One of America’s premier weddings in 1905 was the marriage of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to his distant cousin Eleanor Roosevelt, not because it featured the future president but because the sitting president, Theodore Roosevelt, gave the bride away.
When it was over, the president congratulated the groom, said, "Well, Franklin, there's nothing like keeping the name in the family" and left the room, guests in tow, leaving the couple alone.
That was one of the instances that led Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, to quip: “My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening.”
That description also fits our current president and its effect on our politics is magnified by the reach of 24-hour news networks and social media. Hardly a day has gone by since President Donald Trump announced his intentions to run in 2015 where one of his tweets hasn’t been — to his obvious great delight — the subject of news stories and endless discussion by analysts.
It happened again Friday and, as a result, a witty person might add “the defendant at every trial” to a reworking of Longworth’s quote as applied to Trump.
Fox News, no liberal bastion, recognized the moment right away. Anchor Bret Baier, covering the hearing live, noted during a break in testimony from Marie Yovanovitch the gravity of what Trump had done by attacking her through his Twitter account.
“That enabled (House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam) Schiff to then characterize that tweet as intimidating the witness or tampering with the witness, which is a crime, adding essentially an article of impeachment in real time as this hearing is going on,” Baier said.
Yovanovitch was dismissed by Trump in May as ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch is a career foreign service officer, appointed ambassador three times in 33 years with the State Department, twice by Republican presidents and once by a Democrat. She doesn’t get the glamor assignments – those go to big contributors like Gordon Sondland, who became ambassador to the European Union after giving $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund.
Instead, Yovanovitch has gotten the trouble spots. One of her first assignments as a junior embassy official was Mogadishu, Somalia, as that country’s government sought to impose a police state and the nation sank into civil war in 1988 and chaos from which it has still not recovered.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted while she was testifying. “She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”
Schiff interrupted Yovanovitch’s testimony on the effects of the attacks on her by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, to read her the tweet.
First she defended her record.
“I don’t think I have such powers. Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, and not in other places,” Yovanovitch said. “I actually think that where I’ve served over the years, I, and others, have demonstrably made things better, for the U.S., as well as the countries that I’ve served in.”
Then Schiff asked her what impact Trump’s attack may be on other witnesses yet to testify.
“I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do but I think the effect is to be intimidating,” Yovanovitch said.
Sondland, for example, is scheduled to appear Wednesday.
Sondland has already changed his initial testimony, given in a closed deposition, and said there was a clear effort to pressure Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce publicly an investigation conspiracy theories that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton and how Hunter Biden became a director of a Ukranian energy company.
He will certainly be asked about the most recent revelations, that an aide overheard Sondland and Trump discussing how to apply that pressure.
The president rarely seems inclined to take advice, but I will offer some here:
There's a reason defendants have the right to remain silent. The wise move would be to stop talking.
Rudi Keller is news editor for the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.