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.

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What Was It All About?

The existence of this blog coincides with the retirement phase of my life.  I started writing here in November 2013 when I had been retired for 10 months.  I am in my seventh year of retirement, and this blog’s sixth birthday is coming up soon.  I marked my own 70th birthday earlier this year.  Writing these words, I feel astonished.  So many years.

I have not written anything remarkable here.  The numerous blog entries—nearly 130 posts so far—represent many hours that I have sat before a computer screen.  Too many to bother calculating.  I would like to say that in those hours I produced something insightful or inspiring, or at least something clever and entertaining—in a word, something valuable—but I realize that is not the case.

It would be easy enough, I suppose, to delete it all.  That would be the ultimate acknowledgement that everything I’ve written is ephemeral.  One day in the future, even if it is not my doing, it will all go away when my lease on a tiny portion of the Internet world expires.  Whatever I write here means little and counts for nothing in the long run.  It is a metaphor for my life.  Nobody will write my biography.

At best, what I have written here is a record—however short-lived and episodic—of thoughts that have occupied my mind from time to time.  These electronic scratchings have been of interest to me and, much less so, to those few curious others who have bothered to read my words.

The thought of aging is one recurring subject of interest.  It has been all along, of course, but marking seventy years on my calendar has put it into boldface on any list that I could make of subjects to think about.  What is the best way to live with the relative nearness of death?

I am seeking comfort and lately finding little.  I am not comforted by considering the odds.  The odds are that I will have another decade or two before I run out of time.  Thinking about the odds only teaches me that I had better take care of myself—and I do, but it is not enough.

Nor is it comforting to accept the notion that we all have to die sometime.  I gain nothing from this idea.  It is not instructive or helpful.  It merely restates the problem—as if I didn’t get it the first time.

For some people there is comfort in what they have accomplished.  There are great authors, great musicians, great mathematicians and physicists.  There are great explorers and inventors and great artists of all stripes.  Indeed, the list of greatnesses seems endless.  I do not know any people who are great like that and so I am speculating, but in their last years, I think that great people must have a sense of satisfaction about the great things they did in life.  Next to theirs my accomplishments are puny.  I’ve done some good things, but no great things.

I find that thinking about my life’s accomplishments only makes me less comfortable because I tend to remember my mistakes, my regrets, my errors in judgment.  It seems that the negative memories have a kind of adhesive quality.  They get stuck in my mind when I am trying to remember the good things that I have done.

Some people who cannot take comfort in great accomplishments, can yet find comfort in having great numbers of children and grandchildren—and even great-grandchildren!  It seems likely that having a large family would be comforting for some because they might imagine living on vicariously through their multitudinous offspring.  It might be comforting to think that they would be remembered more or remembered a little longer.

The quality of such vicarious life and legacy would depend on the quality of a person’s relationships with their offspring.  The odds of having good relationships and a positive legacy increase as the number of children grows, or so I presume, but even for me and my wife and our only child there is hope.  And there is some comfort for me in that.

Some people shaken by thoughts of death’s approach turn for comfort to religion or spirituality.  In my experience, though, religion promises but does not deliver.  When I retired, I started going to a church on a regular basis, but for most of my life I had very little to do with religion, and I have never felt comforted by it.  To the contrary, when I think about religion—and spirituality generally—I feel disquieted and uncomfortable.  I feel that I am alone on the outside of religion.  It does not speak to me, nor I to it.  I don’t know its language.  Maybe I am too old to learn.

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