Tag Archives: politics

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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Foresight 2020: Get Real

The 2020 election is fifteen months away, and already the Democrats are intent on deciding how best to lose.  There is general agreement among the two dozen or so candidates that any one of them would be a far better president than the one we’ve got now.  Yet, their collective strategy seems to focus on mutual disparagement.

It is painful to watch.  The urge to score a knockout punch is obscene in its irrelevance.  The desire to thump an opponent—preferably an opponent who has higher poll numbers—outweighs the real necessity of focusing on the shortcomings of the presumptive Republican nominee the sooner the better.  The candidates’ other favorite tactic seems to be to bore the public to death by discussing minute policy differences.  The Republicans and their titular leader are gleeful.

How can this be?

The current “president,” who is perhaps the most obnoxious resident of the White House since Andrew Johnson, presides over an administration distinguished by incompetence.  His one notable campaign message from four years ago was the exclusion of immigrants, and he has pursued that theme since his election, recently claiming that the United States is “full.”

The election of 2016 ushered in an era of corruption of our public discourse through so-called “social” media and the subversion of our political process by foreign governments.  The “president” has done nothing about this because, in his view, it is all a hoax.

The central animating principle of this government is self-glorification.  He thrives on adulation of rally-goers.  He exploits division in the body politic and appears indifferent, at best, to the chanting of an adoring mob motivated by core racial hatred.

Essentially a one-trick pony, his signature tactic is to “tweet” whatever outrageous thing comes into his little mind and watch the world react.  It’s a game that he enjoys, and “We’ll see what happens!” is his favorite go-to phrase.  

Unfortunately, a loyal 45 percent of the American electorate is happy to share the joke.

So, why are Democrats losing?

Unlike the lively Republican rallies, the Democratic primary debates suffer from poor production and little entertainment value—unless you happen to enjoy watching a wall of lecterns and hearing people talking over one another.

The much-hyped my-plan-is-better-than-your-plan contest is tedious and uninteresting.  If the candidates believe that this is the way to attract voters, they are delusional.  One can only hope that this is a temporary insanity.  It is high time to get back to what is real.  Having a plan is a fine thing, but to pitch your plan as a future reality is foolish. 

What is real is that none of the candidates’ plans will ever become law without significant modification through the legislative process.  To a large extent, then, the details that the candidates are spending so much time arguing about are a fiction that is all the more fanciful as long as Republicans control the Senate.

To make the primary more interesting and possibly even exciting, the candidates should consider how to outsmart the format that is being foisted on them.  They should work together not only to put one of their number in the White House but also to retain Democratic control of the House and win control of the Senate.

I would like to see the Democratic candidates actually meet with each other every two or three weeks (away from all cameras and microphones) and create a shared vision and a strategy to achieve it.  The debate stage could be used not to compare separate visions but to inspire one shared vision, with all of the candidates on the same page.  The candidate who can best articulate that vision—and most effectively contrast that vision with the present administration—should become the Democrats’ standard-bearer in 2020.

Can the candidates stop attacking each other and figure out how to join forces and support each other?  It’s doubtful, but I would sure like to see them try.

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