By Will Holland '20
There is only one recourse to President Trump’s Ukranian Misadventure: his removal.
Donald Trump is not just a bad President, he is a terrible excuse for a human being. No matter how foolishly he has conducted himself as leader of the free world, the President’s most obvious flaw is his inability to display some of the most basic of human emotions, including civility, empathy, and restraint.
This is a man so obsessed with himself that he produced a fake weather map to support his false claim that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama. This is a man so sensitive to criticism that after veteran political journalist Cokie Roberts passed away, the first thing the President said was that she had “never treated him nicely.” This is a man so proud of his own decision-making that he attacked sixteen year old climate activist Greta Thurnberg over Twitter with a snarkiness and contempt for decency not befitting an immature high school freshman.
All this took place within the past few weeks. Under any other administration, any one of them would have dominated the headlines for months. They point to a Commander-in-Chief whose irascible temperament and lack of discipline make him fundamentally unfit for the job.
But, in the Trump era, nothing ever sticks. One outrageous and beyond-the-pale comment is soon to be replaced by another, and another, and another. This cycle of insanity has desensitized the media, and the nation at large, to a disturbing situation in the Oval Office. Almost everyone can see that the country is run by a madman who has shed advisors like a Siberian husky sheds hair in summertime, but almost nobody can say what should be done about it. After all, none of the President’s divisive and appealing behavior has actually been illegal.
The same passivity can not be applied to the current scandal involving Ukraine. For those not up to date, the story goes as follows.
Ukraine is an ally to the United States and Europe against the Russian threat. The country is still recovering from the turmoil left by the ousting of Russian-backed Victor Yanikuyich from the presidency in 2014. Currently, Ukraine is fighting a war against two Russian-backed seperatist states in the eastern part of the country. For the past five years, the United States has supplied Ukraine with military aid to fend off Russian aggression.
In the waning days of the Obama administration, Vice President Joe Biden called for the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Victor Shokin. Mr. Shokin had been accused by many Western heads of state of holding back corruption investigations into some of Ukraine’s most powerful individuals, one of whom was the natural gas titan Mykola Zlochevsky. Mr. Zlochevsky’s company, Burisma Holdings, had among its board members none other than Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter.
Since then, the right has seized on Mr. Biden’s public call for Shokin’s firing as evidence that he was trying to protect his family from foreign prosecution. Of course, like most right-wing “theories” these days, such an assertion fails to take into account the reality of the situation. In fact, Mr. Shokin had delayed the investigation into Burmisa and his successor, Yuriy Lutsenko, pursued corruption cases more vigorously.
Nevertheless, the President’s perpetual paranoia, along with his advisors’ acquiescence to his every demand, has furthered the belief that Ukraine has incriminating information against his most likely 2020 presidential rival, Joe Biden. With the aid to Ukraine mysteriously put on hold this summer, President Trump called newly elected Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelenksy and asked him repeatedly to look into the business dealings of Hunter Biden. What is worse: he only made his request after mentioning how much money the United States had already provided to the endangered European nation, obviously implying a quid pro quo that most congressional Republicans have not defended.
When it comes to the presidency of Donald Trump, there has been a time for everything. There was a time for ridicule and a time for laughter. There was a time for concern and a time for shock. There was a time for disbelief and a time for dismay. We have watched helplessly as the office of the Presidency has been destroyed by a failed casino magnate, with tweets replacing press statements and lies supplating truths. Our trust in the Constitution, and by extent our trust in each other, is at its lowest point in the modern era.
And now, there is a new time. The leading cause of our disunity is quite clearly in violation of his sworn oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The transcript that the White House released clearly shows the President Trump extorting President Zelensky for damaging information about his political rival. Putting aside the fact that no such information exists, the president’s mere insinuation for the leader of a foreign power “to do him a favor” is unlike any presidential action in the nation’s history. It undermines our national security for purely political purposes. It damages the nation’s integrity and compromises our standing on the world stage. It is an affront to everything the United States has ever stood or fought for in the post-WWII war world.
For such an action, there is only one recourse, and it is found in Article I of the Constitution. Congress now has the opportunity, and the obligation, to show that some conduct is indeed unacceptable and unbefitting the highest office in the land. It has the duty to say that we are still a nation of laws, founded on the premise that no man or woman is above the law. Any other determination would so damage the concept of checks and balances that this instance may be only the first of many egregious actions from the Executive Branch.
Thus, let the facts be presented and the truth uncovered. Let nobody be spared the weight of the law. Let this be a time to impeach.