Sen. Young, Ambassador William Burns (with Sen. Lugar and Sam Nunn in Moscow in 2007) and Ambassador Yovanovitch will appear at Indiana University Thursday and Friday.
Sen. Young, Ambassador William Burns (with Sen. Lugar and Sam Nunn in Moscow in 2007) and Ambassador Yovanovitch will appear at Indiana University Thursday and Friday.

INDIANAPOLIS — To varying degrees, U.S. Sen. Todd Young, Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovich and former Assistant Secretary of State William J. Burns have been critics of President Trump’s foreign policy.

President Trump’s impeachment saga, stemming from his July 25, 2019, phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky, and his impact on America and the world aren’t specifically on the agenda next week, but these three figures will be on the bill at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies’ fifth annual conference on "America’s Role in the World."

They won’t appear together. 

Ambassador Burns, who served as U.S. envoy to Russia, will do a moderated conversation with New Yorker reporter Susan Glasser at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 5. Sen. Young will give the inaugural Richard G. Lugar Lecture at 9 a.m. Friday, March 6. Yovanovitch will close the conference by receiving the Richard G. Lugar Award later that morning.

What will be fascinating is the scope this trio will bring to the fore. Young, who recently voted for a resolution calling for congressional approval of making war, was one of 53 Republican senators to deny Senate impeachment trial witnesses last month before voting for President Trump’s acquittal by a 52-48 vote.

Young said that the Democratic House impeachment process was rushed and didn’t let the courts resolve witness issues. “It would establish a dangerous precedent if the Senate were to fix defective articles of impeachment,” Young said Jan. 31. “If the House felt that additional witnesses and evidence were necessary to prove their case, they should have pursued these legal disputes in the courts to protect the rights of the accused. This is exactly what our Founding Fathers’ carefully designed system of constitutional checks and balances calls for. In their rush to impeach this president, the House did not follow the appropriate process. It is for this reason that I am duty bound to oppose the motion to call additional witnesses.”

Howey Politics Indiana reached out to Sen. Young following President Trump’s acquittal, and was told by spokesman Jay Kenworthy, “Sen. Young isn’t available for an interview. The senator has put out statements on these votes, and we don’t have anything to add to those at this time.”

Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2016 through last July,  could have been the star witness. Her dismissal by President Trump last summer ignited the impeachment sequence that brought about some of the most sensational testimony against the commander-in-chief. In the July 25 phone call to Ukraine President Zelensky, according to a rough transcript released by the White House, President Trump called Ambassador Yovanovitch “bad news” and said that, “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”

Yovanovitch said she was, “Shocked. Appalled. Devastated that the president of the United States would talk about any ambassador like that to a foreign head of state – and it was me. I mean, I couldn’t believe it.” She added, “It sounded like a threat,” and later said, “If our chief representative is kneecapped, it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security interests of the United States. The crisis has moved from the impact on individuals to an impact on the institution. The State Department is being hollowed out from within at a competitive and complex time on the world stage.”

Ambassador Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in an Oct. 14, 2019, article for Foreign Affairs, “In my three and a half decades as a U.S. Foreign Service officer, proudly serving five presidents and 10 secretaries of state from both parties, I’ve never seen an attack on diplomacy as damaging, to both the State Department as an institution and our international influence, as the one now underway.”

Burns described “the contemptible mistreatment of Marie Yovanovitch ... is just the latest example of President Donald Trump’s dangerous brand of diplomatic malpractice. His is a diplomacy of narcissism, bent on advancing private interests at the expense of our national interests.”

Burns added, “The damage from this assault – coming from within the executive branch itself, after nearly three years of unceasing diplomatic self-sabotage, and at a particularly fragile geopolitical moment – will likely prove to be even more severe to both diplomatic tradecraft and U.S. foreign policy.”

Burns’ assessment of President Trump isn’t an outlier. 

Last month, retired Adm. William McRaven wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, “’The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration – all trying to do something, all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence. But, of course, in this administration, good men and women don’t last long.”

McRaven, who led the Navy Seals and coordinated the capture of Osama bin Laden, continued, “Joe was dismissed for doing his job: Overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs. As Americans, we should be frightened, deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security – then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”

Last October, McRaven wrote in a New York Times op-ed, of attending two recent military events following President Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from our Kurdish allies in Syria, describing an “underlying current of frustration, humiliation, anger and fear that echoed across the sidelines. The America that they believed in was under attack, not from without, but from within. President Trump seems to believe that these qualities are unimportant or show weakness. He is wrong. These are the virtues that have sustained this nation for the past 243 years.”

Ret. General Joseph Votel, who led U.S. Central Command from March, 2016, to March, 2019, said last October, “The abrupt policy decision to seemingly abandon our Kurdish partners could not come at a worse time. The decision was made without consulting U.S. allies or senior U.S. military leadership and threatens to affect future partnerships at precisely the time we need them most.”

Mark Bowden, writing in The Atlantic, made this description of President Trump after dozens of interviews with American military leaders: “Trump has little interest in the details of policy. He makes up his mind about a thing, and those who disagree with him – even those with manifestly more knowledge and experience – are stupid, or slow, or crazy. As a personal quality, this can be trying; in a president, it is dangerous. What Trump’s supporters call ‘the deep state’ is, in the world of national security – hardly a bastion of progressive politics – a vast reservoir of knowledge and global experience that presidents ignore at their peril.”

A week before the Lugar Hamilton forum, Americans got a first-hand look at crisis decision making in a global context with President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. After several days of mixed messaging, Trump insisted Wednesday evening, “We’re very, very ready for this.” He named Vice President Mike Pence to head up the administration’s coordination.

NBC reported last week: In 2018, Trump fired Tom Bossert, whose job as homeland security adviser on the National Security Council included coordinating the response to global pandemics. Bossert was not replaced. Last year, Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, the NSC's senior director for global health security and biodefense, left the council and was not replaced. Dr. Luciana Borio, the NSC's director for medical and biodefense preparedness, left in May 2018 and was also not replaced.

Last Thursday, Trump became a beacon of wishful thinking, saying, "It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear." The President warned that things could "get worse before it gets better," but he added it could "maybe go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows."

But Axios reported last week: Trump surprised some in the administration when he announced that Pence would coordinate the administration’s response, especially given Pence is heavily involved in Trump’s reelection campaign. Sources familiar with the decision tell Axios that the call to put Pence in charge was made just yesterday. It had loosely been a subject of discussion among staff, but it was unclear how many — if any — officials knew beforehand that Trump was going to announce it at the press conference.”

In Axios Vitals this morning, Caitlin Owens reported: “This is such a s--tshow. Thank goodness the markets are closed,” a former HHS official who’s close to the White House, said during the briefing.

For an administration that has been fortunate to have avoided a national crisis up to this point, the internal decision making will likely be a topic this week at the Lugar Hamilton forum.