New Ukraine bill emblematic of GOP's unserious posture toward scandal

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued a notable press announcement yesterday morning.

[Kennedy] announced today that he will file legislation after recess to ban the immediate family members of senior U.S. political officials from profiting in Ukraine.Specifically, his bill will ban an immediate family member of a member of the Senate, the House, the president's cabinet, the vice president and/or the president from serving as a consultant, employee, independent contractor or board member for or owning 5% or more in any entity doing business in or with Ukraine. Immediate family members include parents, siblings and children.

How extraordinarily specific. The Louisiana Republican isn't concerned about officials' family members doing private-sector work in any other country except Ukraine.

There's no great mystery as to what's behind this little stunt: Kennedy is playing a game by crafting legislation intended to jab former Vice President Joe Biden. The senator isn't concerned about officials' family members profiting from foreign work in general -- Kennedy hasn't unveiled legislation, for example, that might affect Donald Trump's adult children and the enterprise that the president still profits from -- but the GOP lawmaker is focused on making some kind of partisan point about a leading Democratic presidential candidate.

As CNN's Jake Tapper reminded Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) the other day, "Either there's a principle that people should not benefit from their connections, or there isn't." For members of Congress like Kennedy, the principle only applies to Democratic families, which obviously makes it difficult to take his partisan games seriously.

But therein lies the rub: the presidential impeachment process is a fundamentally serious process, and too many members of Trump's party are focused on juvenile antics.

There's been some discussion this week about how best to make presidential impeachment a bipartisan effort. Elizabeth Drew, a journalistic veteran of many White House scandals, wrote a piece for the New York Times yesterday with a headline that read, "How to Win Republican Support for Impeachment." She encouraged Democrats to move slowly and broaden the scope of the inquiry.

Similarly, Megan McArdle had a piece in the Washington Post today, urging Democrats to "make it as easy as possible for conservatives to join the effort" to remove Trump from office.

But as much as I'd love to believe that GOP lawmakers are prepared to consider the allegations on the merits, and will maintain an open mind about the scope of Trump's obvious wrongdoing, Kennedy's Ukraine stunt is emblematic of a larger truth: Republicans are not prepared to deal with this crisis responsibly.

There are a variety of possible explanations. Maybe GOP lawmakers are afraid of Trump's rabid base of followers. Perhaps they're unwilling to deal with negative Fox News coverage. Maybe knee-jerk partisanship is overriding any sense of judgment.

But whatever the reason, those hoping to see Republicans deal with Trump's impeachment in a mature and measured way are likely to be disappointed. Just ask John Kennedy.