Wednesday morning I thought of a character in a movie who was fixated on the televised Watergate hearings into corruption surrounding President Richard Nixon’s White House. In The Ice Storm, teenager Wendy is drawn to the political drama playing out in Senator Sam Ervin’s Watergate Committee. The details of hush money and dirty political intrigue were being brought to the attention of the nation at the same time her family was unable to communicate honestly. It was a good film with a powerful message.
It was Wendy wanting to know the lastest about Nixon’s deeds in the Oval Office that came to mind as all the major networks went live today with our latest national civics lesson. By the time William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy, had concluded their testimony I strongly felt there are many in the nation, of all ages, now caught up in the events about Trump and Ukraine.
From the first minutes of Kent delivering his opening statement, there was a mood cast about the enormity of the story in which we now play a part.
It was unexpected, and most unfortunate, to watch some Americans — including those who allied themselves with corrupt Ukrainians in pursuit of private agendas — launch attacks on dedicated public servants advancing U.S. interests in Ukraine. In my opinion, those attacks undermined U.S. and Ukrainian national interests and damaged our critical bilateral relationship.
Just as we recall the memorable lines from Watergate testimony like, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” so too will future generations recall lines delivered today. When speaking about the smear campaign generated by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, it was described as an effort to “gin up politically motivated investigations”.
It will soon be reported to what extent offices around the nation, hair salons, diners, and just ordinary folks in living rooms from Bangor, Maine down to Beaumont, Texas turned in and assessed the seriousness of the impeachment proceedings. For most citizens, it would seem fair to say that Congressman Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, after summarizing the abuse of power undertaken by Trump, then asked the line that resonated nationally. “If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”
It is another line that history will long recall.
As for the optics it was not a good day for the Republican members of Congress who seemed to relish going after Ambassador Taylor, a Vietnam veteran, and much-respected diplomat, and public servant. When not showing disdain for Taylor the GOP was trying to sell the argument there’s no impeachable evidence against Trump because the military hardware was finally delivered. (Well, yes officer, I did throw the brick through the window of the drug store, but I swept all the broken glass up!)
The impeachment process is something we need to undertake as a nation. It is never an option one relishes, and certainly one wishes no president would ever force it upon a nation. But we must never lose sight of law and order or the foundations of our Constitution. History will ask of us what we did when a president abused his office for personal gain by seeking actions from a foreign government so to undermine political opponents?
Trump has proven, again and again, what he is to the very core. Enabling that behavior are the Republicans in the Senate, who also are showing what they are made of, as they bend and bow to his absurdities, and plan to vote to acquit. History will judge them all as the details of the evidence grow, and the overall damning testimony that buttresses the reasons for Trump’s impeachment continues. None of that can be washed away.
There are many modern-day Wendys who are watching these impeachment hearings and will not forget how Trump acted or the way Republicans condoned the breaking of laws.