Notes on “a domestic political errand”

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Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Europe and Russia testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Nov. 21, 2019. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Europe and Russia testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Nov. 21, 2019. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(The following originally appeared over the last two weeks in the Daily Current newsletter, which you can sign up for here).

Nov. 14, the morning after the opening day of televised hearings, in which the committee heard testimony from Ambassador William Taylor and State Department official George Kent:

Yesterday’s publicly broadcast impeachment hearings (hey, finally get to write that) reminded me of the theme that ran through the initial whistleblower report. The Ukraine shenans weren’t just some madcap side deal Trump and Giuliani cooked up because they are connivers and all connivers do is connive, while some grown-up, responsible and broader Ukraine policy was going on in the reality-based world. No. The extortion racket was the centerpiece, the focus, the top priority of America’s Ukraine policy. Taylor’s eloquent description of the stakes, in which he invoked the post-World War II order, laid bare the calamitous nature of Trump’s scam.

Another takeaway: There is media analysis out there saying the hearing was not razzle-dazzle enough, because of course there is, and while I find it disgusting and feel a little sorry for the people whose paths have brought them to the place where they feel compelled, or ordered, to write those things, I also must say I rather think they are wrong. OK I’m old, but even younger folks might be able to relate. Remember when you were a kid and maybe you had an image of what an ambassador would be… temperament, erudition, character, patriotism. Shut up, I said when you were a kid! Jeesh. Anyway, watching Taylor and Kent made me nostalgic for a time when even if you disagreed with government policy, you at least assumed the people who were carrying it out were typically competent and qualified for their jobs, that is, entirely unlike everyone in Trump’s orbit.

One last observette on yesterday… It was the first day, and I sincerely wonder if Republicans going forward will add anything substantive to their defense of Trump, or if we’ve seen effectively all they’ve got. Because presumably the Democrats are just getting started.

Nov. 18, the morning after testimony from career diplomat Marie Yovanovitch, who was smeared by Trump while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Yovanovitch’s superior, did nothing to defend her:

Don’t be this guy. Among the many instances of spineless and deplorable behavior exhibited by Trump and his cult officers, apparatchiks and pretend-lawmakers during the impeachment proceedings, there’s this: Silent, cowardly acquiescence from Pompeo as competent, principled professionals who work for him are publicly trashed by the thug president. How tragic and demoralizing it must be for everyone in the State Department, from seasoned lifers to wide-eyed young idealists, to know they work for a morally bankrupt hack who has no honor and will never, ever have their back.

Nov. 21, the morning after testimony from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland:

Gordon Sondland is an annoying man. New York Rep. Sean Maloney is taking a little heat for bellowing “There we go, that wasn’t so hard,” after browbeating Sondland into saying, well, yeah, Trump’s the one who benefits from the Ukraine shakedown. Sondland got all snooty, as is his custom, presumably. But as Maloney put it, “we respect your candor, but let’s be really clear what it took to get it out of you.” It was the dressing down Sondland deserved. (I’m imagining committee Democrats prior to the hearing, asking Schiff who gets to give Sondland the bidness. Wouldn’t be surprised if they drew straws). Sondland is an arrogant, privileged boor. In other words … the perfect person to look Trump bootlickers Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes in the eye while not only throwing their beloved dear leader (and about a third or so of his cabinet) under the bus, but then driving the bus back and forth a few times.

Nov. 22, the morning after testimony from Russia expert and former National Security Council official Fiona Hill.

Fiona Hill: “In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.” Seriously, if you have not watched it yet, Fiona Hill’s opening statement from yesterday’s impeachment hearing is must-see TV. No one expects Senate Republicans to put their country ahead of Trump’s interest. But the impeachment hearings, and Hill’s testimony in particular, lays bare not just the moral bankruptcy of Trump and his minions who ran the venal, destructive Ukraine idiocy, but also the moral bankruptcy and revolting cynicism of congressional Republicans and their apologists and enablers. History will not be kind. Assuming there is any. As an aside, Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over an impeachment trial in the Senate, and you have to wonder what must be going through his noggin these days.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.