Hard Times for Volodymyr Zelensky
Not so long ago, you were Volodymyr Zelensky, beloved comedian and star of "Servant of the People," one of Ukraine's most popular TV shows. Then you decided you wanted a new project, a big challenge. Why play Ukraine's president when you could be Ukraine's president?
All you had to do was win an election, your first ever, by knocking off incumbent president Petro Poroshenko and former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. People knew and loved you. How hard could it be?
You won! Well done. And the political party you created, "Servant of the People," then won a solid majority of seats in parliamentary elections, giving you plenty of friendly lawmakers to help write your vision into law and to fight the endemic corruption that has long blocked your country's path forward.
So… 21 weeks later, how's it going?
For one thing, you now find yourself in the middle of what may become the biggest American political scandal in decades. Members of each major US political party want you to talk about one thing and shut up about another.
Democrats say Trump tried to strong-arm you into giving him dirt on one of his political rivals by withholding money that your country needs to face down challenges from Russia. Republicans, meanwhile, want to know what the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was doing to earn $50,000 per month from a Ukrainian natural gas company while his dad was Vice President.
Thanks to your new lead role in an American impeachment battle, some are now calling you Monica Zelensky.
Then there's that war with Russia you inherited, the one triggered by Russian-backed separatists that has killed 13,000 people in the disputed provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and forced 1.5 million people from their homes. Your new big idea to end this awful conflict is to consider a plan, first proposed by a former German foreign minister, that would allow elections in those two provinces, reincorporate them back into Ukraine with a "special status" that gives them some policy independence, disarm the separatists who've been shooting at your army, and give you back control of the border with Russia.
And for your trouble, Mr. President, protesters in the center of Kyiv have called you a traitor. They say these elections will formally recognize the theft of political power by separatists and prevent Ukrainian patriots from returning to their homes there. They say you have "surrendered" to Vladimir Putin.
Soon talks will begin with the French, Germans, and Russians to see if this deal can be made real. The devil is no doubt hiding in the details.
In the meantime, it's been a tough four and half months, Mr. President. You deserve a bit of comic relief at this point, and we're glad you got to meet Tom Cruise. For now, you're still pretty popular at home. You're known for your sense of humor and ample political talents, and you'll surely need both in months to come.