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American politics: uncertain election results and impact on Ukraine

Elections in powerful countries often have consequences for many neighboring nations. And elections in a country like the USA, undoubtedly, have implications for the entire world. How will Ukraine be affected by the aftermath of November 5th?

We also delve into other matters of American presidential politics. Is it true that America is close to an oligarchy? Is the US Supreme Court corrupt? And has the GOP become a cult of Donald Trump?

American politics: uncertain election results and impact on Ukraine

Brian Bonner: Hello, everybody. This is Brian Bonner. I’m the host of Ukraine Calling for Hromadske Radio, and I’m coming to you today on American Independence Day with one of the greatest Americans of all time. Reno Domenico is joining me.

He is a longtime educator, owner, and founder of Sterling Business School in Kyiv. More importantly to today’s topic, he is chairman and longtime leader of Democrats Abroad. We have a lot to talk about because I’ve never seen anything like this in America. Hello, Reno. Welcome to the program.

Reno Domenico: Hello, Brian. It’s very good to be with you. Happy Fourth of July. 248 years ago, our founders tried to give us a republic. About three days ago, this corrupt Supreme Court in the U.S. tried to give us a king. So we have a lot of work to do.

Is it time for Biden to resign?

Brian Bonner: We certainly do, and only a little time. With the November election coming up, I don’t recall a situation like this now, where we have, as we’re speaking today, a groundswell is building to persuade President Joe Biden to drop out of the race because of his disastrous debate performance. I know you voted for him, I voted for him.

We want a Democrat in the White House. And any Republicans listening, I’ll give you equal time. But how did you arrive at your position that he should resign for the sake of the party and the country?

Reno Domenico: Well, Brian, you know I’m an organizational Democrat. I’m an FDR, John Kennedy, New Frontier Democrat. I’ve always been an organization guy, and I believe in it. It works for us in New Jersey, and it worked for a long time. I was all set up for that debate. I got up in the wee hours of the morning. I made a pot of black coffee.

I was ready for Joe Biden to come out in a debate in which they selected the time, place, terms, and conditions. I was expecting Joe to be the fighting Joe Biden that I’ve been used to in American politics. Not just in his presidency but before that, as a leader in the party and a leader in the U.S. What I saw in the first 30 seconds, I said, this is not going to be good. The next hour and a half was not good. Within 30 seconds of that show ending, I posted my comments that for the sake of the country, Joe Biden has to do the right thing.

He’s going to have to be the one to make the decision. This is not something the party or anyone in influence can push him into doing. He’s going to have to come to the conclusion himself. If I were handling him, I would ask him to watch that debate one more time and do a self-analysis and say: “Can I bring this fight to Donald Trump?” We’re not going to waste time on this show discussing the fact that Donald Trump is unfit to be the president of the United States. He’s a criminal, he’s a sex predator, he’s all kinds of problems.

But we need a fighter. There’s no second chance in this game. We have to make a move. We’re fortunate because if this debate was in September, we’d be locked in and there’s nothing we could do. But there is time between now and the convention. We have a very deep bench of candidates who can carry the ball. We need somebody who can fight, stand up to Donald Trump, call out his innumerable lies and falsehoods and transgressions and idiocy.

We should be talking here about Donald Trump and how unfit he is for office. Unfortunately, we’re left with a situation where our standard-bearer, and listen, I love Joe Biden, and I think a lot of Democrats love Joe Biden. He’s had a tremendously successful presidency. It’s been remarkable what he’s been able to accomplish in this polarized political environment and without complete control of Congress for the last two years. I think he needs to come out, make a decision, go out on a high note, and give us a chance to get a standard-bearer who can carry the fight.

Brian Bonner: I should note that Reno was a longtime public educator in America. I believe Sterling High School, or district principal for nearly 20 years. That’s suburban Philadelphia, so you’re sort of from Joe Biden’s neck of the woods in a reliably Democratic state, New Jersey. Looking at the debate, I was glad they had it in June because it was clear his staff had been keeping him in a bubble and propping him up for a long time. What that debate showed me was that all the fears Americans had, and three-fourths of Americans think he’s too old, were true. It wasn’t just one bad night. Do you agree with that?

Reno Domenico: I would hope, and Brian, you and I have been through a number of debates with Republicans, and we’ve had a number of political discussions. If I showed up like that, I would hope that the people close to me would say, you know, Reno, it’s time to pack it in. You just can’t do this anymore. I don’t think it’s necessarily just a question of age. It’s a question of stamina and general health. What we saw was a condition, not an episode. If it was one bad debate, we would be able to ride it out.

But he did not rise to the occasion. If someone could guarantee me, assure me, that this wouldn’t happen again, I would be capable of saying, okay, let’s go forward. There’s a lot to be said for incumbency and keeping things in order. But we can’t guarantee that this won’t happen again.

Brian Bonner: I agree that the effects of aging don’t improve over time. We’ve had plenty of signs earlier than this. What I’m worried about is this shows that other people are making decisions for him out of necessity. Now you see this groundswell of people saying he’s had these episodes numerous times and we just haven’t been fully informed of it.

Right now, they’re circling the wagons, saying he’s the only guy who can beat Donald Trump, the only guy who can appeal to white male voters or cut that lead that Trump has in that category of voters. What happens if he stays on the ticket? Does he take the Democrats down to defeat? Because you’re going to vote for him and I’m going to vote for him if he stays.

Reno Domenico: Yes, that’s absolutely true. The hardcore base of the Democratic Party will stay with him. People like me, I’m not going to vote for Donald Trump. I’m not going to not vote or vote for some third-party candidate and waste our ballot.

In America, it’s a binary choice. We have the luxury of time. Up until 1980, the conventions were where the candidates were selected. We are fortunate that we have time if Joe makes the right decision, does the right thing for the country, the party, and himself, and goes out on a high note.

We have a very deep bench of Democrats. There are a number of people that can carry the ticket. (Vice President) Kamala Harris is certainly one to be considered. (California Governor) Gavin Newsom has to be considered. (Michigan Governor Gretchen) Whitmer has to be considered. Even the governor of my state, (Phil) Murphy. I think any successful executive at this point can handle Donald Trump. It’s got to be someone who can answer him. Think of all the work Joe Biden did for labor in the last four years. He’s basically resurrected the labor movement in America. He didn’t even mention it in the debate.

Does Biden want to resign?

Brian Bonner: Listen, if we go over that debate, it was a disaster. So we could probably shorten that. What about his temperament? It’s hard to give up power, but I’ve never had the impression that Joe Biden wanted power for the sake of power. He’s dropped out before, and he stepped aside in 2016 for Hillary Clinton. I have the sense that he is realistic enough to drop out, but he’s going to have to do it very quickly. Wouldn’t you agree?

Reno Domenico: Relatively quickly. Look, Joe’s an Irish politician. Irish can be very stubborn, as can Italians. I think it’s going to be very tough. There’s a good piece in the New York Times today by Adam Grant from the Wharton School called «The Escalation of Commitment to a Losing Cause.» This campaign has been going on for 14 months. Joe campaigned to be president for a good part of the last 30 years.

They’re down to the last four months. It’s very hard to pull the plug on your dream. Of course, the second term, I’m sure, is the dream of every successful president in America. But we have to count on his good judgment. We have to count on him to do the right thing for the country. That’s what he’s got to look at.

Brian Bonner: He’s going to be defeated if he stays.

Reno Domenico: I’ve been around and involved in this at the grassroots for a long, long time. What I smell at the end of the debate is defeat. We’re headed to a 1980-style debacle if we don’t change course.

Who can replace Biden?

Brian Bonner: One scenario, which seems to make a lot of sense, is not only should he not run for re-election, but he should resign from office to give Kamala Harris the advantages of incumbency. I don’t know, but I’m told that the campaign can stay on the ballot as Biden-Harris, keeping the campaign money they’ve raised. It would give her an edge. What do you think about that scenario?

Reno Domenico: I think Kamala has to be considered as a top candidate, but she’s not the only candidate. I don’t necessarily buy the argument that the campaign money can’t be funneled to a new effort. Yes, Kamala is in the campaign. She would understand exactly where they were going and how they were going to do it. There’s a lot to be said for her. She certainly is capable. She’s come a long way and grown into the office.

I think we have six weeks, maybe a little more, but certainly enough time for the American public to look at top-notch candidates. The DNC needs to do some work and get the top five or six people the party would be willing to look at, showcase them, maybe have some debates, give them all time at the convention, and decide this on the floor.

I heard this argument that the party is fractured. That is not true. I know what a structured party looks like and this is not it. The Gaza issue is causing consternation among some elements of the party. Our long-term ally, Israel, has not been the best partner for the US, certainly this year and for the last 15 years. But these are issues we can rise above. We don’t have factions like in 1968 where there was violence in the street. It all starts with Joe, Brian. Joe’s got to come to the understanding. It all starts with him.

Brian Bonner: He needs to release his delegates. So, you want a good old-fashioned open convention where the delegates decide who the nominee is?

Reno Domenico: Yes. Think about how excited the American public would be. For a change.

Brian Bonner: And by the way, that’s August 19th in Chicago.

Reno Domenico: In Chicago. It makes me regret not running for delegate this year. How exciting it would be for the American people to see the best of our best go at it in a civilized, democratic fashion. This is what democracy looks like because we’re not getting a version of democracy from Donald Trump.

At this point, the American public is not excited about the election in general. If we give them the opportunity to see our best, and our best is very good, the Democratic bench is very strong. It’s just been on a hiatus. We haven’t been bringing them forward, but we have very capable people. Again, Kamala is one of the top, and maybe it makes sense to bring her forward. My fingers are still burning from 2016 because I think Hillary would have been president.

Is there a need to reform the American election system?

Brian Bonner: We have a lot of people. Gretchen Whitmer, as you mentioned. Gavin Newsom, California governor. But let’s talk about the implications for Ukraine. This is a big election for Ukraine. How did we get into an American situation where, as you said, the Democrats have a good bench, but they haven’t been brought forward?

We ended up with an 81-year-old who nobody wants, and a 78-year-old who nobody wants, both with high disapproval ratings. We have term limits for presidents but not for Congress. Do we need term limits for Congress or take big money out of campaigns? How did we end up in this terrible situation?

Reno Domenico: It’s a long story. Citizens United created corporations acting as individuals. It’s an amazing decision.

Brian Bonner: That’s unlimited money.

Reno Domenico: Unlimited money flooding the system. I mean, (Sheldon) Adelson plans to spend $100 million for Donald Trump because of their support for the right-wing in Israel. It’s absurd.

Brian Bonner: We need finance limits and public finance?

Reno Domenico: We should reimpose finance limits. There’s a long series of things that got us here. In 2020, Joe Biden saved the country and the party, and everybody coalesced around that idea. Here we are four years later. Joe does not seem able to coalesce the anti-Trump vote. Trump has not expanded his base. He can’t even capitalize on this debate. He’s running simply to stay out of jail.

There’s a good chunk of the electorate waiting to vote Democratic, but we have to give them a reason. If you look at the polls, our Senate candidates are running seven points on average above Joe Biden in all the battleground states. That tells us something. It’s not that people are rejecting the Democratic Party’s agenda.

Brian Bonner: I see that. We’re not nominating the younger people. We have this strange situation where people dislike Congress but like their representative. Chuck Grassley (Republican senator from Iowa) and all these members of Congress, 80-90 percent get reelected, and they are old. I mean, they are in their 70s and 80s. A “young” member of Congress is in their 60s.

Reno Domenico: The problem is, Brian, no matter how old these Congress people are, they’re all rich. Congress is corrupted by money, a result of Citizens United. I’ve often said that our Congress people should wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers with a patch from every corporation that gave them money because that’s what we’ve been left with in this country. We’re very close to an oligarchy. We went through this in Ukraine and then the post-Soviet Union.

The impact of US elections on Ukraine

Reno Domenico: I want to go back to your point, Brian, because it’s very important. I’ve been telling people for the last year and a half, and I’m sure a lot of people ask you, what is going to happen with the war in Ukraine? The war in Ukraine will be decided on November 4th in the United States election.

If the Democrats lose, and I supported Joe Biden up until last Thursday, Donald Trump says he can solve this in 30 minutes with his buddy Vladimir Putin. There’s only one way he’s going to do that, and that is to sell out Ukraine. That’s exactly what they intend to do because Trump, with his delusion of being a dictator, gravitates to other dictators, he likes them.

If you’re going to solve this in 30 minutes, it means dividing Ukraine and splitting up the country. End of story. Everyone who sacrificed their lives, the people suffering with no electricity, the children – it’s a tragedy. But the war will be decided in Washington, D.C.

Brian Bonner: Now, Trump supporters say, well, not so fast. If you look at the record, the original war started when (Barack) Obama was in office, and Obama had a weak response, which I agree with, even though I supported Obama.

When you look at Biden, I would say he’s done well but not great in terms of supplying Ukraine. (National Security adviser) Jake Sullivan seems to have many red lines and half measures, trying to manage the outcome. There’s still room for a robust hawkish Republican response akin to the Republican Party of (Ronald) Reagan and (John) McCain.

Trump supporters argue that during his presidency, he provided lethal weapons, chastised NATO to spend more money, and opposed Nord Stream 2. And during the debate, he said he doesn’t accept Putin’s conditions for ending the war. So would it be so bad? What’s going to happen to Ukraine if Donald Trump is in office?

Reno Domenico: Actions speak louder than words. We know that Donald Trump has had very warm relations with Vladimir Putin. There’s only one way you can settle this quickly, and that’s the only way. The story of how the war has been conducted, that’s another long discussion, which we don’t have time for today. But wars are not linear events.

Wars are fought in stages, and they develop. What was thought possible on February 22, 2022, looks a lot different today, two years later. Nobody knew the extent to which Ukraine would fight. Nobody knew the extent to which the government would be stable. There’s many, many issues that have to be looked at. The bottom line is, if it wasn’t for Joe Biden, this war may very well have already turned completely against Ukraine.

Brian Bonner: Ukrainians see it that way. I came across a great poll yesterday that Ukrainians prefer Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a seven to one margin. Is it that they can see the freight train running at them if it’s Donald Trump?

Reno Domenico: I think so. I mean, you said something very important, too. The Republican Party, quote on quote, is no longer a political party, in my view. It’s a cult of personality at best. This is not Ronald Reagan’s party. And again, he wasn’t my favorite either. But this is not Ronald Reagan’s party. This is not the party of John McCain, who Donald Trump disparaged repeatedly.

This is a Republican Party that is remade in an isolationist, this America first, make America great again, whatever the heck that means, because nobody can ever define that to me. Because America is still the greatest country on Earth. And we still have a republic of some kind if we can save it.

Brian Bonner: Would there be a chance that we could elect a Democrat who will be tougher than Biden on Russia? Because I noticed with disparagement that Joe Biden has been a little soft on some sanctions like oil and gas because he doesn’t want consumers to pay higher prices. I mean, there is room for a tougher American stance on Russia. Would you agree?

Reno Domenico: There’s room for a tougher stance on the war. Again, geopolitics is very complex. We should put another day aside just to discuss the geopolitics of the whole situation. Again, you’re going into an election, and no incumbent is going to do something that’s going to raise gas prices because that’s the one metric in America that will guarantee your defeat.

There’s a lot of things that go into this. I think the escalatory approach that was taken has actually worked. I mean, it’s been the best that you could do under the circumstances. Now, again, I don’t want to spend all my time on that, but there’s a lot of questions about the war that we could discuss, and some of them probably left unsaid for now. But I think the Democrats are the only hope Ukraine has. It’s as simple as that.

Brian Bonner: Let’s emphasize, pause for emphasis, to repeat. The Democrats are the only hope that Ukraine has, you believe that?

Reno Domenico: The war in Ukraine will be decided on November 4th, in the election in America. Because if the Democrats win, the Russians will have to recalibrate. I mean, Ukraine is suffering, but I don’t think Russia is not having problems.

They’re losing troops at an alarming rate; they’re losing equipment at an alarming rate. When you start taking 155mm artillery from North Korea, where the reliability of that ammunition is very low, it means you’re really having problems.

And at some point, just paying people to send bodies home is not going to end the story in Russia. Eventually, the pain is going to become clear. I don’t believe that Vladimir Putin thinks he can go another four years with the sanctioned regime that’s in place, the pressure that’s being applied on him internationally, if he thinks there’s no way out.

And with Donald Trump, he’s sure he’s got a way out. I’m not sure, listen, in my heart, I believe Donald Trump is completely compromised in Russia. I think they’ve got something on him, or he’s got some business interests, because Donald Trump only does things when it’s in his personal self-interest. He never does anything to help anybody else. He lets all his friends wither on the vine. Look at Rudy Giuliani. The guy ruined his career by touching this piece of manure, looking at it in the worst words.

Is the US Supreme Court corrupt?

Brian Bonner: Yeah, I’m agreeing with you politically. But maybe we should close with the Supreme Court ruling because some people are reading it as saying that basically, as long as Trump justifies whatever criminality, bribes, pardons, corruption, giving away classified information, as long as he classifies that as an official act, he will not be punished for it.

Is that the way you’re reading it, and how worried are you about the fact that it looks like we have a Supreme Court that is not deciding things for the interests of the country, but actually are part of the cult of Donald Trump?

Reno Domenico: The Supreme Court that we’re looking at right now, with Clarence Thomas as one of the suspects, Sam Alito, who never noticed that upside-down flag outside his house, these guys are partisans.

They’re just completely partisan justices. Any decent judge would have recused himself from dealing with the issue of presidential immunity. What they have done is exactly what you said. As long as it’s an official act, basically, they’ve given the president of the United States a free ride.

They’ve taken what is a Republican tradition in America, set by George Washington, of all people. Reinforced by presidents all the way up to our former leader. It’s okay, whatever they want to do, as long as it’s an official act. I think on his social media platform, he recently suggested that Liz Cheney should be held by a military tribunal. For treason.

Brian Bonner: Yeah, he wants to prosecute his enemies.

Reno Domenico: Yeah, he wants to prosecute his enemies. He forgets the fact that a jury of 12 people from New York City, where he’s from, all found him guilty on 34 felony accounts of covering up, sleeping with a prostitute, which of course he still says he didn’t do, but I mean, why would you pay $130,000 for something you didn’t do?

And that’s how the American justice system works. He’s undermining every aspect of American life. The country is bad. It’s a third world country, overrun by immigrants. You know anybody that’s been overrun by an immigrant lately?

Closing remarks

Brian Bonner: Well, I know the alarming thing is that, and there’s a lot of soul searching, how America ended up in the situation where it looks like they’re poised to possibly elect an insurrectionist who tried to overturn the election in 2020, threatened his vice president, committed crimes, committed corruption.

It looks like he gave away classified information. It looks like there were a whole lot of complex interests. I mean, it’s on and on, and I think that’s again, as you said, a deeper and longer discussion about America. But let’s bring it home to Ukraine.

Reno Domenico: Ukraine. Let me say one thing, Brian. Let me say one thing. There’s one thing we can do to stop it, and that is win this election in November. The purpose of a political party is to win elections. The Democratic Party, which is the oldest political party in the world, functioning political party, needs to be a serious enough political organization to come to grips with the fact that the standard bearer that got us through the last four years, a remarkably great president, needs to step aside for the good of the country to save us from what you just described.

And there’s only one way. There’s only one way to stop it, and that is to win this election. It’s a risk whichever way you turn. But I’ve been involved in this business long enough to know that I smell defeat. And if Joe Biden wakes up on the 5th of November and turns around and is responsible for a blowout election where we lose the Senate, the House, and the presidency, he will regret that for the rest of his life.

And his legacy will be tarnished. Joe Biden needs to do what’s best for himself, which is to step aside, and allow the Democratic Party to select a standard bearer who can go toe-to-toe with this criminal, because that’s what he is, and let’s win this election. That’s the only way to bring this to a halt.

Brian Bonner: Okay. That’s well put, Reno. And that’s why I had you on the program. Thank you for being so sharp, and succinct. And always on topic. That’s it. There’s a lot at stake in this election, not just for the United States. But if Reno is correct, and I believe he is, a lot is at stake for Ukraine and its ability to win this war against Russia. And Ukrainians, by 7 to 1, see that, too.

They don’t want to see Trump in the White House, even though they will have to, like everybody else, work with Donald Trump in America, in Ukraine, and all over the world, if he is, God forbid, back in the White House.


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