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Impeachment: A political Rorschach test

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With the joining of the impeachment battle, our nation finds itself separating into two bitterly brawling camps of partisans, each one viewing what are the same essentially undisputed facts through two vastly different lenses and, predictably, coming to two vastly different conclusions. The conclusions reached by individuals on such similar evidence are essentially functioning as a sort of political Rorschach test, revealing more about the individual tested and their worldview than about the political blot viewed.

While the facts are largely undisputed, the motives and narratives attributed to them by the public are diametrically opposed. And, curiously, the narratives claimed by each side—that they each were serving the national interest—appear to be nearly a "mirror image" of each other.

The narratives involve how the motives of Donald Trump and Joe Biden are viewed. While many Democrats argue that the conduct of Biden is irrelevant to the charges against Trump, the fact that the situation in Ukraine originated with the conduct of Biden and his son Hunter makes it very relevant. This is especially true since Trump is basing much of his defense upon it. It can't be wished away or disregarded as "unconnected."

The narratives are a "mirror image" in that both Trump and Biden argue that their own actions were motivated by the national interest, and not by personal advantage. Trump argues that his insistent "request" that Ukraine investigate the Bidens served the American interest in ferreting out corruption by public officials, and it was not motivated by seeking "dirt" and political advantage against his probable opponent in 2020. If true, this would provide a reasonable justification.

Biden, on the other hand, argues that the fact that Ukranian energy company Burisma Holdings was paying his son Hunter the sum of $50,000 per month, despite the fact that Hunter had no experience in the field and had just been discharged from the Navy for drug use, had no influence on his decision to force Ukraine to fire the prosecutor investigating Burisma for corruption. Biden's defenders argue that this prosecutor was widely regarded as corrupt, and that many others had joined in seeking his ouster. Thus, if it is true that his son's employment did not enter into his thinking, then he legitimately served the national interest in eliminating a corrupt official of a government receiving U.S. aid.

Thus, we are left having to divine the unspoken, subjective motivations of both Trump and Biden. Both have attempted to wrap themselves in the protective shroud of "I just intended to serve the American people." Not surprisingly, their partisans find their interpretation of the facts convincing and the other side's well beyond preposterous.

A reasonably objective observer would likely question the truth of both claims. The very idea that Trump might actually do anything that didn't offer him a personal advantage is hard to get your head around. The evidence that a "quid pro quo" was offered to Ukraine is strong, and the political advantage to be gained by digging up dirt on Biden is pretty obvious.

And Biden's glaring conflict of interest just slaps you in the face, as does the fact that Burisma clearly intended to buy Hunter's influence over Biden. So, even if there is no "smoking gun" explicitly showing a stated intention to satisfy Hunter's overly generous employer, some pretty obvious conclusions come to mind. Curiously, while many of Biden's defenders have pronounced the charges of corruption against him as "debunked," "discredited," or "unfounded," none of them have challenged the underlying facts, and none have offered a plausible alternative explanation for the situation with Hunter and Burisma. Instead, they just pretend, ostrich-like, that it never happened or that it doesn't matter.

Of course, Trump is the one being impeached, not the Bidens. But not only are the Bidens the cornerstone of Trump's defense, but Biden is running for president, and the American people are entitled to consider his ethics. Obviously, they can also draw their own conclusion about Trump's.

I predict that this will play out by damaging them both. Like dueling skunks, both of them will come out stinking. Trump will be "acquitted" in the Republican-controlled Senate, with most Americans still believing that he did offer a "quid pro quo" of aid for political advantage. Biden's already faltering campaign for president will be irretrievably damaged once the American people see him having to try to justify his very suggestive Ukrainian arrangement while testifying under oath in the Senate.

The Republicans will "win" because they will damage the one candidate who has a realistic chance of defeating Trump in 2020. Democrats will "win" because they will finally have the opportunity to at least symbolically impeach Trump and show the world how much they hate and detest him. But the American people will lose as we become even more bitterly divided into angry and distrustful tribes.

And the results of the political Rorschach test will surprise no one. Δ

John Donegan is a retired attorney in Pismo Beach. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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