It is increasingly hard to watch the absurd lengths that some members of the Republican Party — especially in Tennessee — are reaching toward to defend Donald Trump.
There's the no-harm-no-foul defense, which dovetails with the it-wasn't-a-crime-if-it-wasn't-successful defense.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R. Ohio, trotted this one out in Wednesday's first public impeachment inquiry hearing when witness, veteran and U.S. charge d'affaires in Ukraine, William Taylor, asserted that he was not wrong about Trump's insistence that aid would not flow to Ukraine until Ukraine provided political dirt on his opponents. "I was not wrong about what I told you because that is what I heard," Taylor told Jordan.
"What you heard did not happen," Jordan said.
Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas later in the hearing made the point that attempted crimes — like extortion and bribery — are still crimes, even if the schemes don't work.
When that defense crumbles, there is the far more sad and increasingly brittle uber-partisan tactic.
The brittle partisan tactic is a favorite of Tennessee Republicans, and we have unwitting witnesses right here in Tennessee:
* U.S. Rep Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, carried Donald Trump's socks with a tweet Wednesday about what he called "today's latest charade against @POTUS."
* Tennessee's U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn aimed her Wednesday tweet at "Proven liar Adam Schiff ..." who chairs the hearings.
* U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of South Pittsburg, tweeted, in part: "caving to pressure, Adam Schiff is emerging from his secret lair to hold public impeachment hearings this week. Prepare to hear complaints from federal bureaucrats about Donald Trump's efforts to stop Obama Admin's foreign aid bonanza for corrupt Ukraine. ..."
Tweets are easy. When you tweet, you're not in a setting to be challenged. There's no dialogue — especially if you close the Twitter window and go back to Words With Friends.
But let's dissect DesJarlais' response. Let's follow the money — specifically "Trump's efforts to stop Obama Admin's foreign aid bonanza ..."
First, DesJarlais apparently forgot that one of the previous GOP defenses for Trump was that he, the Donald, is "doing more" for Ukraine because the Obama administration just sent blankets and MREs.
That "doing more" argument was part of Trump's pitch in his July 25 phone call with the new Ukrainian president. Trump used it as the build-up for saying he wanted "a favor, though." And when he laid out the favor — really two — he never said clean up Ukrainian corruption. What he specifically mentioned that he wanted was an investigation into his political opponent and some evidence to clear Russia in the meddling of the 2016 American election — the one Russia helped him win.
The Trump administration "was going further with its aid than the Obama administration by deciding to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons," according to a Sept. 25 article by DefenseNews.com. In 2017, Trump announced his intent to provide the Javelin weapon system, and Congress later approved an assistance package of 210 missiles and 37 launchers, together worth $47 million.
That's the second thing DesJarlais missed. He seems to have forgotten that the $391 million "bonanza" Trump put a hold on was approved by Congress last year in two pots — $250 million managed by the Defense Department and $14.5 million managed by the State Department. And he voted to approve it.
He really shouldn't have forgotten that vote. It was the one that — with great Congressional hoopla — memorialized a late Republican war hero and was named the "John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019."
Section 1246 was about the "modification and extension of Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative" and it specifically earmarked $50 million for "lethal" aid. The package brought the total amount of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to $1.5 billion since 2014. Altogether, the new aid was an increase for Ukraine.
DesJarlais, along with Fleischmann, voted in the House to approve the assistance before it was sent to the Senate — where both Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker approved it, as well. (Then-Rep. Blackburn is shown on the House roll call as "not voting.")
In June, the Pentagon announced plans to provide the $250 million to Ukraine in security cooperation funds for additional training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the capacity of Ukraine's armed forces.
But then Trump ordered his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to put a hold on the money.
The rest is history. And that history is still playing out. Perhaps our lawmakers will tune in to the hearings today to listen to more than just their own chorus of brittle partisan defenses. Perhaps eventually our Senate and congressional Republicans will get on the correct side of history.