Terry H. Schwadron
Feb. 3, 2020
Let’s see. Donald Trump has got everything he wanted.
He ran a game on Ukraine, and is sure of acquittal of any impeachment wrongdoing in the Senate. He has permanently arranged to ignore Congressional calls for giving up any information without long court proceedings that can be appealed and put off until the issue at hand fades.
And, he’s managed to put Joe Biden on the public inspection stage for bad behavior instead of himself.
It’s a pretty good haul for Trump.
How’s it working now?
So far as I can tell, the general public reaction to Biden is not as Trump had expected. There seems plenty less than desirable about Biden — his age and his penchant for dated references, his near-habitual gaffes, his insistence on such centrist thinking as to appear less than progressive in his policies.
But aside from a vaguely fuzzy unhappiness that he as vice president, with international responsibilities particularly in Europe, did not intervene to tell his son that taking a no-show job with the board of Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, was unwise, there seems little price to pay. Indeed, legalisms aside, we can all agree that the move certainly looked as if the people behind Burisma were trying to gain something — influence, money, business — from an association with the vice president’s son.
Now, regardless of the complicated outcome in the Iowa caucuses today, Biden finds himself both a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president and a promised target for more Senate Republican inquiry from the likes of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC.
Has highlighting any suggestion of wrong-doing five or six years ago had an ill effect on Biden’s credibility on the campaign trail? None or very little, so far as I can see.
If anything, the public image of Donald Trump standing on his hind legs and baying at the moon over “corruption” by the Bidens while he plies an administration that treats truth as disposable trash, that has an array of industry advocates throwing out business oversight regulations, that has had a half-dozen Cabinet members forced to leave for personal corruption issues, and that has given important national security tasks to his own family members in violation of security credentialing, to say nothing of advancing their own business interests, is laughable.
Whatever else, the impeachment hearings and testimony showed that the intricacies and depth of Trump’s rogue campaign to pressure the Ukrainian president into announcing formal investigations against the Bidens had been turned up to 11 on the volume dial. While the whistleblower’s report of untoward doings upset the original plan to withhold military aid and a White House meeting until the Ukrainians agreed to publicly announce, if not pursue, an investigation, Trump got what he wanted through a full airing in the impeachment hearing weeks since September.
It is impossible for American voters not to have heard that Hunter Biden was offered this job in the Ukraine on virtually no special skills while then-Vice President Joe Biden was calling for the removal of a corrupt prosecutor who had investigated Burisma. The fact that nothing in all this proved a legal problem in the Ukraine or the United States is not part of the Trump presentation.
But none of this seems to be having a substantial effect on the presidential campaign.
Under the reasoning of Trump’s impeachment lawyers, the general thrust was first that there was no campaign to pressure the Ukrainians. That gave way to the idea that there was inappropriate bad behavior by Trump that did not rise to the level of impeachment. Along the way, we got legal arguments from Trump’s lawyers that a president cannot be impeached for seeking information from foreign countries about an opponent, that virtually nothing “abusive” but not directly illegal could be held against a president in an impeachment trial and that refusing to share information from Congress by citing blanket executive privilege-like shields is perfectly okay.
In that respect, I’m waiting to hear Trump say that, in retrospect, Hillary Clinton’s campaign did nothing wrong by receiving dossiers about Trump through third parties from an overseas former spy; previously, of course, Trump had wanted to ”Lock her up.” After all, whatever she did was in the “public interest” of the election campaign, to say nothing of the fact that it was the third party who had received information from Christopher Steele, a Briton, for information about how the Russians viewed Trump.
In any event, the Republican-majority Senate has narrowly shut down the legal remedies prescribed in the Constitution for presidential bad behavior. All that remains ahead are out-and-out political ramifications about what will prove to be a continuous drip of information about the Trump plot.
So long as Republicans so fully loyal to Trump to ignore fact, as they have done in this impeachment process, remain in the Senate majority, we will continue to hear about the Bidens — even if people don’t seem to care.