Photo: Joni Ernst meets the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine during her trip to Ukraine in February. Photo via U.S. Embassy Kyiv.
Joni Ernst has a problem.
She is completely incapable of stating the simple fact that a president of the United States should not request or pressure a foreign power to dig up dirt on their domestic political rivals.
In the era of Donald Trump, apparently even this is too much to ask for Ernst, who fancies herself a foreign policy leader and hawk.
Three separate times in the past week, Ernst has dodged and demurred on what should be an easy answer to a question central to the legitimacy of our democratic government. It seems she is too afraid of a nasty tweet from Trump in response to daring to disagree with the leader of her political party.
But there’s a different question that news outlets should start asking Ernst and other Republican senators too afraid to stand up for democracy: what if the shoe was on the other foot?
What if, instead of foreign adversaries attacking Democratic candidates, they started attacking Republican ones?
It’s not a baseless hypothetical in Ernst’s situation.
Up for a tough reelection in 2020, Ernst has made clear her feelings on Russia throughout her political career.
“I have said this time and time again: North Korea, not our friend! Russia, not our friend! I have made that very, very clear, and the President knows where I stand,” Ernst said loudly when pressed by constituents about Trump’s actions at a town hall last week.
Ernst has also long been a staunch, outspoken defender of Ukraine, especially against Russian aggression. Defending Ukraine’s sovereignty is something she cares deeply about, and she’s in an influential position to be one of their best allies in American government.
Russia most certainly doesn’t like that.
So what if they decided to do something about that, and targeted Ernst in the election in the same way they targeted Hillary Clinton and others? One would think that Ernst would have something to say about that.
Or, even worse, what if her political opponents started openly calling for foreign assistance in defeating her?
Imagine this scenario: Theresa Greenfield, Ernst’s likely Democratic opponent, goes on Dave Price’s The Insiders on WHO-TV, turns to the camera at one point and says, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you open an investigation into Joni Ernst and let everyone know what you find.”
That, of course, is an utterly absurd scenario that would never happen.
But as absurd as it is to think an Iowa candidate would do such a thing, it is literally what Donald Trump, the President of the United States, has been doing in public and private for years now.
If you need a reminder, watch this video of him calling for help on investigating the Bidens from China and Ukraine while on the White House lawn from last week:
Trump is doing this in the public. Ernst doesn’t need documents to review, she doesn’t need a long, drawn-out process to consider, she just needs to open her damn eyes and look through the haze of partisanship that’s blinding her from her oath of office. And if she can’t bring herself to back impeachment proceedings, she can at the very least just say that foreign interference is wrong.
That is why Ernst’s silence on this matter is so maddening, so completely unacceptable from a United States senator, no matter the political circumstances of our time. We are living through a massive constitutional crisis, one that history will likely look back at as one of the most disgraceful moments in American history. Democracy itself is at stake as Trump acts like a third-world dictator.
And yet Ernst is treating this like a run-of-the-mill campaign controversy, one that if she just keeps ducking and dodging for long enough, it will all blow over.
So, start asking her something else. Ask Ernst if she would find foreign interference against her own reelection campaign objectionable and wrong.
Maybe when Ernst is thinking about herself, she’ll finally get it. Because that sure seems to be the only thing she’s good at these days.
by Pat Rynard
Photo via U.S. Embassy Kyiv