Thank you, Marie Yovanovitch

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In reviewing the testimony of the former American Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, my reaction is first and foremost one of appreciation and gratitude.

The “woman” in Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call, Ms. Yovanovitch is far from “bad news.” In fact, at a time of political upheaval, her calm, measured and objective testimony, was a breadth of fresh air. It was also a reminder that the US Government relies, on a daily basis, on a large number of people who, like her, are competent, patriotic, dedicated, knowledgeable, and fair.

US Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of US Presidents. But we are not an autocracy. Americans are entitled to ask why and how Ms. Yovanovitch was relieved from her post as Ukraine Ambassador. Unfortunately, only Mr. Trump ultimately knows his reasons, and he is unlikely to share them truthfully.

It certainly was not for lack of competence, as Ms. Yovanovitch was capably serving the US interests in Ukraine. In fact, committee members from both parties uniformly, and often warmly, thanked and praised her for distinguished services over her long career. That praise was the bipartisan exception, in the partisan acrimony that permeates the impeachment inquiry.

The picture that emerged is that Mr. Trump removed her to create a window of opportunity for Mr. Giuliani and his associates to exercise undue influence on the Ukraine government, for personal or political benefit of themselves and the president. That picture fits with other testimonies, but needs further confirmation. If really true, it would certainly justify articles of impeachment.

What is clear is that Ms. Yovanovitch was removed with the aid of smear tactics that are beneath the dignity of the Office of President. Smear tactics that effectively obliterate the confidence of State Department staff, when they do their jobs around the globe, that they have in the president a trustworthy team player and leader. Their jobs are often challenging, and the treatment endured by Ms. Yovanovitch is in no way a positive development for them, or the country.

In fact, the State Department is, as Ms. Yovanovitch stressed, our first line of defense in the world. Our diplomacy is not always perfect, but it most often saves substantial lives and treasure, and contributes to geopolitical stability from which the US and the world both benefit. All of which we can not afford to jeopardize, just because a president chooses to put personal interests or internal politics ahead of country.

What is also clear is that the president lacked self-control and dignity, in association with the proceedings. Not surprising, yet still remarkable by its abnormality. His tweets, falsely denigrating Ms. Yovanovitch in real time, should be deeply distressing to all Americans. They may amount to witness tampering, as per the former Ambassador’s admission that she found them intimidating. But, regardless of whether they constitute an impeachable offense in themselves, the president’s tweets were unacceptable. From any boss, and much less from a President of the United States.

A likely outcome for the impeachment process is that the president will be impeached by the House, and acquitted by the Senate, along partisan lines. That would keep the president in power, and would almost surely guarantee him as the Republican nominee in 2020.

If so, Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony should remain in our minds. Because that testimony made it clear that, in 2020, there is only one defensible choice for American voters, regardless of political preferences: End this unfit presidency, and hope that the damage it already did is still repairable.   

— Antonio Baptista

PS: At times, Ms. Yovanovitch reminded me of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. They are linked by gender, and by being targets of the ire of this president. But, far more important, they are linked by their courage and dignity under pressure. Might they serve as examples for generations of Americans to come—regardless of gender.


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