So how stupid was that whole Ukraine thing?
Stupid enough to extort the new president of Ukraine into digging up dirt on Trump’s perceived enemies.
Stupid enough to get a career diplomat fired because she wasn’t corrupt enough for the Trump administration.
Stupid enough to get Trump himself impeached.
Stupid enough to land Rudy Giuliani — “America’s Mayor” — in so much hot water he could easily die in prison.
And for what?
The announcement of an investigation. Not even an actual investigation, mind you, just the announcement of one. Just announce to the world that Hunter Biden broke the law. Which law? Of which country? Doesn’t matter.
Hey Ukraine, just do us this one little favor, tell the press this one little lie, and we’ll make your problems go away. We’ll free up that weaponry you so desperately need from the bureaucratic crack it somehow fell through, so you can defend your eastern border from Trump’s pal Putin.
What was in Rudy’s mind? Did he think this would be the big breakthrough, the thing that would turn the American public against Joe Biden forever? The thing that would make us all change our minds about Donald Trump? The thing that would send us all to the polls so we could gleefully re-elect him?
That’s not just stupid. That’s embarrassing.
But embarrassment aside, we don’t want this sordid chapter in American history to disappear down the memory hole, like so many other Trump atrocities seem to do. So let’s review:
Volodymyr Zelensky — a TV comedian who made his name satirizing Ukraine’s systemic, oligarch-fueled corruption — gets elected president on an anti-corruption platform. He takes office just as the eastern region of his country comes under military threat from secessionist rebels, many of whom are Russian troops in unmarked uniforms. And this was a mere five years after Putin stole the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. At gunpoint.
All Zelensky needed was the tiniest show of support from the US. This was hardly too much to ask — Ukraine had been a NATO-sponsored buffer against Russian aggression since the end of the Cold War. All he needed was the money and weaponry that had long been promised, and had always been delivered in the past. He could also have used a simple five-minute photo op with the American president — even if it had to be Trump — just to keep Putin on his toes, somewhat.
Instead, all he got was Trump’s famous “perfect” phone call, the one that made “quid pro quo” the catchphrase of the year. You give us dirt on the Bidens, we’ll give you weapons. Sorry, no photo op.
So Zelensky, having no other choice, pandered. He flattered Trump. He promised to announce Trump’s bogus investigation. He debased himself for the sake of his country. And he dodged a bullet. Luckily, he never had to actually deliver the investigation into the Bidens, mostly due to the timely intervention of an American whistleblower.
Meanwhile, Marie Yovanovitch — the American ambassador who led the charge against the corruption Zelensky was elected to deal with — was rudely removed from her post by Mike Pompeo’s State Department. This little coup, engineered by Rudy, is the specific — if hardly the only — reason Rudy now has the feds deconstructing his life.
But how much damage did this pathetic episode wreak? What do our allies think of this, especially after Trump tried his best to undermine old alliances in his eagerness to suck up to Putin? How much trust got destroyed? How do we get that trust back?
It’s easy to say that things are now back to normal, that Tony Blinken has restored professionalism to the diplomatic corps, that the grownups are back in charge. But what does that look like from our allies’ point of view?
Because Ukraine didn’t happen in a vacuum. By then, our entire foreign policy was already a hot mess, sabotaged from within. By then, copy-and-paste political hacks had infested the State Department. By then, professional diplomats up and down the org chart had been forced out of their jobs.
The people running Europe’s democracies are neither stupid nor blind. Where once they saw power and leadership, they now see an America that is at best dysfunctional, and at worst malevolent. They see a country virtually incapable of moving in any direction, forward or back. They’re embarrassed by us, and for us.
They watch in horror as one of our two political parties goes rogue, determined to do nothing in the face of major crises, offering nothing but craven lies and lunatic conspiracy theories.
Is that supposed to instill confidence? Can we assure them the lunatics won’t be back in charge of Congress in 2022? Can we know for sure they won’t be dealing with President Gaetz in 2024?
Keep in mind that they’ve seen this movie before, though in far tamer form. They’ll remember the run-up to the Iraq War, when George W. Bush was hell-bent on taking down Saddam Hussein — and when, in the absence of an actual reason, he made one up. They’ll remember all too well those “weapons of mass destruction” that turned out not to exist.
It took eight years of Obama-era professionalism to walk back that damage. Only to see the assholes back in charge, just eight years later. And light years crazier.
Think what Trump put our most important allies through. Never knowing if their intelligence secrets were compromised. Never knowing if Trump would withhold funding for crucial defenses. Never knowing if he’d pull troops out of Europe just for fun. Never knowing if a presidential tantrum would launch a nuclear war. Would you trust a country like that?
And it’s not just a matter of trust. It’s about competence as well. The diplomats we sent them were amateurs and boors, chosen for their loyalty and their campaign donations. Exactly what our allies can expect next time Republicans are put in charge.
Why would any rationally run country put up with these cyclical catastrophes? Who wants to deal with known liars? Who says there won’t be more Trumps and more Giulianis, in a vicious circle of corruption and incompetence?
These countries get all the gaslighting and disinformation they need from Russia and China. Why would they need it from us?