When Mike met Bill

The Korea Times - - OPINION - By Martin Schram Martin Schram ([email protected]), an op-ed colum­nist for Tri­bune News Ser­vice, is a vet­eran Wash­ing­ton jour­nal­ist, au­thor and TV doc­u­men­tary ex­ec­u­tive. His com­men­tary was dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, LLC.

Once-proud and now shell­shocked Repub­li­cans are des­per­ately seek­ing a way to res­ur­rect the soul of their once-Grand Old Party. A fine start­ing place for those who want to recharge their souls, is to re­flect upon a feel­good mo­ment that oc­curred on May 28, at a meet­ing of two pa­tri­otic, aca­dem­i­cally ac­com­plished West Point­ers, Mike and Bill.

Mike, who fin­ished first in his Army acad­emy class, was in his spa­cious Wash­ing­ton of­fice, be­seech­ing Bill, who grad­u­ated in the top 1 per­cent and went on to a dis­tin­guished ca­reer of mil­i­tary and na­tional ser­vice, to re-up.

Take one more tour — serve your coun­try once more, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo im­plored Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s for­mer am­bas­sador to Ukraine, Bill Tay­lor. Mike con­vinced Bill to re­turn for an­other hitch as Amer­ica’s top diplo­mat in Kiev, where a new pres­i­dent’s gov­ern­ment was be­ing threat­ened by Rus­sian troops fo­ment­ing re­volt.

Five months later, Bill found him­self fight­ing per­haps his most ar­du­ous bat­tle — one he never ex­pected to wage. He was half­way around the world from Ukraine, way be­neath Wash­ing­ton’s Capi­tol dome — three floors below ground level, in a su­per se­cure room called a “skiff ” (that’s gov-speak for Sen­si­tive Com­part­mented In­for­ma­tion Fa­cil­ity).

In an ex­tra­or­di­nary day­long con­gres­sional hear­ing, Am­bas­sador Tay­lor found him­self fight­ing to de­fend the United States Con­sti­tu­tion. A metic­u­lous note-taker, Tay­lor de­tailed for House im­peach­ment probers ev­i­dence that could pro­vide the ba­sis for a vote to im­peach Amer­ica’s 45th pres­i­dent.

Amer­ica’s top diplo­mat in Ukraine re­vealed a string of de­tails mak­ing clear that Pres­i­dent Trump this year had re­peat­edly sought to de­mand that Ukraine’s new pres­i­dent, Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy, should launch a gov­ern­men­tal probe to un­cover pos­si­ble dirt on Trump’s then­front-run­ning Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial op­po­nent in 2020, Joe Bi­den, and also to probe a much-dis­cred­ited Amer­i­can rightwing po­lit­i­cal con­spir­acy the­ory that there was a Ukraine connection to Rus­sia’s cy­ber-sab­o­tage of the U.S. 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Tay­lor gave stun­ningly de­tailed tes­ti­mony of meet­ings, texts and other com­mu­ni­ca­tions through­out the sum­mer and au­tumn. It’s his tale of how he dis­cov­ered that Trump had ac­tu­ally held up con­gres­sion­ally ap­proved mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to mil­i­tar­ily threat­ened Ukraine and de­layed ap­prov­ing a meet­ing with Ukraine’s pres­i­dent un­til he agreed to in­ves­ti­gate Democrats.

Tay­lor also dis­cov­ered that

Trump pres­sured Ze­len­skiy to pub­licly an­nounce he was start­ing those probes be­fore re­leas­ing the vi­tal mil­i­tary funds.

Trump’s White House Press Sec­re­tary Stephanie Gr­isham, who rarely speaks in pub­lic, said, “This is a co­or­di­nated smear cam­paign from far-left law­mak­ers and rad­i­cal un­elected bu­reau­crats wag­ing war on the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

If Wash­ing­ton’s most sin­cere and pa­tri­otic Repub­li­cans have any hope of sav­ing their shat­ter­ing party from its worst in­stincts, they can start by tak­ing a stand by re­buk­ing Trump’s White House for dar­ing to re­fer to Tay­lor, a Vietnam vet­eran hand-picked by their Repub­li­can sec­re­tary of state, as a “rad­i­cal un­elected bu­reau­crat wag­ing war on the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

Repub­li­cans, as well as Democrats, know it is against the law — and of course can be an im­peach­able of­fense — for pres­i­dents (or any of­fi­cials) to at­tempt to use fed­eral aid funds as a way of ob­tain­ing any­thing of po­lit­i­cal value.

If Demo­cratic Pres­i­dents Carter, Clin­ton or Obama had done pre­cisely what Trump did, Repub­li­cans would have de­nounced it as “a shake­down” — and im­peach­ment hear­ings would be al­ready un­der­way.

That’s why cap­i­tal Repub­li­cans were pri­vately fu­ri­ous when Trump’s act­ing chief of staff, Mick Mul­vaney, told re­porters (be­fore he un­suc­cess­fully tried to un­say what he said): “And that’s why we held up the money … We do that all the time. … Get over it.”

Get over it? Tay­lor isn’t likely to get over an in­ci­dent that hap­pened the day after Trump’s now-in­fa­mous July 25 phone call with the new Ukraine pres­i­dent. Tay­lor kept a long-stand­ing ap­point­ment to meet with Ukraine’s mil­i­tary com­man­der at the front-line in north­ern Don­bas. Tay­lor had learned Trump had put a hold on the mil­i­tary aid funds Ukraine’s troops des­per­ately needed.

“Ar­riv­ing for the brief­ing in the mil­i­tary head­quar­ters, the com­man­der thanked us for se­cu­rity as­sis­tance,” Tay­lor said in his House hear­ing open­ing statement, which was made pub­lic, “but I was aware that this as­sis­tance was on hold, which made me un­com­fort­able.

“… I could see the armed and hos­tile Rus­sian-led forces on the other side of the dam­aged bridge across the line of con­tact … More Ukraini­ans would un­doubt­edly die with­out the U.S. as­sis­tance.”

Trump’s im­peach­ment now ap­pears prob­a­ble, if not in­evitable. Repub­li­cans need to get over their fear of the leader who failed them — and get about res­ur­rect­ing the shat­tered val­ues that once made their Old Party grand.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Korea, Republic

© PressReader. All rights reserved.