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Fateful phone call

For Democrats, President Donald Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky could not have come at a better time. After a number of mistakes in the summer, Trump was beginning to recover. Helped mostly by the economy, his approval numbers began to rise from 38% to 45%. Indeed, Republicans seemed so comfortable that several states began to shut down caucuses and primaries to assure no dissent at their convention in 2020. But, there came the revelation of the phone call with Zelensky.

Now, the Republicans will claim that it is all the Democrats’ fault — an attempt to get Trump. But partially, the GOP bears responsibility by trying to impose a foreign policy on Trump and failing that by attempting to sabotage any new ideas he might have on the subject. Ukraine has been a mess since 2014, it is a disfunctional state where corruption is common. When Trump tried to open avenues to Vladimir Putin, the GOP foreign policy elites quickly moved to quash any initiatives. Trump now, like Paul Manafort, was ensnared in the Kievan world of quid pro quo.

The manipulators such as Lindsey Graham, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton tried to maneuver Trump into taking a hard line against Russia. So they tolerated some of his views, but accepted none. Trump for reasons not exactly clear tried to give lip service to their views while trying to undercut their policies. He approved sending lethal aid and then slowed up the delivery of anti-tank missiles. Then Trump made a bad error, he pressed Zelensky for dirt on Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Without knowing it, he managed to make Democrats and his so-called allies happy.

Unless anyone really believes that Republicans like Graham, who described Trump in bitter terms in 2016, became reconciled in 2017, the president has no friends in the GOP. They have used him for tax cuts, Supreme Court judges and the like. On issues like immigration and foreign affairs, they have mostly given him lip service. There is no wall with Mexico paying for it and there have been no foreign policy breakthroughs. GOP handlers have treated Trump as a child with very bad manners indeed.

With the whistleblower’s report, it will be harder for the Republicans to weasel out of this mess. At every level, their schemes have been exposed. Ukraine, far from being a democratic stronghold, is shown to be what it is — a plutocracy that has elections from time to time. Their new president seemed bewildered in New York when Trump gave him sound advice to get together with Putin and begin to resolve some disputes. But Trump is in trouble, largely because his own bureaucracy has turned against him.

But the problem with the GOP is how to weaken Trump without removing him. It is still hard to imagine that GOP senators will vote to remove him from office. But one never knows what’s behind the curtain, another revelation or political bombshell may be there.

It is fitting the impeachment business has come to a head over Ukraine. It began with an Obama-led coup and perhaps will end with the impeachment and conviction of a president. Both parties have had a hand in it — whether or not they take responsibility remains to be seen.

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