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Bill Straub: Making a hash of impeachment hearings — and of country; thanks McConnell, Barr and Paul

It’s no secret that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has made a hash of the impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump but less noticeable thus far is Sen. Rand Paul’s determination to sling the same mélange out like a short-order cook at the corner greasy spoon.

Paul, of Bowling Green, drew attention four years back when he emerged as one of the Republican Party’s biggest non-Trumpers, saying all sorts of vile things about the man who would be king during his own unsuccessful campaign for the presidency. But Paul, who employs false bravado to camouflage a pair of weak knees, has since become Trump’s starry-eyed best pal, seeking to protect him from the various slings and arrows.

Paul likes to present himself as some sort of Libertarian maverick but he quickly fell in line with all the other GOP lemmings after Trump assumed office, willingly going along with all sorts of presidential mayhem in order to curry a pat on the head and a scratch behind the ear.

It’s just amazing what a golf date will get you these days.

It should be noted that on occasion, unlike most of his Republican cohorts who shrink to non-existence every time they raise the ire of the man known as The Donald, Paul will sometimes leave the reservation, particularly when it comes to matters of privacy and foreign affairs. He was one of the few Senate Republicans questioning the administration’s decision to assassinate Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, a move that opened up an unnecessary can of worms.

Paul has made it clear that he doesn’t think much of the effort to oust Trump from office despite clear evidence that the president pressured Ukraine, an ally constantly threatened by neighboring Russia, to become involved in America’s electoral process by undertaking an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, the perceived frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The House, which adopted the articles of impeachment, maintains Trump’s ham-handed actions, which included the withholding of military aid if Ukraine refused to comply, was done to improve his own re-election prospects and constitutes an abuse of power, a charge serious enough to warrant his ouster.

Paul responded to this with little more than a yawn. During the opening of the trial, a process that requires the attendance of all senators, a crossword puzzle was spotted atop his desk.

What’s another word for schmuck? Four letters.

While McConnell, of Louisville, does his best to gum up the works, solidifying his status as a party-over-nation lawmaker who will be poorly served by history, Paul is working industriously to get the charges prematurely dismissed. He told the Washington Post on Wednesday that about 45 GOP lawmakers are poised to send the whole ordeal packing. He needs six more votes.

“I still would like to dismiss it, but there aren’t the votes to do it just yet,’’ Paul told the Post.

Paul has made it clear he really doesn’t want to bother with the whole, sordid mess and made up his mind against conviction long before impeachment began – despite taking an oath that he would provide “impartial justice’’ in the case.

“When it comes to whether or not you’re going to impeach a president of your own party, particularly over a policy difference or whether or not he has lack of decorum or whatever, I think that’s something that a lot of voters will not excuse,” Paujl told The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, proving himself to be a first-class putz (four letters…that’s it!).

Dismiss all the rhetoric and what you have is Sen. Rand Paul, who regularly berates colleagues as if he were Seth Pecksniff, about the way they conduct business and carry out the affairs of the nation, sees nothing wrong with the most powerful man in the world conniving with a foreign government to ease his path to a White House homecoming.

And so what if he did so by mucking around with the funds legally appropriated by Congress, again establishing that the national legislature is not a co-equal branch of government, ceding authority to the executive, furthering the nation down the path toward authoritarianism?

None of that matters. Sadly, McConnell and Paul aren’t the only ones willing to stand aside and let Trump bully his way around use the Constitution like a handkerchief. It has become a sacrament of the modern Republican Party to turn a blind eye to the varied horrors of the Trump administration, permitting this bigoted, misogynist narcissist to roam unattended.

This is not a case, as Paul asserted, of a “policy difference.” This is not about working out a budget or warring over immigration. This is about a president soliciting a foreign leader to become openly involved in the American election process to his benefit. This comes in the first presidential election since Russia involved itself in the 2016 race pitting Trump against Democrat Hilary Clinton, to Trump’s obvious advantage.

Paul is not alone. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, who offers the Commonwealth nothing, wrote an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader last month maintaining House Democrats impeached Trump simply because “they don’t like him.”

“Through this flawed, sham process, Democrats have voted to fulfill their hyper-partisan, three-year plan to impeach President Trump,” Barr wrote. “Even before Inauguration Day, Democrats in Congress embraced the ‘Resistance’ and touted their plan to reverse the results of the 2016 election. House Democrats did not impeach the President because of the facts or any crime.”

Baloney, and that’s a polite word for it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, overtly resisted seeking Trump’s impeachment for months, fearing it would tear the nation asunder. That was before the Trump-Ukraine connection stepped to the fore, literally forcing the hand of the Democratic majority in the House.

Trump made it easy for them.

Nowhere in his appraisal does Barr indicate that maybe, just maybe, scheming with a foreign government to assure your re-election isn’t really kosher. That maybe we should limit involvement in American elections to, well, Americans. That essentially providing the Ukrainians or, for that matter, the Russians with the franchise isn’t exactly what the founders had in mind. In fact, they warned against foreign entanglements.

Yet there’s McConnell, Paul and Barr sloughing it all off as no big deal, just a policy difference.

And you don’t think this country’s in big trouble?

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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One Comment

  1. Judy Oetinger says:

    Dear Bill, Thank you, once again, for pointing out the obvious and for being a light in a very dark world. If it weren’t for journalists like you, that are able to put into words, truth and facts that are otherwise ignored, I would have given up for the future. Please continue to write the REAL story and give the facts to the public. I look forward to all of your columns.

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