Will playing whac-a-mole help save the Trump presidency?
That's what Fox News and Donald Trump defenders have been reduced to in recent weeks as the White House and its media allies scramble to try to find a coherent defense for his admitted campaign collusion with a foreign power. (This time, it's attempted collusion with Ukraine.) More than a month into this unraveling story, Fox News is trying its best to protect Trump by attacking key players from within the administration who have come forward with damaging information during the impeachment inquiry. Going on the offensive and smearing honorable people is one of Fox News' favorite pastimes: It's the engine that fuels the whole propaganda enterprise. But this time it's not going to work, simply because there are too many witnesses offering up too much damaging information for Fox News and the conservative media to combat.
To date, those officials have included the anonymous whistleblower, whose initial complaint sparked impeachment. They also include U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, among others.
For Fox News, that's a hit list that's simply too long to corral and to take aim at.
In the end, Vindman by himself is not going to matter. Taylor's not going to matter. Sondland's not going to matter. Nor is Volker, or Kent. Even the whistleblower isn't going to matter. In the end, it's going to be the collective that delivers the big blow to Trump. It's going to be the kaleidoscope of administration officials who all tell the exact same story of Trump-sanctioned bribery, and holding up U.S. foreign aid to a foreign power in exchange for digging up dirt on Trump's political opponents.
For now, the strategy appears to be to claim that up is down and black is white, and to insist all new damning revelations exonerate Trump. Or, in the case of reliable Trump apologist Sen. Lindsay Graham, he's simply going to ignore all new information. “I've written off the whole process,” Graham told a reporter this week. It's a deeply cultish way to deal with the emerging crisis.
Taking their cues from Fox News, the entire Trump defense is now based on wholesale lies and rattled conspiracy theories. They believe the Ukraine whistleblower is a “traitor.” And they believe Democrats are trying to pull off a “coup.” This is all part of Fox News' larger problem since the Ukraine impeachment story broke more than a month ago: Nobody has a coherent defense for misdeeds that Trump has publicly admitted to.