers) “was “totally in the dark” about the critical meetings. Secretary Rogers also knew nothing about Dr. Kissinger’s peace negotiations with North Vietnam.
Career diplomats called to testify, and their foreign service colleagues, were described as having the dedication of Mother Teresa, the steely courage of Muhammad Ali and the diplomatic skill of George Marshall, whose Marshall Plan is credited with the restoration of Europe and its saving from Russian communism after World War II. These unsung people are responsible for conceiving, advising on and executing the foreign policy of the United States.
Failed to be noted was that much of foreign policy for the last 30 years has not been very successful and, in some cases, a miserable failure. Russia has once again become a formidable adversary; China is challenging for world leadership; the Palestinian problem is not resolved; Iran continues to threaten the Mideast; and Europe is weaker.
Not all these problems resulted strictly from foreign policy decisions, though some did. Delay and appeasement allowed North Korea to develop nuclear weapons; the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya destabilized the country; inaction/poor action turned Syria over to Russia and Iran; allowing the Iraqi army to dissolve and failing to use mid-level Ba’athists to assist in running the Iraqi economy turned victory in war to defeat in peace, and led to the rise of al-Qaeda.
Perhaps none of the dedicated foreign service officials had any role in all of this. But if they didn’t, what were they actually doing during heir illustrious 30-year careers?
Conductor of the hearings, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), provided rich moments for irony lovers. He lionized former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, praising her skill and courage, and then asked how she felt about being fired as if she were a guest on Oprah instead of someone who is supposedly capable of mixing it up with Vladimir Putin. Mr. Schiff asked her if she were intimidated by a nasty tweet sent by Mr. Trump during her testimony. Of course, Ms. Yovanovitch would not have known about the tweet during her testimony unless the congressman had interrupted her to read the tweet to her. Ironic that Mr. Schiff, for some reason, seemed to be turning hard steel into mushy oatmeal.
Mr. Schiff and his colleagues were mulling over with the sympathetic in the media the possibility of adding obstruction of Congress to the litany of charges against Mr. Trump, who was accused of failure to recognize the Separation of Power doctrine in the Constitution and the proper role of Congress. The specific charge was that the president would not allow his key aides to give the inside scoop of what really happened with respect to aid to Ukraine.
While Mr. Trump may have his own selfish reasons to prevent testimony, he nonetheless has the responsibility of protecting the role of the presidency. Ironically, by demanding that Mr. Trump waive executive privilege, Mr. Schiff is demanding that the president violate a principle that the Supreme Court has determined derives directly from the Separation of Power doctrine.
Pundits have opined that if the House votes for impeachment, it will be DOA in the Senate. Fortunately, irony will live.