Of all the moral-political demonstrations in which American adults have indulged in the Trumpish Age, their aghast dance of incredulity to the Ukrainian whistleblower scandal probably is not the most embarrassing, but it is likely the most shameful. We are fourteen months removed from the last ostensibly serious—meaning, perfectly facetious—call for Trump’s impeachment, based, as it always is, on hard evidence of serious political wrongdoing—meaning, as it invariably does, a dull vagary that lends itself to an infinite array of pointlessly arbitrary interpretations. For those outside the know, an anonymous government official accuses Trump of threatening to deny half a billion dollars in military aid to the Ukrainian government—wouldn’t that be nice—unless its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, agreed to investigate reports that Joe Biden threatened to deny a full billion dollars to the Ukrainian government unless Viktor Shokin, General Prosecutor of Ukraine under Zelensky’s predecessor, was fired from his post.
Allow me to amend my last sentence: these are not “reports” or groundless allegations. Last year, Joe Biden bragged—in embarrassingly Trumpish fashion—that he dangled a cool $1 billion on a string in front of Pero Poroshenko, the price for, in his own words, that “son of a bitch” Shokin. Well, Shokin was fired, the International Monetary Fund gave the Ukrainian government its cash, and Biden went on his merry way. Now, why was Biden so discomfited by Shokin’s employment? Therein lies the question that comprises the “reports”, a question to which Trump has suggested an answer: Joe Biden’s son, the lobbyist Hunter Biden, sat on the board of Burisma Holdings, an energy company that, at the time, was under investigation by . . . Viktor Shokin.
Of course, there is no incontrovertible evidence—not as of this writing, at least—that this is why Biden forced Poroshenko’s hand, but why else would he take such extraordinary measures against Shokin? Why else would he harbor such resentment towards him? It’s very hard to imagine Biden furnishing a credible explanation, one that justifies the intensity of his wrath. Even if he somehow could prove that his aggression was completely unrelated to his son’s connection to Burisma, still there would be a very serious question of whether this kind of diplomatic threat is appropriate. Are we comfortable with this image of ourselves as the nation that weaponizes international finance?
I would draw some comparison to a mafioso, but Congressman Adam Schiff beat me to the punch . . . except, he sees Trump as Don Fanucci. In the western press, there has been no description at all of Biden’s clear, unmistakable, and indisputable threat to Poroshenko: instead, the incident has been reduced to “the unsubstantiated allegation that Mr. Biden … stopped the prosecution of his son by lobbying Ukraine to fire Mr. Shokin”. This quote is taken from an article published in the BBC, an article that does acknowledge Hunter Biden’s connection to Burisma, but which does not mention Joe Biden’s role in withholding $1 billion through the IMF. Furthermore, there is a critical distinction to be made between Joe Biden’s threat—which, again, Biden admitted to making—and the motivation for that threat, which will probably never be proven beyond all doubt.
Can anyone explain to me why the introduction to Hunter Biden’s Wikipedia page is one big anti-Trump smear?
In the absence of this contextualizing information vis-à-vis Biden/Poroshenko, the western press has homed in on Trump’s conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky in July of this year. During their discussion, Trump criticized Poroshenko’s decision to fire Shokin and advised Zelensky to “look into that”. Missing from this interlocution is any reference to the $400 million in withheld military aid, yet the American press is littered with accusations, as well as many declarations, that Trump told Zelensky explicitly, “Look into Biden’s misconduct with Shokin or else you’ll never see that $400 million.” Apparently, they have mistaken this conversation between Trump and Zelensky, held on July 25th, with Trump’s order on July 18th to withhold the aforementioned $400 million. They have connected this financial withholding to the as-yet-unbegun investigation of Biden, but only through a retroactive attribution that, pending a deluge of additional supportive information, strikes me as a political anachronism.
Unfortunately, this anachronism has been accepted almost unilaterally—not only in itself, but even as the climactic evidence of Trump’s irremediably criminal bent. The criminality is neo-Watergate, the tilting of the field against a political opponent. And in this description, we identify the source of the media’s obsession: because Joe Biden is competing for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, any unnatural investigation of Biden by the Ukrainian government could conceivably undermine his presidential campaign. My next question, then, is whether the supposed criminality of Trump’s discussion with Zelensky is predicated exclusively upon Biden’s status as a presidential candidate: what if Biden were not actively seeking office? I ask only because every article I have read in the western press, including the aforementioned BBC piece, emphasizes Biden’s status as the “leading” Democratic candidate, as a front-runner.
Could it be that this story, which erases Biden’s interactions with Poroshenko completely, is being promoted to revitalize Biden’s struggling campaign? While it is true that Biden technically remains atop the Democratic pecking order—thanks in no small part to the corrupt delegation system that has already awarded Biden hundreds of pledged delegates months before the first primary—he has been making a fool of himself on the campaign trail, blurting awkward statements and spinning bizarre yarns that have inspired many people to question his cognitive stability. Personally, I don’t believe he’s suffering from geriatric neurological deterioration, but I do think he’s been pampered by fifty years of privileged Washington living, and his lackadaisical approach to electioneering is unacceptable in the Trumpish Age of aggression and spite. He needs some kind of spark if he is to maintain his artificial eminence, and this controversy provides precisely such a charge.
We will leave Biden and his minions, and all those who still believe in the integrity of the American political process, to ruminate on this insipid cud. They will spit it out in time, disappointed as ever to learn that this controversy, too, is not the one that will evict Trump from the White House. Still, there is some reason for smiles: Joseph Maguire, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, supported the anonymous whistleblower as a benevolent individual who, “in good faith … did the right thing”. Surely Mr. Maguire will soon say the same of Julian Assange?