The Corner

World

‘The Traveling Insult’

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and U.S. energy secretary Rick Perry following Zelensky’s inauguration ceremony in Kiev, May 20, 2019 (Mykola Lazarenko / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / Reuters)

A detail of the current Ukraine scandal reminded me of something that occurred in the second Reagan administration. (Word to the wise: Each four years of a presidency used to be referred to as an “administration.” Now we tend to use the word “administration” to refer to a president’s entire time in office. I am sometimes old-fashioned, as is a conservative’s right.)

Vice President Pence was scheduled to attend Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration in Kiev. President Trump instructed him not to. I think this is pretty lousy. For reasons that I and others have detailed, Ukraine is in great need of Free World support, and deserving of it.

Anyway, the administration sent the energy secretary, Rick Perry, instead. Personally, I would be just as happy to see Perry as to see Pence, if not more so. But this is diplomacy and geopolitics we’re talking about.

Okay, my memory of Reagan days. There was a U.N. conference that the administration wanted to thumb its nose at. Many important people were planning to attend, such as the French president, Mitterrand. But we sent Mr. Dennis C. Goodman, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations. This gesture was “intended to show contempt,” said a U.S official. (For the New York Times story, go here.)

And what did Mr. Goodman call himself? “The traveling insult.” I had forgotten his name, until I looked up the matter — but I will never forget this self-description.

Presidents Trump and Zelensky met at the U.N. on Wednesday. (Said Trump: “I really hope that you and President Putin get together and can solve your problem.”) And, judging from the above photo, Zelensky did not seem insulted to see the energy secretary at his inauguration. In fact, most people have a good time with Rick Perry.

P.S. Zelensky once made his living as a comedian. So did the president of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales. Three would make a trend. (I don’t think The Celebrity Apprentice counts.)

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