Stand back from the media circus and there are three points that are not being made, clearly enough, or prominently enough about the whistleblower’s report alleging that Donald Trump linked military aid to Ukraine to his own personal political advantage.
- It’s wrong to ask if the Democrats’ prospects for 2020 are endangered by launching a formal impeachment inquiry.
If one has to ask the question, then that means there isn’t enough reason to start an impeachment inquiry. In actual fact, the phone call between Mr Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi falls into the ethics and principles category – if it isn’t something anyone should do (a Congressman, a Senator, the president of the US), then it’s wrong. If it’s wrong, that means it’s against the law. And if it’s against the law, there should be punishment. The only punishment available is impeachment, which may or may not happen. Ie, may be, enough Democrats won’t ultimately be persuaded by the results of the inquiry, and won’t support a motion for impeachment in the House). May be the House votes to impeach but the trial won’t even get started in the Senate. In that case, Mr Trump would be impeached but not removed. There are other scenarios possible: he could be not impeached and not removed. Or he could be impeached and removed. Whatever the outcome, Democrats can’t play politics with this issue. To my mind, there is a sense of almost grieving gravitas about them right now. They don’t seem triumphal so much as troubled.
- Whatever happens, the “Biden Ukraine” narrative for 2020 sounds just as unpalatable as the “Clinton emails” refrain from 2016.
Joe Biden has many sterling qualities but perhaps the one that would serve him best right now is the wisdom that comes with age. He shouldn’t run. Even though he hasn’t done anything wrong, Mr Biden has been in public life too long to not be vulnerable to attack. And let’s face it, his son Hunter Biden was undoubtedly unwise to be involved in a shady Ukrainian energy firm, which probably only took him on because he was politically well-connected.
- The phone call between Mr Trump (all smiley and inflexible) and Mr Zelensky (oleaginous, anxious to please) tells the wider world a lot (if it didn’t already know it).
By that I mean, many countries have already engaged with Mr Trump or his administration, and got the measure of the man, his greed, ego, and disdain for rules, rights and responsibilities. So they already know about the conditions Mr Trump or his administration might set – on a whim, or for some other dark reason. However, if they haven’t had it happen to them, they will now be on their guard. Around the world, minds will be concentrated when reading notes on a phone call in which Mr Trump basically links US aid to an ally to the speed and efficiency with which the ally investigates his domestic US political rival. According to Lindsay Newman of Chatham House, this is, “as far as is known, untested territory”. It potentially leaves foreign governments in a precarious position and “raises the question of whether allies, already weary of a disruptive Trump administration foreign policy, will look to strengthen ties to other powers such as China and, to a lesser extent, Russia.”