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Thu Nov 21, 2019, 09:33 PM

Slate "The Impeachment Hearings Have Shown the Policy Costs of Trump's Narcissism"

A man who can think only of himself cannot understand his place in the world.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/11/impeachment-hearings-underscored-cost-of-trumps-narcissism.html

We’re closing in on the second full week of public impeachment hearings, during which diplomats and administration officials have delivered compelling testimony that has largely obliterated nearly every Republican defense of Trump’s Ukraine conduct. The theory, for example, that this was all hearsay has collapsed—several witnesses with direct knowledge of the events have testified despite the White House’s astounding claim that staff should not comply with congressional subpoenas. The theory that Ukrainians didn’t even know aid was being withheld, and therefore couldn’t have felt extorted, collapsed Wednesday, with Department of Defense official Laura Cooper’s testimony, which referenced previously undisclosed emails showing that Ukrainians were both aware and concerned on July 25, the day of the infamous call. Trump’s “no quid pro quo” defense has always been unbelievable—Mick Mulvaney having already confessed to it on live television—but EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland also testified Wednesday that the arrangement Trump sought was unequivocally a quid pro quo.

In other words, the hearings have served the purpose for which they were intended: They have worked to establish, on the record and on television, the timeline and details of the president’s alleged misconduct. That narrative is now public and clear. But in bringing so many career government workers in to testify, they have also inadvertently served another purpose: They have helped to paint a broader picture, beyond the minutia of what exactly happened over the course of the past few months in Ukraine, of how the federal government works under President Donald Trump. Their testimony has incidentally illustrated how Trump’s incessant, unrelenting narcissism warps his ability to execute the duties of his office and the extent to which that dysfunction has spread, hobbling institutions that we need intact.



The hearings have demonstrated in detail the extent to which Trump conflates his personal grudges with America’s interests, even when the former harms the latter, and how he allows those private grudges to dictate foreign policy decisions that impact multiple countries. “L’etat, c’est moi,” is his operating theory—in fact, this somehow applies retroactively to the 2016 election, when he was merely a candidate. Republican senators have adopted this mindset as legitimate and proper. They’ve spent a good chunk of their time defending Trump’s actions in Ukraine as perfectly acceptable on the grounds that Trump had every right to impose petty conditions that would punish his political opponent—and withhold aid from a nation at war unless he got what he wanted—because he had reason to believe that some Ukrainians didn’t like him. This last detail, they seriously claim, was reason enough for the United States’ executive branch to withhold (taxpayer) money allocated by Congress.

It’s worth understanding what made Trump think that the Ukrainians didn’t like him. One incident Republicans have repeatedly raised concerns over is an op-ed for the Hill written by then–Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly in August of 2016, in which Chaly corrects Trump’s mischaracterization of how Ukrainians felt about the Russian invasion of Crimea. GOP lawyer Steve Castor tried to rationalize Trump’s paranoia on this point by characterizing that correction as a sinister symptom of dark forces arrayed against him. Here’s how he put it during former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony: “But you can understand the president, at least from his perspective, looking at these facts, certainly it is reasonable to conclude that there are elements of the Ukrainian establishment that are—are advocating against him at this point in time, correct?”


snip

last paragraph

A foreign policy driven by a person unwilling to govern his feelings, subordinate his grudges, or follow rules is not a policy at all. It’s a puff of air, a set of whims. It’s a vague hunch his yay-sayers must interpret and try to execute, and apologize for when he changes his mind and blames them for getting it wrong. This has implications. Every time Castor asks a witness to sympathize with Trump’s plight—surely you can understand why he’d feel attacked, he asks, parsing the tender feelings of a man with more power than anyone else on Earth—think about whom that focus subtracts from. If you consider who isn’t receiving sympathy, whose perspectives and interests are being annihilated in the service of coddling one man, the list of casualties is long. It includes Ukrainians slaughtered by Russia. It includes immigrant children permanently separated from their parents. And it includes American interests that—when it comes time to choose between national security and Trump’s latest revenge plot—will end up betrayed.

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