It's important to keep an eye on the other side. Just ask James O'Keefe!
In the spirit of open mindedness, I watched today's hearings on CNN. It steels my resolve when I hear Anderson Cooper & Co. carelessly tossing off logical fallacies and breathlessly burping "Russia" all day.
So I tuned in to hear former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's testimony at the hearings on Capitol Hill. While the proceedings were sometimes livelier than round one with William Taylor and George Kent, there were long stretches of absolute barren wasteland. The recess between the Democratic fawning hour and the Republican response was well over an hour, requiring the talking heads from Atlanta to dig deep into their banter bags.
There are two ways to look at Yovanovitch.
It comes down to whether you believe her when she says she never, ever spoke to Biden regarding Hunter's Burisma board position, a topic so worrisome for the Obama administration that she was briefed on it before being assigned to head the country's ambassadorship. It strains credulity that Ukraine's point man never darkened her door.
The first thing Yovanovitch herself clarified: she didn't work in Ukraine at the time of the July 25 call, she had no firsthand knowledge of the call, she hasn't met with President Trump in 2019, and she didn't have the confidence of Ukrainian President Zelensky. So why was she there? One answer: to cry, as she is alleged to have done in the closed-door SCIF proceedings. More on that in a moment.
The sexism on display by the Democrats--but really everyone--was appalling. Yovanovitch was coddled and kissed up to, her praises sung. As meme-maker extraordinaire Carpe Donktum noted,
Congressional Democrats are basically using taxpayer money to create a 5-hour employment reference video for Yovanovitch. I wouldn't be surprised if the hearing ended with a plug of her LinkedIn profile.
Republicans pointed out that she had landed quite softly at a teaching gig at Georgetown University, where she is a fellow. Regardless, the hand wringing over her dismissal was truly dramatic, and it's hard to imagine a man being treated so gently.
Procedurally, the hearing was testy almost immediately, with several points of order not recognized by Chairman Schiff. He rapped his gavel well over twenty times today, at times eliciting audible gasps of "Holy cow" and "Geez" from Rep. Devin Nunes. Rep. Elise Stefanik noted, “This is the fifth time you have interrupted a duly-elected member of Congress,” and when told her to suspend, Nunes asked incredulously, "You're gagging the member from New York?"
Despite both sides stating ad nauseum that ambassadors serve "at the pleasure of the president," there was a tremendous amount of discussion by CNN pundits and congresspeople alike about Yovanovitch's feelings. "How did that make you feel?" Dem lawyer Daniel Goldman asked. "I had a physical reaction," Yovanovitch replied. "...the color drained from my face."
Asked again how she felt--this is the further attempt at wringing those tears out of her for Trump-bully optics--Yovanovitch said "Devastated." Goldman pressed on: "What do you mean by devastated?" She replied, "Shocked, appalled, devastated." One imagines she felt more like a thesaurus at this point than a witness.
Yovanovitch admitted that President Trump's statement to Zelensky, that "she's going to go through some things" was "not a precise phrase," but "felt like a threat" despite being "vague." Again with the feelings.
At this point, something odd happened. Chairman Schiff introduced a tweet from Donald Trump into evidence. The tweet had been sent an hour before. It was displayed on a video monitor for Yovanovitch to see.
Schiff read it and another tweet aloud, again looking for the waterworks. He then stated ominously that "some of us take witness intimidation very, very seriously." What escaped him, somehow, is that Trump had no idea that someone would show the tweet to Yovanovitch. If anyone was harassing the witness, it was Schiff himself. Twitter took notice.
During the break, CNN tried to make hay of the president's tweet anyway. Some quotes from the panel:
"The POTUS is making clear that if you come forward, he will seek to destroy you."
"Who benefits in all this? RUSSIA!"
"Can you imagine your BOSS tweeting about you like this?"
Of course, Trump hasn't been Yovanovitch's boss for months.
Rep. Stefanik was shut down again by Schiff, who claimed he hadn't explicitly given the floor to her--only to Nunes and the GOP counsel Steve Castor. Castor took over for the next half hour, treading water with bland questions, a slow build-up to precisely nothing. Castor is not one of the much needed "killers" the Dems need, to use Steve Bannon's descriptor from the War Room: Impeachment podcast.
Rep. Stefanik got her time finally, after Nunes asked Schiff if he "needed your permission" to yield the floor to her. Stefanik was moderately effective, but eventually it was Rep. Jim Jordan's turn.
Jordan, in a masterful five-plus minutes, laid out broadly why the impeachment is a sham, dialing down to his conclusion, a rhetorical question, "Do you think that maybe there was a reason President Trump's concern was justified" given that Ukraine is a hotbed of corruption, top Ukrainian politicians had demonstrated a clear favoritism for Clinton in 2016, some going so far as to write defamatory op-eds about Trump.
Jordan ran over with his time, but Yovanovitch was still answering. Schiff allowed extra time, but before Jordan could finish, Schiff interrupted, prompting this testy exchange:
Schiff: "I've indulged you with extra time..."
Jordan: "I appreciate it..."
Schiff: "...but my indulgence is wearing out."
Jordan: "Appreciate it"
Schiff: "There is a question..."
Jordan: "Our indulgence with you wore out a long time ago, Mr. Chairman, I can tell you that."
The riposte garnered a weary smile from Yovanovitch, who went on to repeat the falsehood that it was all Russian 2016 election meddling, not Ukrainian.
What took shape today is a picture of an ambassador to Ukraine who is still loyal to Barack Obama. If she had wanted to go after corruption in Ukraine, a clear path would have been to help Viktor Shokin and pursue Burisma. She did not.
In the end, you have to ask yourself: if Biden's corruption and quid pro quo-style diplomacy was the order of the day under Yovanovitch's watch, isn't it fair to surmise that she was party to it? If not, then one must concur that she was, at the very least, willfully ignorant of the elephant, er, the donkey in the room.
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