CURATOR NOTE: Bret Stephens is a NYT opinion writer. There are many good reasons to impeach Trump but the most alarming reasons are related to the damage he has done to the American people through his own spread of constant lies, conspiracy theories, threats, taunts and vindictive smear campaigns. He has now enabled domestic “bad actors” to spread digital disinformation, often rooted in Russian propaganda. This article is an articulation of what has happened to our people and our information flow.
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The fourth theme is covert Russian interference, usually facilitated by local actors.
Ukraine offers the world’s most extreme example of this kind of interference (nearby Georgia is a close second), since large parts of the country have been seized outright by Russia and its proxies. But long before the Kremlin’s “little green men” arrived in Crimea in 2014, Russia and its agents were using every dirty trick at their disposal, from poisoning a future Ukrainian president with dioxin to poisoning the media landscape with disinformation. Too often, it worked, whether because its victims were suggestible, corrupt, fearful or simply not paying attention.
That last point was also made by Fiona Hill in her testimony on Thursday, where she warned members of the House Intelligence Committee that they ran the risk of themselves falling victims to “politically driven falsehoods,” regarding a bogus theory about Ukrainian political interference, “that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
Yet the person who is both the principal consumer and purveyor of those falsehoods is the president of the United States, just as he has been a purveyor of so many other conspiracy theories. Even now, this should astound us.
It doesn’t, because we’ve been living in a country undergoing its own dismal process of Ukrainianization: of treating fictions as facts; and propaganda as journalism; and political opponents as criminals; and political offices as business ventures; and personal relatives as diplomatic representatives; and legal fixers as shadow cabinet members; and extortion as foreign policy; and toadyism as patriotism; and fellow citizens as “human scum”; and mortal enemies as long-lost friends — and then acting as if all this is perfectly normal. This is more than a high crime. It’s a clear and present danger to our security, institutions, and moral hygiene.
It’s to the immense credit of ordinary Ukrainians that, in fighting Russian aggression in the field and fighting for better governance in Kyiv, they have shown themselves worthy of the world’s support. And it’s to the enduring shame of the Republican Party that they have been willing to debase our political standards to the old Ukrainian level just when Ukrainians are trying to rise to our former level.
The one way to stop this is to make every effort to remove Trump from office. It shouldn’t have to wait a year.