Fiona Hill, a compelling witness in the impeachment hearings, is a Russian expert, and a fully-feathered hawk. In her stern warnings about Republicans swallowing Putin propaganda and thereby letting Russia off the hook for election interference, she once again shifted the impeachment framing from corruption by Trump to patriotism and a warlike footing for American policy. Hill, who constantly expected to be ejected and quit the administration, was all along an unlikely figure in the soft-on-Putin Trumpworld.
This shift to attacking Russia has a tactical advantage as the Democrats seek more Republican defections and more public pressure to impeach. It will help in prying Republicans from their flat-out defense of Trump, since they can appear to be Kremlin stooges. One wonders if the Cold War interests, such as defense contractors and the military, won’t start to put pressure on the GOP. And appealing to patriotism during the 2020 election could help Democrats in many swing districts where church, flag, and military strength play well in the culture wars.
But this martial music could also create some problems for the Democrats, long-term. There are few (if any) hawks in the Democrats running for the presidential nomination, though I almost expect Mayor Pete to show up in uniform any day now. And candidates who jump on the bandwagon of The Russians Are Coming! will risk alienating the dove wing of the party. Joe Biden has the foreign policy experience to flap a few hawk wings, and Buttegieg is always happy to remind voters of his military service. But the others might look too expedient if they follow the Fiona Hill script, at least during the primary.
Still, the opening is there for some good OLD Democratic tunes that might play well in Trump Country.