|Smirking GOP Rep. Jm Jordan - who is also accused of |
ignoring sexual abuse of student athletes.
This week's impeachment inquiry hearings, especially the testimony of Trump appointee Gordon Sondland has not been good news for Der Trumpenführer, who has increasingly been revealed to operate no differently than crime boss. But Trump is not the one to have been exposed as morally deficit. The revelations have involved Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney and others in the bribery scheme hatched to advance Trump's re-election campaign by slandering a potential political rival. Even further, based on their behavior to date, Congressional Republicans have been exposed to care more about power and tribal loyalty than they care about the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution and ethical behavior. Michael Gerson, a former Republican like myself - I left the GOP far earlier having sense the growing moral rot - has a column in the Washington Post that looks at the moral degradation of the GOP that is now on open display. One can only hope that the majority of the public is watching and will savage GOP candidates in 2020. Here are column highlights:
“Secretary [Rick] Perry, Ambassador [Kurt] Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the United States. . . . We followed the president’s orders. . . . Everyone was in the loop.”
With these words, Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, did his country the favor of candor and clarity. This does not mean that elected Republicans will yield to reason and evidence. But it does change conditions on the ground in significant ways.
First, President Trump can no longer employ his go-to method of damage control — throwing subordinates beneath the presidential limousine. Trump, according to Sondland’s testimony, personally directed the Ukraine squeeze. And if underlings are to be sacrificed, they would have to be underlings of the highest order. According to Sondland, Vice President Pence was informed of the extortion attempt and said nothing.
Both acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were closely involved in the effort. Trump would not hesitate to fire all three men if it would put him one point higher in the polls. But shedding your vice president, your chief of staff and your secretary of state is not a strategy of containment; it would be the complete collapse of the executive branch into recrimination and chaos.
The impeachment investigation has gained additional fuel by uncovering broad complicity at the highest levels of government. Some stories, such as the involvement of Attorney General William P. Barr, are yet to be fully told. . . . Is it really plausible that the most politicized attorney general of recent memory was an innocent bystander in these events?
Congress now has every reason and right to hear directly from Barr, Pence, Mulvaney and Pompeo, given their implication in public corruption. And their refusal to testify compounds their apparent corruption with cowardice.
Second, we have once again seen evidence of Trump’s mobster mentality. The president surrounds himself with a bodyguard of rotters — fixers who are willing to do his dirty work based on hints delivered with all the subtlety of a silent film actor. Any leader who would depend on Rudy Giuliani, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone for service and counsel is not a bad judge of character; he is a good judge of useful knaves. . . . But at the top of those lines Trump has placed people such as Mulvaney, Barr, Pence and Pompeo, who are morally neutered. In a perverse form of political Darwinism, leaders in the executive branch have been selected for traits of turpitude and tractability. It is the survival of the unscrupulous.
Third, the Sondland testimony — along with the testimony of other witnesses — has stripped away the last, semi-rational arguments advanced by Republican defenders of [Trump]
the president.No quid pro quo? No longer tenable. Secondhand hearsay? Not anymore. A “deep-state” plot? Tell that to Vindman and Taylor. The president as anti-corruption crusader? Give me a break.
None of this is likely to change the minds of most elected Republicans on impeachment itself. It does, however, place their motivations out in the open. In the face of serious charges against [Trump]
the president, Republicans have no exculpatory evidence to offer. Their true appeal — their only appeal — is tribal. . . . . Republicans would certainly support impeachment for a Democratic president who sought foreign help in rigging an American presidential election, particularly in a manner that strengthened an international rival. But no matter. . . . . The only thing that matters in the end? Using power to keep power.
Some, such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), are surrendering their integrity eagerly, almost happily. Other Republicans will want to appear more reluctant. But anyone who puts power above truth and character is doing a nasty disservice to their country. And it won’t be forgotten.