Trump sup­port­ers are cling­ing to un­rea­son­able doubts

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHANGE OF SUBJECT - By Eric Zorn eric­[email protected] Twit­ter @Eric­Zorn

I’ve re­lated this old joke be­fore, but the time seems right for a retelling.

A man who sus­pected his wife was hav­ing an af­fair hired a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor to fol­low her around.

“Here’s what I saw,” the gumshoe re­ported sev­eral days later. “On the night she told you she was out with her girl­friends, she was ac­tu­ally at a dimly lit restau­rant hav­ing din­ner with a man. I tailed them to a bar where they got sloppy drunk and slow danced for about an hour. Af­ter that, I fol­lowed them to a mo­tel and saw them go into a room to­gether. Then the man pulled the cur­tains closed and the lights went out.” The hus­band shook his head. “Al­ways the el­e­ment of doubt,” he sighed.

It’s the same blink­ered ex­pres­sion we’re hear­ing these days from stal­wart de­fend­ers of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Did Trump at­tempt to use the power of his of­fice to co­erce lead­ers of an al­lied for­eign coun­try to dig up dirt on one of his do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal ri­vals?

I mean, yes, sure, his ad­min­is­tra­tion later cited fears of cor­rup­tion for putting a hold on nearly $400 mil­lion in con­gres­sion­ally ap­proved mil­i­tary aid for Ukraine, even though Trump has oth­er­wise shown lit­tle in­ter­est in fight­ing cor­rup­tion and even though the De­fense Depart­ment cer­ti­fied in May that Ukraine’s anti-cor­rup­tion ef­forts had met U.S. stan­dards for for­eign aid.

And yes, sure, that aid was fi­nally re­leased just two days af­ter news broke in Septem­ber that a whistle­blower was rais­ing alarms about White House at­tempts to pres­sure Ukraine into launch­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But that could be an eerie co­in­ci­dence on top of some mis­un­der­stand­ings.

Al­ways the el­e­ment of doubt.

And yes, sure, mul­ti­ple non­par­ti­san wit­nesses at the U.S. House im­peach­ment hear­ings tes­ti­fied that Trump’s min­ions re­peat­edly pres­sured Ukrainian lead­ers to at least an­nounce that they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble il­le­gal­i­ties re­lated to Joe Bi­den’s son and the Ukrainian en­ergy com­pany that hired him. Such an an­nounce­ment was a pre­req­ui­site, they said, for Trump to grant a White House meet­ing with Ukraine’s new pres­i­dent, Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy.

But it could be that the wit­nesses were ly­ing or were sim­ply con­fused when they claimed that Trump’s il­licit in­ten­tions were widely known in his in­ner cir­cle. Af­ter all, none of those who tes­ti­fied claimed to have heard Trump say di­rectly, “Squeeze the Ukraini­ans un­til they agree to help my re­elec­tion ef­fort,” so maybe they were just spec­u­lat­ing.

Al­ways the el­e­ment of doubt.

And yes, sure, those who pre­sum­ably did speak di­rectly to Trump about Ukraine and would be in a po­si­tion to of­fer ex­cul­pa­tory tes­ti­mony — such con­fi­dants as for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton, White House act­ing chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil lawyer John Eisen­berg, En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney Rudy Gi­u­liani — are re­fus­ing to tes­tify. And Repub­li­can mem­bers of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee have re­fused to call on these men to ap­pear, and have failed to pro­duce even one wit­ness to swear un­der oath to Trump’s in­no­cent and salu­tary in­ten­tions.

But that could be … well, I don’t know. It could be that the mys­tery man in the joke above is the wife’s long-lost brother.

Al­ways the el­e­ment of doubt.

In the real world, there is no longer any rea­son­able doubt that Trump abused his power by or­ches­trat­ing a plot to ex­tort Ukraine for his per­sonal po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage. History will mock those who are still claim­ing or hop­ing oth­er­wise.

He did it. The only real ques­tion now is whether this of­fense, on top of Trump’s other ob­struc­tions and trans­gres­sions, is grave enough to re­move him from of­fice. Is it right — is it even safe — to have a venge­ful, dis­hon­est as­pir­ing tyrant lead­ing our coun­try for 14 more months, at min­i­mum?

I have no doubt of my an­swer. What’s yours?

Bill and Wendy sign­ing off, for now

Ra­dio’s a tough business, and I un­der­stand why sta­tion bosses have to fire on-air per­son­al­i­ties from time to time as they strive for higher rat­ings and greater ad rev­enue.

What I don’t un­der­stand, though, is why they so sel­dom give ousted per­son­al­i­ties the chance to say good­bye and thanks to their lis­ten­ers.

Af­ter all, suc­cess in ra­dio is based on build­ing and main­tain­ing con­nec­tions be­tween hosts and the au­di­ence. At their best, these con­nec­tions come to feel per­sonal, al­most like a friend­ship.

So it’s a be­trayal of the lis­ten­ers when man­age­ment sev­ers those con­nec­tions with­out no­tice. If they’re afraid of pro­fane rants or boss bash­ing from ter­mi­nated hosts — not un­heard of! — they could record and edit farewell mes­sages be­fore airing them. Lis­ten­ers would feel re­spected.

The rea­son I bring this up is that on Wed­nes­day news talk sta­tion WGN-AM 720 fired its mid­morn­ing team of Bill Leff and Wendy Sny­der, and I want to give them a chance to ad­dress their au­di­ence one last time.

There’s a bit of quid pro quo at work here, I ad­mit. For the six years they were to­gether at the sta­tion, Leff and Sny­der in­vited me into their stu­dio each week for a half-hour seg­ment to talk with them and their au­di­ence about the news, my columns, my fam­ily or what­ever else was on my mind.

So I of­fered them a lit­tle Tribune real es­tate here as a re­turn fa­vor. Here’s what they wrote:

“We have lived a dream. We have stood in front of mi­cro­phones and spo­ken our minds. We have talked about life in Amer­ica’s great­est city, in­ter­viewed the fa­mous and the not-so-fa­mous, ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment in our sports teams, ex­am­ined the in­tri­ca­cies and foibles of the hu­man con­di­tion and made fun of our­selves and each other, glo­ri­ously.

“All of this at the leg­endary WGN-AM in Chicago, the crown jewel of talk ra­dio, the sta­tion we hated when our par­ents forced it on us as kids, the sta­tion we made fun of as teenagers, and the sta­tion we learned to re­spect as we re­al­ized why it’s been so good for so long — be­cause the peo­ple there cared.

“A very im­por­tant thank you needs to go out to our lis­ten­ers. We can’t tell you how much we ap­pre­ci­ate you be­ing there with us, and let­ting us be hon­est and real and have fun. Don’t worry, this story isn’t over.

“Bill & Wendy.”

Re: Tweets

The win­ner of this week’s reader poll to select the fun­ni­est tweet was “Life is too short to hold grudges, so go get your re­venge and move on,” by writer/ ac­tor Tim Sei­dell (@bad­banana).

The poll ap­pears at chicagotri­, and you can re­ceive an alert when it’s posted by sign­ing up for the Change of Sub­ject email news­let­ter at chicagotri­­let­ters.


Repub­li­can Rep. Jim Jor­dan, right, lis­tens to tes­ti­mony dur­ing an im­peach­ment hear­ing on Nov. 21.

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