by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The release of the “transcript” (really just detailed notes, possibly incomplete) seems like yet another Rorshach moment in the Trump era. Anti-Trump partisans see major corruption; pro-Trump partisans see a nothingburger. How does the voter in the middle see it? Picture a Midwesterner who voted for Obama, then Trump, then for a Democrat for Congress last fall. Picture a person who does not spend 15 hours a day obsessing over politics. How does he see things?
I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be. If I were a major foreign leader and I had such a conversation with Trump, I’d be sure to follow it up by talking to someone with a more linear and lawyerly way of approaching matters. I’d want to talk to someone like attorney general Bill Barr, for instance. Trump in fact suggested that Zelensky talk to Barr, but the AG’s office says this followup chat never happened. Was this Trump just offering a typically James Joycean stream of consciousness as he does virtually every time he speaks, or hinting that Ukraine would face consequences if it failed to go after the Biden family? Rorshach moment.