Many years ago, when Donald Trump was content to be merely the most hated man in New York City instead of the most hated man in the world, he had lunch with the billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson. Branson didn’t know Trump, but he looked forward to a conversation covering a broad range of issues. Instead Trump, who had just gone through one of his several bankruptcies, spent the entire time bitching about the same people. “He just spent the whole lunch talking about five people he rung up to try to get help from … and how these people had refused to help him and how his life’s mission was to destroy these people,” Branson asserted.
Donald Trump is a collector of carefully cultivated animosities. As people get added to his ever-growing list, he devotes himself to ruining their lives if he possibly can. Sometimes, as in the case of Marie Yovanovitch and Lisa Page, those animosities are not even founded in reality but are instead works of fiction manufactured from the convenient cloth of expediency. Now that he is president of the United States, of course, the ruination of the life of a person is only ever just a tweet away.
So it should come as no surprise that Voldomyr Zelensky is one of the latest occupants of Donald Trump’s enemies list. Zelensky’s crime was his failure to announce an investigation of the Bidens. (Remember, it wasn’t an actual investigation of the Bidens Trump was after. The mere announcement would do.) For his crime Trump has punished Zelensky after all. He has withheld $35 million of the $250 million federally allocated aid to Ukraine. In other words, about 14% of the aid has been held up, all because Zelensky wouldn’t hold up his end of the bargain. Not even impeachment can separate Trump from his hate list.
It has become a Republican article of faith in the no harm/no foul Ukraine mantra that, as Ukraine got their money and Donald Trump got no announcement of a Biden investigation, there is nothing to see here. Of course, one need look no further than the current residence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (the Federal Correctional Institution, Englewood, Colorado) to realize that bribery doesn’t need to be successful for it to be a crime. In any case, it isn’t true that the Ukrainians have their money after all. So the Republicans can drop their pretence and go in search of another one. Trump is bribing, or even blackmailing, Zelensky after all, as it turns out. And he’s doing it right under Republican noses while he’s being impeached for it.
In a 1988 issue of Spy Magazine, Graydon Carter referred to Donald Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian.” That reference earned Mr. Carter Donald Trump’s lifelong enmity and, because Trump responded to the insult so badly, bequeathed the world yet another focus to direct its mockery. In any case, there’s actually nothing wrong with having small hands, but there is much that is wrong with having a small mind.
Now that it has become clear that Trump has not released all the Ukrainian money, look for the Republican narrative to change accordingly from “all of the money” to “most of the money.” Donald Trump is a festering morass of insecurities, ego and lies, and there is no bottom he can go to that the Republicans will not try to defend him. The problem is not that the divide between Republicans and Democrats has grown too large, it’s that the job description for being a Republican is too scabrous, dishonest and criminal for the two to ever come together again.
So look for the term “never Trumper” to become the ubiquitous two note pejorative for anyone who is not a defender of Donald Trump in the coming year. It is a term I particularly resent. I am no more a “never Trumper” than I am a “never Hitler.” I don’t require a label to narrowly define the obvious. I’m not just against some bigots and most monsters. I’m against all bigots and I am against all monsters. Donald Trump flatters himself to suggest that I and people like me need a special label with his name attached to it to delineate us as a people standing against that which is obviously morally repugnant. And not only am I not afraid that might qualify me for his enemies list, I hope it does. It is the best evidence I know of that one is doing the right thing.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.