Jonah Goldberg: Does Team Trump think we’re idiots? |
Featured Commentary

Jonah Goldberg: Does Team Trump think we’re idiots?

Jonah Goldberg
President Trump speaks during a meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih at the Lotte New York Palace hotel during the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 24.

What offends me most about the whistleblower-Ukraine-Biden story isn’t the obvious corruption of it all. It’s the way members of Team Trump assume we’re all idiots who won’t notice they’ve abruptly shifted their narrative.

At first, it seemed like a familiar scenario of allegations met with denials. The Washington Post reported that a “U.S. intelligence official” who had worked at the White House and had access to communications between Trump and a foreign leader was so alarmed by something Trump “promised” that the official filed a formal whistleblower complaint to the inspector general of the intelligence community. The IG found the complaint credible. On advice from the Department of Justice, Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, blocked the report from being sent to Congress in accordance with (a constitutionally debatable) law.

Trump’s denials came swiftly. In a tweet, he called the allegations “Another Fake News story,” adding, “is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call.”

Right, because only fools think Trump ever says anything inappropriate.

But then, just as the familiar Deep State and Fake News talking points were coming off the shelf, the president confessed.

Last Sunday, Trump offered reporters this syntactically unsettling admission about a conversation he’d had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Joe Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in Ukraine.”

After Trump’s statement, his defenders set a land-speed record for switching from “How dare you!?” to “You’re damn right he did it, and I’m glad,” prompting the question: What kind of idiots do they take us for?

The Trump praetorians who initially denied there was any effort to pressure the Ukrainians into action on a Biden probe, possibly including the withholding of congressionally approved military aid, suddenly surfaced a new talking point: “They’re trying to turn what was a Biden scandal into a Trump scandal.”

The allegation that Biden’s son Hunter is guilty of sketchy business practices seems legitimate enough — he accepted a paid seat on the board of a Ukrainian business that was under investigation at a time when his father, as vice president, had direct dealings with the Ukrainian government on corruption issues. But the charge that Joe Biden was freelancing foreign policy to protect his son simply doesn’t hold water if you spend five minutes reading up on it.

Biden was acting on orders from President Obama in coordination with allies and State Department policy to force the former Russia-backed Ukrainian regime to fire a dirty prosecutor who was failing to properly investigate corruption, including at the firm Hunter Biden worked with.

For two years, Trump defenders had an infinite supply of indignation over the mere suggestion that the president would collude with Russia. But now that indignation is reserved for anyone who suggests the president shouldn’t have tried to collude with the Ukrainians? Come on.

We’re supposed to believe a president who has never shown an iota of real concern over corruption in China, Egypt, Russia, the Philippines, North Korea and elsewhere is upset about the one corruption story that coincidentally touches on the potential Democratic opponent who’s crushing him in the polls? Does anyone believe Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, is calling Hunter Biden a “drug addict” on TV because this is all a matter of statecraft?

Show of hands: If Biden weren’t running, would the president have brought up Biden eight times — or at all — with the Ukrainian president?

The questions answer themselves.

It’s reminiscent of Trump’s “Lock her up!” attacks on Hillary Clinton. Once they served their purpose, the newly elected president said, “She’s been through enough.”

It’s almost like he’s been playing us for idiots all along.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and the host of The Remnant podcast. His Twitter handle is @JonahDispatch

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.