However, the president’s defenders are right about this much: If you listened to the testimony from the witnesses this week, you could sense submerged beneath the critique of Trump’s specific actions a larger policy worldview, one not so much argued for as simply assumed. All the people testifying believe that propping up Ukrainian democracy and supporting Kiev’s struggle against Russian irredentism is an essential goal for U.S. foreign policy. All of them believe that Trump’s behavior wasn’t just wrong because it turned U.S. aid to partisan ends, but also because it undermined a vital policy objective that any patriotic American ought to share.
And this is why the Ukraine scandal is likely to be remembered as a theater-of-the-absurd moment in a more serious and longer-term debate: Because it is not only Trump himself who does not share the professionals’ view of America’s vital interests, but a great many people, voters and politicians, Democrats and Republicans.
Moreover, it is not only the United States where there is a gap between what the foreign policy establishment believes and what the public mood supports. And it is not only populists and troublemakers who are willing to doubt the policy vision that treats the constant enlargement of American commitments, NATO and European Union membership as an inevitable and necessary goal.