Impeachment hearings began this week in the United States, as President Donald Trump’s actions—he called the Ukranian president strongly hinting that he would release much-needed military aid only if it started an investigation into political rival Joe Biden and his son’s affairs in Ukraine—were put in scrutiny. Hunter Biden sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma while his father was vice president.
Thus far, three witnesses from the government have emerged: Washington’s top envoy to Kiev William Taylor, deputy assistant secretary of state George Kent, and Taylor’s predecessor Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted by Trump in May this year.
All of them provided accounts of how Mr. Trump abused his awesome powers as chief executive to achieve a personal end. Biden is one of the strongest contenders for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 elections. If he is nominated, he would go against Trump who will seek re-election.
The most recent testimony—Yovanovitch’s—gave Americans yet another insight into their leader’s behavior and state of mind. “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” he ranted on Twitter, “She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him.”
Mr. Trump also repeatedly referred to Yovanovitch as “bad news,” firing off tweets during the time she was on the stand during the hearing. In turn she said she felt intimidated.
On social media and elsewhere, Trump and his supporters make no disguise of their attempts to discredit the witnesses, saying they were only bureaucrats who were not privy to Trump’s real intentions at the time. There is no denial that such a call to the Ukranian president toward such an end ever happened. In fact, Trump himself makes a candid retelling of the conversation, calling it a “perfect phone call.” What they are saying is that the offense is “not as outlandish as it could be.”
In all these, the witnesses are key. They are career officials and diplomats, who have served their country far longer than Trump has been in politics. Their words, thus, have the advantage of probity, objectivism and independence – they have nothing to gain from fabricating stories about the US leader.
The Philippines is no stranger to impeachment proceedings. It could be argued that this constitutional, supposedly non-partisan constitutional last resort has been used in politically motivated attacks. Witnesses are characters with dramatic testimonies and questionable motives. What a contrast from the sober and level-headed statements of Taylor, Kent and Yovanovich.
“Outlandish” is the perfect adjective for an administration that constantly challenges its people’s credulity. To counter this kind of governance, its opposites—sober, calm, conventional—are needed.