By Richard C. Gross
“Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.”
— Arthur Miller, playwright, essayist, 1915–2005
Extremist Republicans committed an unpardonable sin and a moral crime, cutting off a crucial pipeline of U.S. military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as it fights for its life for democracy against an overpowering dictatorial Russia.
The timing of the sacrifice of a trusted ally went a gambit too far for the sake of preventing a government shutdown. The hard-right wields threats of shutdowns as a recent reckless weapon to achieve its desired goals. This was a stab in Ukraine’s back just as the European Union pledged to continue supporting the war-ravaged country.
Leave it to the far-right to strike when someone is down. The Republicans have been balking for weeks about what Ukraine is costing America financially, which has taken the lead supporting Kyiv.
Speaking of sacrifice, the Republican-led House, in an unprecedented move, ousted its speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, for consorting with Democrats to keep the government running until Nov. 17. He told his colleagues behind closed doors that he’s done, that he won’t run again for the post.
“I don’t regret standing up for choosing governance over grievance,” McCarthy told reporters afterward. “It is my responsibility. It is my job. I do not regret negotiating; our government is designed to find compromise.”
He compared the war in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country in February 2022 to the 1930s and Hitler.
The Nazis annexed Austria in March 1938 and militarily occupied Czechoslovakia’s German-speaking Sudetenland in September that year. War erupted with Hitler’s invasion of Poland Sept.1, 1939.
McCarthy deserves credit for giving up the speakership after having fought for it in January through 15 votes for his ascension to the post — for going with country first, not for party, not for ideology, not for personal aggrandizement.
Who can blame him for trying repeatedly to deal with the Trumpist hard-right, which led the way to McCarthy’s downfall. Eight of them spurned him in the 216–210 vote to dump him. It could mean chaos for the leaderless House.
While there may be no hope for McCarthy, there is for Ukraine.
Fully 23 of the 27 E.U. foreign ministers met in Kyiv Monday to show solidarity with the Ukrainians as their frontlines with Russia in the east and south face major difficulties in staging a rapid counteroffensive designed to retake Russian-occupied territory.
“This meeting should be understood to be a clear commitment of the European Union to Ukraine and its continuous support in all dimensions,” the bloc’s senior official, Josep Borrell Fontelles, told reporters. He is a Spanish politician.
That must have lightened the hearts and minds of Ukrainians, who appeared to soften their disappointment at the U.S. pause in aid Saturday.
“The government will work, so there is no threat to the supply of previously approved weapons and equipment,” Ukraine’s ambassador to Washington, Oksana Markarova, wrote on Facebook Saturday, The Washington Post reported.
The Democrats also wielded the knife. But it was the far-right that sharpened it, forcing the Democrats also to vote against sending more money to Ukraine because the Democrats didn’t want to be blamed for a shutdown. Of course, typically, the juvenile far-right stuck out its tongue at compromise. Why?
Because it’s been angry at McCarthy since he broke his promise and refused rightist demands in June not to raise the debt ceiling. He made the pledge to get votes to be speaker. Worse, McCarthy relied on Democrats to raise the debt but did not ask for their help to retain his speakership.
So, Rep. Matt Gaetz, the spoiled brat from ultra-red book-burning Florida who has taken the lead scolding McCarthy, filed a motion Monday to oust the speaker as revenge for dealing with Democrats.
The hard-right demands smaller government and much less spending. But it doesn’t seem to balk over Republican tax cuts for the wealthy. The Trump cut in 2017 has cost an estimated $1.7 trillion.
The current national debt is a worrisome $33 trillion, real money. We’re not playing Monopoly.
Republicans hold 221 House seats, the Democrats 212. The far-right Trumpists among the Republicans include about 20 people from the House Freedom Caucus, which originated in 2015 over funding for the Homeland Security agency. These are some of the same people who tried repeatedly to kill Obamacare and want the same for Social Security and Medicare.
A good definition of the far-right came from John Boehner in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2017, about two years after he resigned as House speaker because he was fed up with dealing with right-wing Republicans.
“They can’t tell you what they’re for,” he said. “They can tell you everything they’re against. They’re anarchists. They want total chaos. Tear it all down and start over. That’s where their mindset is.” Sounds like Trump.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s adviser early in his presidency, followed through on the hard-right’s playbook when he said Trump’s objective was the “destruction of the administrative state.” That’s still a goal should Trump get elected to a second term.
He attended the first of his court trials in New York Monday in a civil case in which he and his two adult sons could lose his company and cost him $250 million in fines. He is accused of changing the values of three of his properties that prosecutors say netted him more than $2 billion. If convicted, he won’t face jail in a civil, not a criminal, case.
A freelance photographer snapped Trump at the defense table — scowling, eyes straight ahead, wordless. He normally scowls, his apparent resting face. Maybe it’s because he’s awaiting four criminal trials. They could mean prison.
But it was Trump in spades outside the courthouse, where he slammed New York Attorney General Letitia James as “a terrible person” and Judge Arthur F. Engoron as “rogue.” A federal judge has warned Trump against ostracizing court personnel under a possible penalty of a narrow gag order.
But Engoron did impose a gag order on Trump for denigrating his court’s clerk on his Truth Social website. He warned him that violating it would result in “serious sanctions.” Denigration is a common Trump tool against those who wrong him.
As for Ukraine, it would be interesting to see whether President Joe Biden could get around the 45-day hold on military aid to Ukraine by reinstating the U.S. lend-lease arraignment with Kyiv, which expired Saturday but can be extended.
The House passed the agreement April 28, 2022, Biden signed it May 9, 2022 and it went into force Oct. 1, 2022.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt started the lend-lease program before America’s entry in World War II. It allowed America to aid its allies in the conflict, chiefly Britain, by getting around objections by isolationists like famed pilot and military officer Charles Lindbergh. Charles o aid its Alliein the
Biden should be all he can be and give lend-lease a new lease for Ukraine.
Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and the Pentagon, was the foreign editor of United Press International and the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.