Tag Archives: politics

The Opposite of Tranquility

Despite the indelible stain of his impeachment, the Senate, to no one’s surprise, acquitted Donald Trump. They found that their “chosen one” committed no offence to the Constitution. Claiming that he did nothing “impeachable,” the senators completed a coronation.

The Senate Republicans behaved as though they had a duty to acquit. They just would not be bothered by any new testimony or documents that might have revealed more of the truth and delayed the enthronement.

The newly-blessed King Donald has launched a vigorous campaign of vengeance against those he deems insubordinate or disloyal. He has branded all political opposition as “horrible” and “vicious” – oddly casting the king as whiner. The acquittal has confirmed his belief that there is no effective check on his power. He can (and will) run the nation even further into the mud.

While the acquittal is awful, conviction might well have been worse. It would have meant the elevation of Mike Pence, Vice-President and Supreme Sycophant. It would have been the birth of the legend of the Martyrdom of Trump, a legend that would have haunted the nation for a hundred years (assuming the union would survive so long).

We are left with a battered nation, an imperfect Union, and with the gutting of domestic Tranquility. The Blessings of Liberty are unfulfilled for ourselves and our Posterity. We are insecure in our freedom, and our politics is vulnerable to foreign intrigue and interference.

I am ashamed to leave this nation to my child and to the children of my generation. We can do better. I know this because I have seen it in my lifetime.

One odious man has single-handedly shredded all of the progress I thought we had made as a country while I have been alive.

It is an election year. There is a possibility for change.

After the Framers signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, the long process of ratification began. I have been reading Kevin Gutzman’s James Madison and the Making of America. In the book, he describes Virginia’s ratification debate, the Richmond Convention, which opened on June 2, 1788 and finally approved the Constitution on June 25 by a vote of 89 to 79. Virginia became the tenth state to ratify.

Four days before the vote, Madison had addressed the convention on the issue of Congressional power. Opponents of ratification were concerned, in Madison’s words, that “the General Legislature will do every mischief they possibly can…and will omit to do every good which they are authorised to do.”

Madison countered with the idea that the people would choose virtuous leaders to be their representatives:

“I go on this great republican principle that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? – If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks – no form of Government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of Government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea…. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”

It was beyond the imagination of Madison and his contemporaries that the people would choose to elect a king and a king’s court of enablers in the Senate. After all, the people had only recently declared their independence from the British monarch and had fought a war to secure that independence. It must have seemed obvious to trust the people’s virtue and intelligence in selecting their leaders, and yet it now seems a glaring flaw in our Constitutional democracy.

In Philadelphia, before the vote that created the Constitution, an aging Benjamin Franklin told the delegates that he didn’t approve of parts of the document but that he would “agree to this Constitution with all its faults.” He doubted whether a better one could be made.  He gave his consent to the Constitution, he said, “because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”

Madison too understood that the Constitution might be flawed but that no form of government could secure liberty or happiness.

Every political election since ratification has been a test of the virtue and intelligence of the voters. This year will be no different. No election could be more important.

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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.

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