Moody Monday Reads: Bluesy NewsPosted: September 23, 2019
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
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So, how bad is it when the WSJ editorial page questions the judgment of a Republican President running a right wing agenda? Well, not a complete criticism but they do have these things to say which is as close to criticism that I’ve ever read when forced to look at the alt right Op Eds there. There’s a heavy dose of bothsiderism here.
Mr. Trump acknowledges that he asked Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden as part of his effort to clean up corruption. More on Mr. Biden later, but Mr. Trump’s request showed bad judgment. He was trying to draw a foreign leader into the middle of American presidential politics, which can only lead to political trouble. We learned that from the Russia fiasco of 2016.
The request to Mr. Zelensky is worse if it came with a threat to cut off U.S. military aid. Mr. Trump and others say there was no quid pro quo request. But we know the Trump Administration delayed U.S. aid to Ukraine in early July for unexplained reasons. The U.S. released the aid later after bipartisan criticism of the delay. Mr. Zelensky surely understood the potential risk of not complying with Mr. Trump’s request even if Mr. Trump wasn’t explicit.
What we know of the call underscores Mr. Trump’s greatest flaw as President, which is his political narcissism. Every decision boils down to how it affects him or his re-election prospects. Other Presidents have made similar calculations, but Mr. Trump lacks the basic filter to know when he is crossing a line that creates trouble for himself or the country.
There is this depressing list of Democratic Party attacks, which basically says the same thing they always say; but they do end with this, which should be rhetorical at best. I’d like to hear their damned answer.
Americans will have to add all this to their judgment in 2020 about whether Mr. Trump or his fanatical opponents are the bigger risk to American well-being.
Well, they should recognize their daily fanatical diatribes but you know, pots always call kettles black. But, that’s the media these days and the Trumpist Regime seems to have them all hornswoggled. This analysis is by Jonathan Chait writing for New York Magazine: “How the Media Helped Trump Carry Out His Ukraine Smear.”
Even at the the time, and especially in retrospect, it was an example of extremely bizarre journalistic judgment. One of the biggest presidential scandals in history had been dropped into the Times’ lap, and it relegated the news to a subplot to its main story of vague insinuations against Biden. The reporter, Ken Vogel, was too wrapped up in trying to nail the story he set out cover to notice that the actions of his sources, rather than the information they were promoting, was the real story.
The strange saga of the Times scoop also suggests something more disturbing: that Trump has hacked into the mainstream media’s ethics and turned them to his advantage. What’s more, even now that his conduct has been exposed, Trump’s gambit that he could abuse his power to discredit an opponent may yet succeed.
he alleged Biden scandal that the Times was attempting to plumb has been conclusively debunked. Biden’s call for firing a notoriously ineffectual Ukrainian prosecutor was in line with the stance not only of the Obama administration but the IMF, the World Bank, Western allies, and good-government types of all sorts. What’s more, the case against the Ukrainian firm that employed Hunter Biden had been dormant before the prosecutor’s firing.
Trump has presented his demands that Ukraine investigate Biden as high-minded opposition to “corruption.” This turns reality on its head. Biden was pushing Ukraine to root out corruption, and Trump and Giuliani are working hand in hand with the most corrupt elements in the Ukrainian polity — the actors who secretly hired Paul Manafort to elect pro-Russian kleptocrats. Trump, meanwhile, has displayed a notable indifference to foreign corruption. He has publicly disparaged the federal law preventing American businesses from bribing foreign officials, and enforcement of the law has plummeted under his administration. Trump is personally collecting large, undisclosed sums from domestic and foreign sources with a keen interest in currying his administration’s favor. And while it’s true that Hunter Biden was trading on his father’s name, all the Trump children are doing the same, and it barely attracts any attention given all the other scandals blotting it out.
The notion that Trump was legitimately interested in rooting out corruption in Ukraine is a transparent farce. Even if he’d somehow developed a genuine interest in tamping down corruption — an interest that runs counter to his entire business career and functioning as president — his handing off the task to Giuliani exposes the ruse. There are actual diplomatic channels that can be used to encourage foreign countries to investigate legitimate crimes. The president’s personal lawyer is not one of them.
And yet the Times’ willingness to lend credence to Giuliani’s smear campaign is hardly unique. Vogel this weekend called Hunter Biden’s history “a significant liability for Joe Biden.” A Washington Post headline noted, “Scrutiny over Trump’s Ukraine Scandal May Also Complicate Biden’s Campaign.”
This headline alone should be sending chills down the spines of all of our allies: “Giuliani Says He Can’t Guarantee That Trump Didn’t Threaten Ukraine Aid” writes Caitlin Weber for Bloomberg News.
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani didn’t rule out the possibility that the president threatened to cut off aid to Ukraine over calls for an investigation into largely discredited allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
Giuliani first said in response to a question on Fox Business Monday that Trump didn’t threaten Ukraine aid, but then added he “can’t say for 100%.”
Trump appeared to acknowledge on Sunday that he had discussed Biden — the 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner — in a July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that is the subject of a congressional investigation.
The episode is a preview of the kind of 2020 campaign the country will face if Biden becomes the Democratic nominee.
It’s also an effort by Trump to brush Biden with scandal and damage him as a potential general-election opponent. While Biden’s lead in Democratic primary polls has shrunk, he still leads on the question of which candidate could beat Trump next fall.
The New Yorker calls the entire ordeal a “mounting scandal”. This is in an era where scandals are more common than acts of human decency. Here’s more on the background on “bother sides” of course.
It is well known in Washington that Trump has held a residual animus toward Ukraine dating back to the 2016 campaign, when the publication of a so-called black ledger of illegal payments, made under the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, helped bring about criminal charges against Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort. (In March, Manafort was found guilty of failing to pay taxes on payments that he had received for his work as a consultant in Ukraine.) Now it seemed like Trump was raising the stakes further, asking the country’s President to open an investigation into unproven allegations against Biden and thereby lend credence to them.
That is an unwelcome, and potentially dangerous, scenario for any Ukrainian President, given the degree to which Ukraine relies on American diplomatic, economic, and military assistance. It is not just the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual aid that Kiev depends on but also American loan guarantees, economic sanctions against Russia, and diplomatic involvement in negotiating an end to the war in the Donbass. With that conflict continuing to boil, American military training and weaponry remains vital to Ukraine’s military. In 2018, the Trump Administration agreed to supply the country with anti-tank Javelin missiles.
Ending up as the open antagonist of an American President is not really an option for a Ukrainian leader. Since he took office, in May, Zelensky has made relations with the Trump Administration a priority. A forty-one-year-old comedian who played Ukraine’s President on television before entering politics, Zelensky and his advisers hoped to organize a personal meeting as soon as possible, and thought a bilateral summit in Washington might happen by the end of the summer. The fact that no such meeting materialized was the first sign that things were off to an uneasy start with Trump. The second came last month, when Trump personally held up two hundred and fifty million dollars in American aid for Ukraine and released it only under the threat of an embarrassing vote in the Senate that would have forced him to do so.
A decisive sticking point appears to be Trump’s political interest in resurfacing old allegations connected to the business dealings of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, in Ukraine. In April, 2014, Hunter accepted a lucrative seat on the board of Burisma, one of Ukraine’s largest natural-gas producers, a decision that Hunter said he made without consulting his father. (Biden and Hunter had an informal arrangement that predated Hunter’s work with Burisma and was designed to insulate Biden from questions about his son’s private dealings: Biden wouldn’t ask Hunter about his business activities, and Hunter wouldn’t tell his father about them.)
At the time, Biden was the point person in the Obama Administration for Ukraine policy, and later, in 2016, he pressed the government of the President at the time, Petro Poroshenko, to dismiss its general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was seen as covering up for corrupt officials and failing to pursue high-profile graft investigations. (A 2016 story for this magazine about a pair of young Ukrainian lawmakers touched on the Shokin affair.)
To pressure Poroshenko into removing Shokin, the Obama Administration withheld a billion dollars in loan guarantees. (Ukrainians began calling Shokin “the billion-dollar man.”) In 2016, a senior official in the Obama White House said in an interview that Biden spoke to Poroshenko by phone every few weeks and communicated to him that, as far as additional loan guarantees were concerned, “You can meet every single other condition, but until you replace this guy you are not getting this money.”
Yet there is no evidence that Biden’s insistence had anything to do with his son or with Burisma—Shokin was not pursuing a Burisma-related case at the time, and thus his firing didn’t affect Hunter Biden’s legal prospects in Ukraine one way or another. Instead, it was almost certainly a reflection of Shokin’s terrible reputation among Ukrainian reformers, anti-corruption activists, and Western partners, including officials at the E.U. and I.M.F.
This however, is the bottom line from Josha Yaffa’s reporting.
It’s clear that Zelensky and his team would like to stay as far away from this story as possible: if there’s a major scandal looming, it’s an American one, not a Ukrainian one, and standing too close to the blast wave when the scandal explodes will only hurt them. Zelensky came to office as a political outsider with the mandate to disrupt Ukraine’s entrenched political order, and getting caught up in an American political scandal would be distracting at best, disastrous at worst. He needs U.S. aid, not to mention diplomatic backing, if he is to have any chance of ending the war with Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country. Ending up at the center of a political fight, let alone U.S. congressional investigations, does little to advance those interests.
The whole story must be a dispiriting one for Ukraine. Zelensky, like previous Ukrainian Presidents, put great hopes on his personal relationship with his American counterpart, though it turned out that Trump was not so interested in Zelensky and his agenda; he was interested in his own agenda. If Trump did indeed try to link the promise of American aid to Ukraine to his own political goals, that would represent a remarkable about-face for the American-Ukrainian relationship. Across successive administrations in both countries, U.S. policy emphasized the importance of the rule of law and sought to minimize the politicization of the Ukrainian judicial system, which had, time and again, been used as an instrument of retribution or political expediency by Ukrainian Presidents.
So, Ukraine is a target for White Nationalist Terrorism from the US. Read this latest.
I’m not completely sure how much white male fragility and bunker mentality the world can take. We have tremendous challenges ahead in the US with gun violence and abroad with Climate Change. Here’s David Leonhardt’s opinion at the NYT. It’s more like the list I’ve been begging folks to send to Nancy Pelosi.
Sometimes it’s worth stepping back to look at the full picture.
He has pressured a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 American presidential election.
He urged a foreign country to intervene in the 2016 presidential election.
He divulged classified information to foreign officials.
He publicly undermined American intelligence agents while standing next to a hostile foreign autocrat.
He hired a national security adviser who he knew had secretly worked as a foreign lobbyist.
He encourages foreign leaders to enrich him and his family by staying at his hotels.
He lied to the American people about his company’s business dealings in Russia.
He tells new lies virtually every week — about the economy, voter fraud, even the weather.
He spends hours on end watching television and days on end staying at resorts.
He often declines to read briefing books or perform other basic functions of a president’s job.
He has aides, as well as members of his own party in Congress, who mock him behind his back as unfit for office.
He has repeatedly denigrated a deceased United States senator who was a war hero.
He insulted a Gold Star family — the survivors of American troops killed in action.
He described a former first lady, not long after she died, as “nasty.”
He described white supremacists as “some very fine people.”
He told four women of color, all citizens and members of Congress, to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
He made a joke about Pocahontas during a ceremony honoring Native American World War II veterans.
He launched his political career by falsely claiming that the first black president was not really American.
He launched his presidential campaign by describing Mexicans as “rapists.”
He has described women, variously, as “a dog,” “a pig” and “horseface,” as well as “bleeding badly from a facelift” and having “blood coming out of her wherever.”
He has been accused of sexual assault or misconduct by multiple women.
He enthusiastically campaigned for a Senate candidate who was accused of molesting multiple teenage girls.
He waved around his arms, while giving a speech, to ridicule a physically disabled person.
He has encouraged his supporters to commit violence against his political opponents.
He has called for his opponents and critics to be investigated and jailed.
He uses a phrase popular with dictators — “the enemy of the people” — to describe journalists.
and there’s a lot more if you follow the links. Cut and paste this to your Senators and Representatives the entire list there at that link. Then, add only this: It’s time to Impeach this motherfucker! Too much is at stake to let him kill everything he touchs.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?