This week, nearly two months after beginning impeachment proceedings, the Democrats finally held their first public hearings. If nothing else, the hearings made clear that the Democrats have no master plan for impeachment. They clearly haven't thought it through. They're making it up as they go along. In the end, impeachment will almost certainly hurt them. The whole premise is too absurd for it not to.
In the meantime, we did solve at least one nagging mystery after the first day of hearings: President Donald Trump's crime. We've had a lot of debate about the propriety of Trump's call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, but it's never been clear what exactly Democrats believe is the impeachable offense. Now we know.
During the campaign in August 2016, Trump dared to say this: "Wouldn't it actually be wonderful if we could get along with Russia? Wouldn't that be nice?"
Voters, it turns out, shared Trump's view. They elected him president just three months later. But permanent Washington was appalled. To them, getting along with Russia isn't simply an alternative view; it's a crime.
State Department veteran George Kent, one of the witnesses who testified on the hearings' first day, explained that conflict with Russia is the entire point of American foreign policy: "Ukraine's success is very much in our national interest, in the way we have defined our national interests broadly in Europe for the past 75 years. ... A Europe truly whole, free and at peace -- our strategic aim for the entirety of my foreign service career -- is not possible without a Ukraine whole, free and at peace, including Crimea and Donbas, territories currently occupied by Russia."
Got that? The territorial integrity of Ukraine is essential to America's national interests. Our own borders mean nothing, of course. Defending them is racist and immoral. Everyone in Washington knows that.
But Ukraine's borders -- the borders of Crimea and Donbas -- those are apparently vitally important and have been for 75 years. So back off, Trump, with your wild ideas about changing things because the world is now totally different than it was 75 years ago and voters want to move on. Moving on isn't allowed here. Change is prohibited.
Career bureaucrat William Taylor, the other first-day witness, agreed: "Ukraine is a strategic partner of the United States, important for the security of our country as well as Europe. Ukraine is on the front line in the conflict with a newly aggressive Russia."
We need Ukraine like an alcoholic needs a drink. We've been doing it this way for so long that we're addicted. Too many careers depend on keeping our assumptions exactly where they were in the fall of 1977, when fighting the Soviet menace consumed a lion's share of the federal budget.
Washington is terrified the rest of America will discover that the Soviet Union no longer exists and that Russia's economy is now smaller than Italy's or Brazil's. Russia's military budget is one-tenth of ours, with total military spending on par with India and Saudi Arabia. Russia's only aircraft carrier needs to be towed around the ocean because it's broken. Russia's best scientists and engineers have moved to New Jersey, leaving them unable to build a working escalator.
Russia's really, if we're being honest, not much of a danger to America at all. Washington doesn't want you to know that -- which is why Taylor and Kent and many of their friends spent the hearings' first day insisting that Russia remains a mortal threat to our country and that supporting Ukraine against them is a nondebatable policy requirement.
Trump clearly disagrees: "If you look at the Ukraine, we're the ones always fighting on the Ukraine. I never hear any other countries even mentioned. ... Ukraine's very far away from us ... I never hear anything from anybody except the United States."
"Ukraine is very far away from us." That could be his campaign slogan. It's not a sentence that's going to earn you an 800 on the SAT, but there's a kind of simple brilliance to it. It asks a question official Washington can't answer: Why exactly are we doing things this way? How does it help America?
For daring to ask that question, the only question that matters, they're impeaching him.
Impeachment leader Adam Schiff actually admitted it: "While the founders did not intend that impeachment be employed for mere differences over policy, they also made impeachment a constitutional process that the Congress must utilize when necessary."
You want to know what the left is up to? Listen carefully to what they deny. That's always the real answer. You're not supposed to impeach a president over policy differences, Schiff says. He's right. And yet, that's precisely what they're doing.