To some Democrats and journalists, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) is a hero. All over the internet, people are thanking him for defending the Constitution, hoping he’ll run for president someday. After his performance during this week’s impeachment hearing, the worship was especially intense; a letter writer to the New York Times called it “brilliant” and a “tour de force,” while the conservative Washington Times made fun of all the blue-checked Twitter accounts losing their objectivity in ecstatic praise. As the face of the impeachment effort, especially for liberals disengaged from the election process, Schiff represents a glimmer of hope for domestic regime change.
We’d like to be on his side. After all, he’s working hard to take down Donald Trump, one of the worst presidents in American history. But let’s not get carried away in fandom. Schiff is a dangerous warmonger, and his efforts to fuel paranoia about Russia only serve to feed that agenda. It would be admirable if Schiff’s impeachment crusade was limited to Trump’s corruption. But something else drives him: he wants a proxy war in Ukraine with Russia, and he has for some time.
Adam Schiff physically resembles a prosperity preacher. That is to say, he looks like a classic all-American salesman type, but with a beatific glow of righteousness. This creepily wholesome look lends a corny Cold War ambiance to his constant fulmination about “the Russians.” It’s hard not to listen to him without thinking of Allen Ginsberg’s 1956 poem “America”:
America, it’s them bad Russians
Them Russians, them Russians and them Chinamen.
And them Russians.
Assuring us that he is aware, actually, of what century this is, Schiff said in 2015, “Now, we’re not seeing the same bipolar world we had between communism and capitalism.” (Phew!) He then added, “But we are seeing a new bipolar world, I think, where you have democracy versus authoritarianism.” Schiff has not viewed this as a mere contest of ideas: he constantly advocated for Obama to impose tougher sanctions on Russia and give more weapons to Ukraine.
Although delicately opposed to violence in some contexts — he’s a vegan! — this isn’t the only war Schiff has championed. He supported the Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya wars, greater US intervention in Syria, as well as the Saudi war with Yemen (although he has, in the past year, turned against the latter adventure, seeming to draw the line at sawing up journalists with bonesaws — he is a moderate after all, plus very popular with the media), and he has voted for nearly every possible increase in the defense budget.
As Jacobin’s own Branko Marcetic observed two years ago, Schiff’s bellicosity is extensively funded by arms manufacturers and military contractors. A Ukrainian arms dealer named Igor Pasternak held a $2,500 per head fundraiser for Schiff in 2013, as the late Justin Raimondo reported in a terrific analysis on Antiwar.com in 2017, at a time when Ukraine was desperately trying to counter the Obama administration’s disinterest in funding its war with Russia. Despite that disinterest, the State Department approved some very profitable dealings for Pasternak in Ukraine after that fundraiser.
And that’s only one example. In the current cycle, donations from the war industry have continued to flood his coffers. Many come from employees of firms with extensive Department of Defense contracts, including Radiance Technologies and Raytheon. PACs representing the defense industry also make a robust showing among Schiff’s contributors, according to data on Open Secrets.org; companies funneling money to Schiff — sorry, contributing to those PACs — include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Radiance, and others, including L3Harris Technologies (which got in big trouble with the State Department in September and had to pay $13 million in penalties for illegal arms dealing).
Guess what these companies want? War with Russia in Ukraine. Why wouldn’t they? Last October, the United States approved a $39 million sale of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, a joint contract between Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. The previous year, Ukraine bought $37 million worth of missiles from the same two companies. As a missile-maker, Zacks Equity Research has noted, Northrop Grumman also benefits richly from conflict in Ukraine, as missiles are heavily used in cross-border wars.
Despite his enthusiastic support for state violence and cozy ties to the makers of deadly weaponry, Schiff, an Alexander Hamilton–quoting windbag, doesn’t have much crossover appeal to the sort of people who put “These Colors Don’t Run” stickers on their trucks. His impeachment crusade only seems to reinforce Trump’s support among the faithful; at this writing, 93 percent of Republicans oppose the president’s removal from office.
Welcome to the #Resistance.