Category Archives: Later, on politics

No Choice

In a post three weeks ago, I observed the obvious: the President had turned the impeachment debate to his political advantage.  Because acquittal in the Senate is plainly predictable, impeachment seemed pointless. I suggested that censure by the House was an alternate remedy to confront the President’s manifest disdain for Congress and the Constitution.

I had agreed with Speaker Pelosi’s comments last spring that the Constitution’s impeachment remedy should be avoided “unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan.” This formulation, however, does not take the sad reality of Republican partisanship and fealty to the President fully into account, and the Republicans have made the Speaker’s comments a talking point. By force of loyalty to party and to the man who now defines it, the votes taken in the House Judiciary Committee on Articles of Impeachment last week divided precisely on party lines.

After I had watched much of the televised testimony in both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee, it seemed to me that the most hyperbolic and vitriolic rhetoric came from the Republicans who seemed motivated by the single objective of protecting the President by parroting his words calling the whole process a hoax, a sham and a disgrace.

But it is the Constitution that gives the House the awesome sole power of impeachment, including the authority to decide what constitutes a high crime.

Did the President’s conduct with regard to Ukraine cross a Constitutional line and violate his solemn oath to “preserve, protect and defend” that Constitution?  

In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. Today, Russia occupies the Ukrainian region of Crimea and continues to wage war against Ukraine to expand its incursion into eastern Ukraine. It is in the national security interest of the United States to support Ukraine in that war. 

Instead of pledging unconditional US support for Ukraine, the President put his palm out. He asked Ukraine’s president to launch (or announce) an investigation into whether Joe Biden and his son Hunter engaged in corrupt acts in Ukraine (huh?). He asked President Zelensky also to investigate whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US presidential election to help Hillary Clinton (what?).

Having declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine is a young democracy with a newly-elected, inexperienced president. Russia continues to threaten Ukraine’s existence as an independent nation. The Ukrainian president is in no position to complain about strong-arm tactics inherent when the US president asks for a favor.

An investigation into the Bidens might help the President politically in the 2020 election, but it would do nothing to help Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian incursion. Likewise, an investigation into whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election would not help Ukraine in the war, but it would be a favor to Ukraine’s adversary by blowing smoke around Russia’s interference in that election, suggesting that Russia is blameless while also suggesting that Clinton’s popular vote victory was not legitimate. It is, as Fiona Hill, former senior director for Russia and Europe at the National Security Council, testified “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”

The lack of a bipartisan consensus that the President may have acted contrary to the national interest does not mean that impeachment is pointless; nor is it quixotic for the House to approve articles of impeachment when a dismissal of those articles by the Senate is predictable. The Constitution does not make the power of the executive boundless and does not invite the president to use the office as a tool to advance his own personal interests (or the interests of Russia) above the best interests of the nation.

Yesterday, the House voted to approve two articles of impeachment. Not a single Republican voted in favor of either. Republicans are eager to market the President’s acquittal in the pending Senate trial, owning the President’s abuse of power and endorsing the President’s blatant obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. As if they had no choice.

Share This:

Hits: 46

Some other stuff for later,

  • 78
    Last March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking of impeachment of Donald Trump, concluded “he’s just not worth it.”  I have been thinking about that statement in the wake of two weeks of public testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee as part of their impeachment “inquiry.”  I think she…
  • 69
    Donald Trump, age 69, is chairman of The Trump Organization, a firm started by his father, a real estate developer. He spent his high school years at the New York Military Academy and later graduated from the Wharton School of Business in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Student…
  • 69
    Steve Clemons, writing for The Guardian in 2009, hinted that Ted Kennedy may have had the idea that his niece, Caroline Kennedy, would not only succeed him as the family flag-bearer, but would be in a position to succeed Barack Obama in 2016. The same thought occurred to me recently…

Eye on the Ball

Last March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking of impeachment of Donald Trump, concluded “he’s just not worth it.”  I have been thinking about that statement in the wake of two weeks of public testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee as part of their impeachment “inquiry.”  I think she had it right.  Pelosi opposed impeachment then because of its divisive effect on the country.  The use of the Constitution’s impeachment remedy, she felt, should be avoided “unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan.”  The tedious – but riveting – public hearings this month have proved the wisdom of Pelosi’s analysis.

Of course, much has happened in the meantime since last March.  From my point of view, paying attention to Trump’s shenanigans day by day, month by month, continues to be a source of stress and fatigue in my life.  The nation was divided then and it is divided today.  Indeed, any divisive effect of the “inquiry” is difficult to measure.

The hearings have given an airing to outrage for Democrats and Republicans alike.  Democrats are outraged by the behavior of Donald Trump and his minions.  The office of the Presidency has been sullied and the Constitution has been ravaged.  Likewise, Republicans are outraged by what they believe is a purely partisan, purely political, spectacle over “not impeachable” conduct.

Being of the Democratic persuasion, for me there is no question that an abuse of presidential power has occurred.  There is little room for doubt that Trump and his mouthpiece Rudy attempted to coerce the government of Ukraine by leaning hard on Ukraine’s President Zelensky – new to the office since May –  by placing a hold on security assistance that Ukraine desperately needed and still needs and by dangling – but not delivering – an Oval Office visit.  Trump, unsubtly, “asked” a favor.  He wanted Zelensky to announce publically that the Ukraine government would launch an investigation that would cast doubt on Russian interference in the US election in 2016 and that would also give Trump cover for various lies and aspersions against a political opponent, Joe Biden.

For Republicans, this obvious coercion is not “impeachable” – it is “nothin’.”  Trump himself calls the impeachment hearings a “witch hunt,” but at the same time he wants a trial in the Senate.  Taking their cues from the President, the House Republican chorus loudly laments that the impeachment inquiry has been unfair to him, illegitimate, a nefarious Star Chamber process perpetrated by Democrats, a coup that Democrats are pursuing to overturn the will of the people in the 2016 election. 

Trump has simply turned the impeachment debate to his political advantage.  He knows that there are enough votes in the House to impeach him, and he looks forward with relish to a trial in the Senate where loyal Republicans have the power to orchestrate the proceedings to his advantage, possibly to subpoena political rival Joe Biden or to “out” the whistle-blower.

If the House votes to impeach, it would take a vote of two-thirds of the senators to convict Trump and remove him from office – but the votes are not there and never have been.  The House impeachment hearings, if anything, have cemented Republican Party support for the President despite the evidence of his abuse of power.  Trump, true to his brand, has coined a derogatory nickname for any Republican who would dare to admit to any moral unease about Trump’s behavior: “Never-Trumper.”  There are no profiles in courage among Republican senators today.

The outcome in the Senate can reasonably be predicted, and one can almost hear already Trump’s gloating about his total exoneration.  It will be a vindication of his abuse of power and an approval of his personal-attorney foreign policy, sanctioning rather than censuring presidential conduct that puts a president’s personal benefit before the national interest.

House Democrats should not be goaded into voting for impeachment as a matter of righteous principle.  The Constitution gives the House the “sole Power of Impeachment” as a check on the executive, but it does not speak of a “duty” to impeach.  Nor must impeachment be seen as the only available remedy – the House could vote to censure the president for specified findings of abuse and obstruction.  And there is an election next November.

A prejudiced jury should not be allowed to decide the guilt or innocence of the accused.  The authors of the Constitution did not account for party loyalties tipping the scales against conviction for “Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”  The members of today’s House should exercise their impeachment power with clear-eyed regard for the ultimate outcome and with common sense.  If conviction in the Senate is seen as an impossibility it is pointless to impeach.

Share This:

Hits: 87

Some other stuff for later,

  • 78
    In a post three weeks ago, I observed the obvious: the President had turned the impeachment debate to his political advantage.  Because acquittal in the Senate is plainly predictable, impeachment seemed pointless. I suggested that censure by the House was an alternate remedy to confront the President’s manifest disdain for…
  • 70
    Donald Trump, age 69, is chairman of The Trump Organization, a firm started by his father, a real estate developer. He spent his high school years at the New York Military Academy and later graduated from the Wharton School of Business in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Student…
  • 66
    A rally for Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago was cancelled two weeks ago. At the rally, it has been reported, “hundreds” of protesters showed up at the 9,500-seat arena, and exercised their First Amendment right to freedom of speech as thousands of supporters awaited the candidate’s…