WOW. I’m tempted to end it there, maybe with a dozen more of them, followed by a few paragraphs of exclamation points as our country, at least those of us watching and absorbing the awful spectacle unfolding in front of our eyes and ears, takes its collective breath and returns, yet again, to the awful question facing us: Can the sordidness and corruption coursing through every vein of Donald Trump’s misbegotten presidency possibly get any worse, and possibly offer any more clear and compelling evidence for why he is so manifestly, perfectly unfit to be the kind of leader we need and deserve?
As clearly devoted and decent as Deputy Secretary George Kent and Ambassador William Taylor showed themselves to be on Wednesday in exposing the multiple ways President Trump has undermined American interests in pursuing Ukrainian assistance in bringing down Joe Biden, it remained for Taylor’s predecessor, the deposed Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, to give searing, heart-rending voice to just how deeply the president’s actions in Ukraine cut into all that has historically bound and reflected us as a nation.
The beacon that we have been, the power for good we have projected, the hands we have offered, the stability we have ensured through times dark and devastating, flawed though it sometimes has been as the humans we are: All of it gone to flame in the Donald Trump era.
Nothing exposed this more than the exquisite, measured testimony of Yovanovitch, even as the president continued, during her testimony, his ill-fated attempts to besmirch her reputation via his favorite bludgeon of Twitter.
One grasps for adequate descriptors that apply to the rot at the heart of this administration, and the half-formed human who is leading it and our country to the very edge of despotism and ruin. But it is perhaps only through Messrs. Taylor and Kent, and most assuredly Ms. Yovanovitch, and the unremitting decency they individually and collectively project, that we can boil the matter down to just that word:
Is Donald Trump even remotely a decent human being?
And does every nation not need and deserve at least that as a fundamental bedrock of leadership, upon which we can weather the storms that come with every human collective and its competing visions for the common good?
I will not catalog here the mountain of indecent, by any measure, utterances and actions that suggest Donald Trump does not pass that elementary test of leadership. Forget the policies, whatever complaints he and fellow conservatives may have about liberal overreach and the nanny state, whatever positions they may hold on how best to fire up an economy or deal with China or forgive (or not) student debt. Etcetera.
On all these matters and much more, differences of opinion are the engine that begets the incremental change our Founders designed to result, over time, in a better, more just society, not easily given to the whims of temporal desires and events. But those differences must exist among people of more or less equal commitment to goodwill, common courtesy and sincere exchange.
Over and over, Donald Trump has shown himself to lack even a vestige of those qualities. Yes, I disagree with most all his policies, but that is not and has never been the fundamental problem underlying the Trump presidency. It is not his policies but his person, his comportment, his basic lack of human decency as he tears to shreds, in the most personal, vicious terms, all who would oppose him, that sends the destructive message it does to virtually the entire world.
It is that comportment, that enfeebled personhood, that was held up to clear light this week as we beheld what its opposite looks like in the testimony of three surpassingly decent government servants. The contrast could not have been greater.
May God help us as we weather all that still lies ahead.
As Ms. Yovanovitch suggested from a completely different context yesterday: sometimes words fail. And by sheer grace if nothing else, music stands always at the ready to fill the void…
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Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
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Tree and park photos by Andrew Hidas https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/
Andrew, WOW! That is a bit better than just cobbling together a few thoughts. You are correct that Trump is the evil personification of several of Dante’s rings and the perpetrator of all that we have been viewing this week. And we can certainly get back closer to our perceived ideal with somebody far better suited driving the ship. But someone had to put him there and numerous factions, not the least of which is the US Senate, have allowed him to perpetrate much of this crime at the highest levels. The elephant in the room for me is still that in spite of your near Jeffersonian evaluation of the situation and the ideal precepts under which we think we operate, a very large cohort of the proverbial “American Public” does not appear to agree with you. And in spite of the litany of examples of high crimes and misdemeanors that keep coming out, the national polls on the impeachment, although currently above 50%, are anything but overwhelming given the evidence. We live in a time, not just in the US, of growing sexism, antisemitism, general xenophobia, homophobia and racism. I may have missed a few but point taken.
Trump is both a symptom and a cause. Sure, getting rid of him would be a huge improvement but let us not delude ourselves into thinking that just getting rid of him will change the fact that a substantial number of our fellow countrymen are in lockstep with his thinking and policies and public statements. Even if he goes away, they are not going away and although the political situation, by all rights, should be better, it will not be this idealistic sea change that many Democrats and the far left think is going to happen just by getting rid of Trump.
As always dear Drew, you are the voice of our hearts, our minds, and our souls. How can we hope to stand against all this, except together?
We miss you here, but are proud and pleased that wherever you are, you speak so well for us.
One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. History awaits.
We’ve had some awful Presidents, but he has to be the worst ever, right? Right? Have we ever had a more venal president who also devotes himself to destroying the environment while loading the next generation with record debt?
Oh, by the way, I read blogs to AVOID the news.
No. Donald Trump is not even remotely a decent human being.
“enfeebled personhood indeed” – spot on my friend… love your comments Bruce, to be sure we have lots of healing to do, however divisions and strident disagreements are encoded in our national DNA.
The courage of the career diplomats, FBI/CIA staffers etc give me hope that the considerable damage done by the raging narcissist in the White House will be temporary and serve as a clear reminder of what evil is possible when power & greed runs amok… Fortunately the health of our institutions runs deep and appears to be strong enough to see us through this national “dark night of the soul”…
I would like to contribute here some more positive reflections from watching these proceedings (in addition to being overwhelmingly appalled and saddened).
Andrew, you wrote at the end of the blog about the “three surpassingly decent government servants” who spoke this week; I agree with your assessment. I was profoundly heartened by their sober and calm demeanor, their obvious intelligence and their comprehension of the situation, and their serious commitment and dedication to their work. They were surpassingly professional, beyond comparison to anything we have witnessed in this administration. It was inspiring to hear their honest and plain-spoken answers, even when being heckled and intimidated by Republican representatives. I have not felt inspired in so long and had practically forgotten how it could feel.
Further encouragement for me comes from the realization that the infrastructure that supports the selection and training of such individuals and the system by which they operate across the globe is a remarkable institution. It is far from perfect, but we do have firm protocol, professional comportment and personal commitment that protects US interests and global security. It is unconscionable that these individuals not be supported in their work, that they be asked to betray themselves and us, that these institutions and individuals are at the mercy of corruption and greed from OUR OWN GOVERNMENT.
As a child of the ‘60s and ‘70s I find myself at a new and amazing juncture to be in admiration and defense of the State Department. While their boss (Pompeo) and their boss’s boss (Trump) clearly do not have their back, I would clearly like to voice my admiration and support for the service and the testimony of Kent, Taylor and Yovanovitch.
Yes, words fail sometimes, but let’s try: thank you.
Bruce, yes, there is that nettlesome fact of Trump’s entrenched army of “Sure, Go Right Ahead and Shoot Someone on Fifth Avenue” supporters, and the cultural and political history of recent decades that left them feeling disenfranchised enough to buy in lock, stock & barrel with a malicious conman. We will have to reckon with that underlying cause whether Trump as the symptom is gone or not, though I also tend to think that just the change in tone from Trump to pretty much anyone in the Republican firmament (with the exception of Jim Jordan) would be a huge improvement. Thanks for this reminder, though, and your always insightful commentary.
Thank you too, Annie, for holding up the banner of hope. Talk about an essential nutrient…
Loren: Right! There have been bad presidents, but never overtly destructive and unrelentingly malicious ones; Trump truly does take that poisonous cake. As for your reading blogs to avoid the news, all I can say is: Thanks for reading this one! I began this blog nearly seven years ago with no intention of writing about politics, but in the runup to 2016, the state of our country seemed so alarming that it felt somehow irresponsible to ignore it completely. Regrettable, but necessary, if only for myself.
Amy: there is always a place in this Comments section for a short declarative sentence that Says It All. Thanks for filling that place!
Kevin and Mary, you both speak eloquently, with your words attached naturally to Annie’s hope, that our institutions, deeply ingrained as they are via the enduring brilliance of our Founders, may yet save us. Which makes Trump’s and his minions’ attacks on them all the more dangerous, of course. Trying times, these, but all the more reason to summon our own better angels and bring them to an ever more robust defense of our cherished institutions and their protocols.
Drew, aren’t you being a little too harsh on our “Build America Great” president? This is the man who had the foresight to choose Scott Pruitt as EPA chief. It takes guts to pick someone who called himself a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” to head that agency. Why does the left continue to claim that climate change is a non-issue compared to coal production? America, wake up! And why is there such an uproar over Roger Stone, who was convicted on seven counts just because he lied to Congress? I think they don’t like his “Nixon” tattoo. To me, it shows loyalty. The socialist Democrats and their friends who disparage Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education don’t understand that books damage our national psyche and pride. Finally, regarding this “witch hunt” impeachment, it’s a joke. CIA director Sean Hannity’s insightful view that the Ukraine, not Russia, interfered with our 2016 election and Secretary of State Giuliani’s close association with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, only support President Trump’s justifiable removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch. Get over it!
Robert, you should start paying attention to tryouts for Late Night scriptwriters; you may have one more career in you, pal…
The most troubling element of this mess to me is the number of people who continue to support this flamboyantly indecent, amoral person; especially Congressional Republicans. We are in the midst of a fight to preserve the Constitution and rule of law, and elected Republicans continue to support lawlessness and authoritarianism, along with implicit support for monsters such as Putin, Dutuerte, Erdogan, et al. Fox News continues to nudge those reluctant (or unable) to think critically and see the destruction around them. I’m with Mary in feeling heartened by State Department folks who have courageously served and are now testifying for the sake of truth and our future. Pompeo? Barr? They are nearly Trump’s equal, and perhaps worse. One can only hope that, in the end, truth and justice will prevail. In the meantime, we all need strategies to maintain health and sanity. For me, I recognize the need to cut back on Twitter and Facebook fights; no matter the feeling of release they give for venting in the moment.
Congressional Republicans and pretty much the entire party seem to be a lost cause at this point. The few Republican centrists left are wandering in the forest, partyless, most of them ready, from my reading, to vote for almost any Dem (with the likely exception of Warren & Bernie). Other Republicans have made their deal with the devil, knowing how odious, unbalanced and incompetent Trump is, but are so wedded to their pet issues of packing the courts with arch-conservative nominees and strangling government that they will abide Trump’s atrocities as long as it takes. It will take next year’s elections to change that, if voter outrage is sufficient to mobilize high turnout from our end.
Meanwhile, I hear ya on the unease with social media fights. I hesitate myself to even bring politics into this blog, as I mentioned above to Loren, and have several times now sworn off FB politics discussion altogether. Then those sayings about remaining silent in the face of oppression begin to haunt me, and I think back to the price people have paid for freedom: Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, so many others, enduring prison, torture, so much more—and I can’t say a few words on the media we have at our fingertips for fear of someone saying a cross word to me?
And yet, one is left with: Can any good come out of such engagement? I’m not at all sure. Mostly I engage in it to bring items to the attention of those on the same side of the fence as I am, and if someone responds negatively, I try to engage (with pretty mixed results, I must say…).
Perhaps social media serves an important function in simply keeping our own people’s spirits up, particularly given that we are the ones out of power and enduring the atrocity-a-minute pace of the Trump administration?
First, wishing you well in your new home, and surviving harsh weather. Still warm here, and windy again, PG&E warning of outage.
Yeah, the GOP are lost. We, who see what they do not, or accept the deterioration of honesty and civility without blinking an eye, still perplexes me. Then, I saw “The Family” on Netflix,” from the book. Humm?
Ahhhh yes, Marianne: the Mob. Truly, it has come to this, which is about as dispiriting as it can get, I think. I’ll have to steel myself and dare to take a peek at it, just as I do the morning paper, the phone alerts, the incoming emails, in all fear and trembling about the latest assaults on democracy, civility, decency.
Appreciate your good wishes. Fall weather here is lovely, actually, and I look forward to the few winter snows we tend to get. Quite magical, long as it’s not a blizzard. Summer is what concerns me, but I’m hoping to be elsewhere through the worst of it. Hope to see you when I’m back in SoCo in a few weeks!
Providing some measure of comfort to those of like mind that we are in this together is a valuable tool, to be sure, and I have taken to private messaging on FB to achieve that end while not inflaming some family and friends not of like mind with my views. With regard to Republicans; can it be that they do not see the threat to the Constitution and to rule of law? Am I, are we, that off-base in seeing the existential threat before us, while elected officials continue to march us to the edge?
I think I go back to the German people here, the vast majority of them likely “very good people” indeed, who fell under the spell of an even more malevolent and wilier despot than Trump can even dream of being, going woefully, in many cases willfully blind to what was going on around them, their eyes off the ball and focused elsewhere. Spellbound by propaganda, nostalgia, falsehoods, misdirection, scapegoating, all the tools in a despot’s kit. Often, it is only in hindsight that we see what has been going on around us in plain view. I think this era will fascinate historians for a long time to come, though I would gladly settle for a lot less fascination in exchange for a modicum of decency and truth.
This whole impeachment process, especially when it gets to the Senate, reminds of a Woody Allen joke.
Mitch McConnell walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, “Doc, our President’s crazy. He thinks he’s a jock strap.”
The psychiatrist says, “Make an appointment out front. Maybe I can help him.”
McConnell pauses and then says, “I can’t do that. I need his support!”
This is the way I see life. If you get too close to one’s balls, you start to smell.