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The Trumpists’ Attempts at Snark Define Their Day: Impeachment Day Three

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Monday AM. Trump says he might consider testifying in writing. I’m not sure how that is testifying and it seems that it’s just a way for Trump to try and control the conversation. More delightful news involved a newly released poll that says 58% of voters between 18 and 30 years of age want Trump impeached and removed from office. At least the youngsters don’t have their heads where the sun don’t shine. Soon after this news comes a story that Trump is being investigated for lying to Congress in the written testimony he provided to the Mueller investigators. It’s not like he’s going to change his stripes this time around.

Tuesday begins. Another news item that broke yesterday was an announcement from Mike Pompeo that the Trump regime no longer considers the Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine to be illegal. I wonder how many of the congresspeople querying today’s witnesses support this blatant violation of international law. The potential for a bloody intensification of the struggle for Palestinian liberation seems quite likely. In Latin America, the US-backed coup operations proceed despite the opposition of the majority of each affected nation’s people. These proceedings were never about the criminal nature of US foreign policy. It’s a given that neither the bulk of the Democrats doing the questioning or the Republicans consider their role in the pursuit of Empire to be criminal. It’s when they use their particular role for personal gain and power that questions of criminality come into play. After all, there are rules as to how one turns the idea of public service into personal profit. The bank accounts of many elected officials on both sides of the aisle from McConnell to Obama and back again attest to how rich one can become even by following the rules. So, the question at these hearings is not about the nature of the policies undertaken, but about following the rules one is supposed to agree to when they take public office. Trump’s appeal to the rich person, many businessmen and many of those folks watching NASCAR somewhere in the USA is that he seems to be giving a middle finger to the rules. That’s why he got busted. As anybody who ever got busted for mouthing off to a cop can tell you, they don’t like being given the finger. I include myself in that group who discovered this through lived experience. The middle finger approach combined with his narcissism and bullying seems to have served him well in the world he inhabited before the White House. The future will tell us how it’s worked for him once he moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The impeachment drama will play a big part in that outcome.

It’s a twofer to start the day. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Mike Pence’s national security aide Jennifer Williams take the dais together. The Lt. Colonel is a classic junior officer—I know the type having grown up in a household with such a man. Intelligent and informed, his dedication to the idea and reality of the United States and its empire is unquestioned. This is the context for his integrity. It does not absolve him for the crimes he has been part of as a military officer, nor does that participation render his remarks regarding Trump’s abuses irrelevant. He wears his military uniform with a certain intent. In the United States, the military is more respected than any other institution, including churches. This creates a situation where the uniform carries a respect I’m convinced it does not deserve, but my opinion is shared by a relative few US residents. What becomes clear early on in his testimony is that he is not a partisan of Trump or any other politician. (More interestingly is his contention that recordings of the phone calls in question might exist.) His insistence that the investigations of the Bidens and Trump’s condition that Ukrainian military aid was tied to their participation in the investigations is the crucial element of his testimony as regards the charges being considered in these hearings.

Jennifer Williams’ presence is to bolster the Colonel’s testimony. Her presence at conversations between Zelensky and Pence seems to be another reason. So is her awareness of the phone call that started this process. Devin Nunes starts his interrogation, going after Jennifer Williams to begin his ongoing attacks against the Bidens. It seems once again that his intent is to point out some level of corruption regarding the Bidens—of this there is no doubt. This fact does not absolve Donald Trump, although that seems to be the GOP’s implication. In between his questions regarding the Bidens, Nunes squeezes in unsubstantiated claims and lies regarding the Ukraine government before Zelensky as if they are truth. In fact, these claims are on par with the Pizzagate conspiracy that had Hillary Clinton selling babies from the basement of a pizza parlor in Washington, DC. The intention of this is to obfuscate. It works. Furthermore, his questions show either an intentional misrepresentation of the nature of the proceedings or an ignorance of their purpose. The ongoing attempts to expose the whistleblower asserts the trumpist intent. Castor talks about the ambiguity of “the president’s words.” It is clear that ambiguity is in the eye of the beholder. Furthermore, Castor continues the shading of witnesses through innuendo and implications about Vindman’s allegiance to the United States. Despite cloaking his innuendo in terms of national security, it is clear from this line of questioning that Castor’s allegiance is to the trumpists and Trump. That’s why he was hired. We know that Trump’s standard procedure when he is attacked with facts is to smear his accuser. The best at this approach on this committee is the wrestling coach who somehow never knew his team was being assaulted—Jim Jordan. A man who missed the sexual abuse of his wrestling team somehow wants the viewers to believe he knows more than the people involved in the actions being discussed. I still want to body slam the SOB.

Representative Ratcliffe is another. This guy once bragged about “capturing thirty illegal aliens in a single day” and embellished his role as a prosecutor for Homeland Security. He either pretends not to understand how impeachment investigations work or he truly doesn’t understand how they work. This makes sense given his only experience as a prosecutor was as part of an anti-terrorism unit, where the guilt was often determined before the trial. The point of these hearings is to gather evidence to send to the Judiciary Committee, which will then decide the charges. One of his idiotic claims is that because the word bribery did not appear in the testimony until recently it is not a legitimate charge. In other words, Ratcliffe wants the charges before the investigation that provides the evidence for the charges. Schiff points this out. The trumpists will ignore it, knowing the trumpist base doesn’t understand or care.

Then there’s Doctor Wenstrup, who comes off like a creepy preacher and assumedly refers to himself as doctor because it makes him seem smarter than he sounds. His questioning once again wanders into the absurd; his snark is equivalent to the rest of the trumpists. Believe me, middle schoolers are much better at snark than this trumpist bunch. Its intent is to belittle the witness and hide the fact that there is little if no substance to their challenges. In the political world the trumpists hail from—a world arguably initiated by Rush Limbaugh and then honed by FoxNews—this is what passes for debate. Following this exchange is another absurd claim by Representative Stewart—that because Trump was never in the military (which is now something the GOP thinks is a good thing?) his asking for a favor was not a demand. This is what idiots do. They bend the meaning of words and they point the finger at others as if their purported misdeeds excuse the misdeeds of those they are defending. In this particular venue, they demand legal process for their dear leader, but ignore that process when they are questioning the witness. Right wing Lady Stefanik continues her narrative of love for Trump. Although I try not to, I just can’t help comparing her to the woman who helped the prisoners escape from the prison in Dannemora. She doesn’t ask questions. She repeats Trump’s absurdist and often vicious tweets. That’s one of the things toadies do in trumpworld—a world where Jim Jordan is a dim but leading light.

The afternoon hearing begins in the late afternoon here in New England.

It’s a small thing, but if Nunes claims one more time that Trump was elected in a landslide I’m gonna’ do an Elvis on my TV. This claim suggests that Trump won the popular vote, but it was in the ultimately white supremacist electoral college where he won, not in the popular vote. Nunes’s introductory remarks attempt both snark and intelligent commentary. Like his fast-talking friend from Ohio Mr. Jordan, Nunes’s snark would not stand up in any middle school playground in the country. Mr. Morrison, who reminds me of a Young Republican in grad school, makes his statement, calling Russia a failing power. In a modern version of the domino theory, he tells the audience that he wants Ukraine to fight the Russians over there, not he US to fight them here in the USA. Mr. Volker makes it clear he is a proud agent of imperialism. His resumé listing appointments for Democrat and Republican presidents proves the singular nature of US foreign policy. His opening statement makes it clear that US policy is to keep Russia at bay while the United States expands its presence on Russia’s borders. He denies any involvement or even awareness of Trump’s demand that Zelensky publicly announce an investigation of the Bidens. Volker’s statement defines Washington’s approach to the rivalry with Moscow in their competition for influence in Europe and the Middle East. What becomes clearer is that there was a lot of secrecy involved and that the Trump “deep state” was holding back information from other people working for the White House. Once his statement is complete, the questioning begins.

Schiff begins with a question regarding the GOP talking points about Biden and Yovanovich published by the rightwing journal called The Hill—allegations that have been dismissed and disproven yet continue to be repeated by Jim Jordan and the rest of the trumpists. Indeed, Volker even calls the Biden stories as told by Guiliani and his client to be self-serving and unacceptable. Yet, he apparently spent more time with Giuliani than any other witness so far. This time around, both Castor and Nunes are less aggressive and even friendly since they believe these witnesses to be friendly. Instead of repeating the disproven rumors about Biden and Burisma, Castor spends his time talking about how wonderful the US intervention in Ukrainian affairs has been, especially the events of the past year. Interestingly, part of the intent of his questioning seems to be an attempt to separate the Vice President from the actions of Donald Trump. In essence, he asks these men which conversations the Vice President was privy to and which ones he had no knowledge of. There also seems to be an attempt by the trumpists to pin more of the blames on Rudy Giuliani. This could prove interesting down the road given Mr. Giuliani’s statement that he has “stuff “on Mr. Trump. While neither of these men come off as complete tools of the trumpists, their testimony seems hesitant at best. Volker seems to be almost naïve in his statements concerning Trump’s motives, seeming to believe that he is a conventional administrator who operates on the level, as it were. Anyone who has paid attention to Trump knows otherwise. No matter what these witnesses say, Nunes continues his rambling based on lies, innuendo and internet nonsense. While I always find it difficult to listen to well off white American men act like victims, Mr. Nunes is particularly obnoxious. Right up there with Donald Trump, in fact.

One doesn’t have to consider the Democrats heroes in order to agree with the desire to see Trump face impeachment. Indeed, it is almost impossible to do so. Nor does one have to agree with the Pentagon or the departments Ms. Williams and other witnesses worked for to understand their role in putting the trumpists on notice. I know the resumes of those who testify. They don’t deserve tears or cheers. However, their participation in the crimes of the Empire don’t make Trump’s protofascism okay. The combination of the crimes of Congress and the White House proves the criminality of the entire system. As I watch the impeachment and its proceedings, the perspective I prefer is one that sees both questioners and those being questioned as equally culpable in the criminal enterprise called the United States. If the hearings help diminish US power—a power US politicians and bureaucrats consider virtually omnipotent—then they are providing a service to humanity.

Last week, Marie Yovanovich stated, “The attacks (by Trump and his people) are leading to a crisis in the State Department as the policy process is visibly unraveling, leadership vacancies go unfilled, and senior and mid-level officers ponder an uncertain future and head for the doors.”

That is the point of these attacks. Trumpists want to destroy the existing structure and replace it with their own. Short of that they will populate the existing bureaucracy with apparatchiks loyal to the tenets of trumpism. This is what Hitler and his henchmen did after taking power in 1930s Germany. Their intention was to remake the Weimar republic into the Third Reich. This process is known as der Gleichschaltung. The social democrats and other constitutional parties refused to believe that the dissolution of their bourgeois democracy was occurring until it was too late. Those in the US who don’t think it can happen here are fools. It is happening here. Not going after Trump and trumpism only makes the success of their designs more likely. Those who think Trump is no worse than neoliberal capitalism have not been paying attention. I’ll repeat something I’ve said again and again—one does not have to be Hitler to be a fascist. One can be Donald Trump, Jim Jordan or Lady Stefanik.

Impeachment is not the perfect or the only sword to be wielded in this battle, but it is certainly a part of the arsenal required to beat back what I am unafraid to call US fascism. The weaknesses of liberalism and its allegiance to capitalism allowed the scourge of fascism to ravage much of the world eighty years ago. While it is true that neoliberal capitalism and the politicians that serve it paved the way for Trump and trumpism, much like the post-World War One situation of the German capitalists paved the way for Nazism, fascism is not the answer to the ravages precipitated by neoliberalism.

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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