We get it. We have figured out that the president of the United States is out of control. It is not exactly a revelation that Trump is routinely abusing the power of his office for personal gain, that he is subverting the nation’s foreign policy priorities to improve his reelection prospects, that he is enriching himself and his family at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and in violation of the Constitution’s clear ban on receiving emoluments — a fancy word for payola — from foreign governments.
We know that he employs lickspittle underlings and an outside network of shady characters to carry out his bizarre and erratic impulses. That he has contempt for expertise and experience, and a curious affinity for murderous dictators. That there is no norm he will not destroy to scratch an itch he got while watching “Fox & Friends.”
From the outset, this hot mess of a presidency has produced more than its share of self-serving leakers. We don’t need to hear from any more people too cowardly to reveal their identities, presumably fearful that it would jeopardize their current positions or future lucrative employment opportunities. Or, God forbid, subject them to a presidential tweet or two.
And we no longer buy the rationalization that those who have agreed to be part of this administration are somehow protecting us from the unprincipled man-child in the Oval Office — or, as the anonymous op-ed writer put it a little over a year ago, doing “what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
I don’t know where the impeachment proceedings that are underway in the House will lead, but they have already produced a refreshing reminder of how true public servants behave. They are the heroes — career diplomats and senior officials — who are defying the president’s desire to stonewall the investigation and going on the record with what they have seen and heard.
While Trump continues to improperly demand the legally protected identity of the whistleblower who started this cascade of revelations, those who have stepped forward are making that piece of information irrelevant. These witnesses are confirming, point by point, everything that was in the whistleblower’s allegation that Trump leaned on Ukraine’s president to dig up dirt on his leading Democratic opponent and back up his crackpot theories about the 2016 election.
Who more fully exemplifies what it means to be a “public servant” than William B. Taylor Jr.? We have yet to learn the full extent of what he said in nine hours of closed-door testimony, but in his devastating 15-page opening statement, the man who served as this nation’s top diplomat in Ukraine laid out a bill of particulars, a road map to how the whole scheme worked.
And in return, the White House, predictably and outrageously, claimed that Taylor is part of a mob of “radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.”
Good luck with that. Taylor is a second-generation West Point graduate who served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division
, who took on thankless diplomatic missions for both Democratic and Republican presidents, who over his wife’s objections gave up a sweet gig at the U.S. Institute of Peace to step in and accept one last call of duty when Trump pushed out the previous ambassador to Ukraine under the sketchiest of circumstances.
Because of the courage that people such as Taylor are showing, the administration will be under more pressure to produce witnesses and documents that would tell its side of the story, if in fact there is a version that does not make the president look even worse. And if it doesn’t, its refusal will be a kind of incrimination in itself.
Moreover, people like recently departed national security adviser John Bolton — who, according to Taylor, tried to stop Trump’s impulse to withhold badly needed aid to Ukraine unless it buckled under his demands — will also feel compelled to step forward.
But in the meantime, the last thing we need is yet another titillating book. If this author wants to sell us a tell-all, the first thing to do is tell us who he or she is.