The Corner


‘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.)

Most Popular

White House

More Evidence the Guardrails Are Gone

At the end of last month, just as the news of the Ukraine scandal started dominating the news cycle, I argued that we're seeing evidence that the guardrails that staff had placed around Donald Trump's worst instincts were in the process of breaking down. When Trump's staff was at its best, it was possible to draw ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More

Is America Becoming Sinicized?

A little over 40 years ago, Chinese Communist strongman and reformer Deng Xiaoping began 15 years of sweeping economic reforms. They were designed to end the disastrous, even murderous planned economy of Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The results of Deng’s revolution astonished the world. In four decades, ... Read More