Category Archives: Impeachment

Not up to Congress to decide Trump’s fate? What utter nonsense

Removing the president is not the job Congress? This guy would beg to differ.

Removing a president is not properly the job of Congress? This guy would beg to differ.

I’ve been meaning to comment on a Frank Bruni column from last week, headlined “Of All Trump’s Defenses, This Is the Lamest,” with the subhed, “Only the voters can send the president packing? That’s a joke.”

Actually, that subhed is probably the best part, but the rest is pretty good, too. An excerpt:

Once the Senate concludes its trial of President Trump, it should go into recess. Until next January. The House, too. Lawmakers shouldn’t pass legislation, consider nominations or make any important decisions whatsoever: This is an election year, and the voters will soon weigh in on the direction of America. The nation’s business should await that judgment, lest members of Congress contradict it.

A ludicrous proposal? Indeed. But it’s in line with — and an extrapolation of — a favorite argument against Trump’s conviction and removal from office. His Republican supporters say that lawmakers shouldn’t speak for voters on such a crucial issue. To pre-empt the verdict at the ballot box, they say, is to subvert the people’s will.

Nice try. Lawmakers are elected specifically to speak for voters on crucial issues. That’s the system. That’s their job….

Absolutely, it’s their job. And it’s no one else’s, including the vaunted electorate’s.

From the start, Republicans have complained that the impeachment process is somehow illegitimate — either because it seeks to undo the 2016 election, or pre-empt the one this year, or both.

But we have this Constitution, you see, and it was written by some very, very smart people (smarter than the average modern voter, dare I say), who wanted the voters to have input into who ran things, but not necessarily the final say. So they created a finely balanced tension between governmental elements that were each chosen by differently formed constituencies that should check each other:

  • The House would be elected the way far too many people today think the rest of the government should be elected — directly by the people, and extremely often. House members would represent equal-sized chunks of the population.
  • The Senate would represent states, and would be chosen by those states’ legislatures. It was an excellent idea, although we threw away half of it with the 17th Amendment. The only part we kept was that they still represent the people of entire states. And… they’re elected for six years to shield them from political passions of the moment.
  • The president would be chosen by the Electoral College, but we’ve pretty much altered that beyond recognition. But we kept enough of its anti-democratic essence to allow Donald Trump to be elected despite Hillary Clinton having the majority of votes. So yay, elitism, right, my Republican friends?
  • The president and the Senate would choose justices together.

But to hear certain people talk, everything should be decided by the people, acting directly through their smartphones.

(Shudder.)

I’ve gotten to where I can’t bear to listen to the Republicans when they speak during the impeachment proceedings, because despite all the pernicious nonsense I’ve been subjected to in covering politics over the last few decades, I’ve never had my intelligence insulted to this degree.

I forced myself to listen to one idiot the other day who was ranting about how the Democrats wanted to tear up every ballot cast in the country in 2016. Really. He said that, despite the fact that MOST ballots were for Hillary Clinton. Presumably, those nasty Dems wouldn’t want to tear those up, if they’re as single-minded in pursuing partisan advantage as he seemed to assume.

Anyway, the Senate needs to go on and conduct a trial and do its job — even if that means acquitting Trump, as it almost certainly will.

And in the meantime, hand me no lies about how this is NOT the job of Congress. It is, precisely. And it’s no one else’s.

There’s plenty of time to hear from the voters between now and November.

I’m counting on Lamar Alexander to do the right thing

Lamar shirt

I ran across the shirts you see above at Belk the other day. The one in the middle is a dead ringer for the one Lamar Alexander wore on his famous walk across Tennessee when he ran successfully for governor in 1978 — the first statewide political campaign I ever covered.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for Lamar, as I’ve mentioned here many times. And now, the fate of the impeachment trial may lie in his hands, assuming he does the right thing. An excerpt from an NYT story from the last few days:

WASHINGTON — The ghost of Howard H. Baker Jr., the Republican senator from Tennessee who turned against Richard M. Nixon during Watergate, is hovering over Senator Lamar Alexander.

Mr. Alexander, a third-term Republican from Tennessee who is retiring at the end of this year, has said that no one outside his family has had more influence on him than Mr. Baker, the former Senate majority leader who is remembered for the penetrating question he posed as Nixon stared down impeachment: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Now Mr. Alexander may hold in his hands the fate of another Republican president who is facing removal from office. He is one of four Republican moderates who have expressed openness to bringing witnesses into President Trump’s impeachment trial. Of the four, he stands out because he is not running for re-election and arguably has nothing to lose….

The story goes on to say Lamar “does not appear ready for a Howard Baker moment.” They based this on the fact that he wanted to wait until the first phase of the trial was completed to decide. But I have two things to say about that:

  1. That seems a reasonable hesitation to me. He was keeping his options open until the point at which a decision would have to be made.
  2. That story was written before the revelation from Bolton’s upcoming book.

So I’m going to be optimistic, counting on Lamar to do what he generally did back when I covered him as governor: the right thing.

A shot I took of Lamar on the campaign trail in 1978.

A shot I took of Lamar on the campaign trail in 1978.

Watch out, fellow elitists! It’s a trap!

trap

Mr. Smith accused me of being elitist today, and let’s face it: He had evidence on his side.

But something good came out of that scolding of yours truly. It reminded me of a piece I read back in October, and meant to share here, and forgot. But it occurs to me that today is the perfect day to share it and the warning it contains.

It was an oped piece in The Washington Post by Joel Stein, author of In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You Are Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book.

I actually probably should buy that book, if it’s anywhere near as funny as the column. An excerpt:

Impeachment is an elitist trap

As an elitist, I enjoy a good impeachment. Especially if followed by a trial in the Senate, overseen by the chief justice in a black robe with gold stripes. In fact, I wish there were an even more complicated way to kick out a president — one with a Latin name that centered on the opinions of Ivy League historians and presented as a nine-part documentary on PBS.

Correcting the electorate’s stupid mistake via an intricate legal process created by our Enlightenment-loving founders and enacted by entrenched experts in Congress is the elites’ version of “John Wick.”

I am assuming that “John Wick” is movie about a righteous, skilled underdog battling an incompetent, corrupt power. But I have no idea if that’s true, since elites have never seen any of the “John Wick” movies…

… and so forth. That passage made me feel very smug, since I have never seen a John Wick movie, either. (Are they particularly stupid? I need you to tell me, because I wouldn’t know!)

The piece is full of good bits that tempt me to push the envelope just a mite on Fair Use. Here’s another one:

Populism is the demand for pure democracy. Its enemy is the republic, which removes the dangerous edges of democracy by protecting human rights from the majority’s will. Our founders gave us a republic. If they had wanted a direct democracy, the Constitution would be one page. Majorities don’t like republics. Majorities were sold a democratic system where they get whatever they want, right away. When they don’t get what they want, they get frustrated and turn to tyranny, which gets things done faster. Plato predicted this in “The Republic.” It’s the job of the elitist to explain this to people without mentioning Plato’s “The Republic.”…

Anyway, the serious point in all this hilarity is that the best approach to getting rid of Trump is to beat him next year at the polls, “Especially if we do it with a big enough majority so that we don’t have to explain the electoral college.”

But read the whole thing. It’s fun. And when you’re living in such depressing times — when a president is about to get the impeachment he so richly deserves, and the Senate is waiting to reject that impeachment in the most insultingly dismissive way they can think of — it’s nice if we can, even for just a moment, laugh about it…

giphy (5)

Impeachment has been rushed, and it shouldn’t have been

This image has nothing to do with my topic, but I went looking for a picture of House leadership, and I thought this one very interesting on its own terms.

This image has nothing to do with my topic, but I went looking for a picture of House leadership, and I thought this one very interesting on its own terms.

I’ve actually meant to say that for a couple of months, but there’s never been a day when I felt I had enough time to explain all the reasons I think that. And I don’t have time to explain it all today, either. But I thought I should at least say it, before the whole thing is over with.

Oh, and I have another excuse: I haven’t always been sure I felt it was being rushed. But it’s a thought that has occurred to me, many times. And this time, I’ll go ahead and say it before I doubt it again. And if I’m wrong, y’all can tear it to shreds.

The Democrats have been hurrying this thing because they want it over well before the 2020 elections. And that makes a certain amount of sense as electoral strategy, except for this great, big flaw: Impeachment itself has NEVER been in the electoral interest of the Democrats — or the nation — since a conviction in the Senate was never in the cards, and it increases the chances of a Trump re-election.

But the thing is, they had to go ahead and do it. If you’re a sworn member of the House, and a president has done what this one has done, you have to impeach him. Just as the Republicans had to with Clinton 20 years ago. Clinton’s behavior was impeachable from the get-go, and so has Trump’s been.

So, good for the House Democrats for doing their duty, as the House Republicans did last time around. But they’ve tried to have their cake and eat it, too — to do this thing that honor requires, but try to minimize the political cost.

They should have insisted that the process wouldn’t end until, for instance, Mulvaney and Giuliani testified. At the very least, they should have continued to pursue that — through the courts as well as in the court of public opinion — for a few more weeks. At the very least, it would have made Trump’s obstruction more painfully clear, even if that didn’t move the Senate.

Now, the Senate is going to rush this through even faster and we’ll never hear from people we should have heard from.

And Trump will still be in office, and his base — which is immune to reason or facts — will still be ticked off about it, so you will have paid the political price without a concrete result.

All of this said, it’s better to impeach him than not to impeach him, even if you rushed it.

But I do think they’ve rushed it, and I’m not persuaded that was necessary or advisable.

Discuss…

And furthermore, it’s not quite the thing…

"Excuse my strong language, but the president's conduct has been... unacceptable. There, I said it."

“Excuse my strong language, but the president’s conduct has been… unacceptable. There, I said it.”

I don’t have much more to say than what I said in this Tweet:

I’m a little reminded of Mr. Darcy’s comment that dancing at “at such an assembly as this” would be “insupportable.” Although I admit that the situations aren’t comparable. Just the manner of speaking.

But I don’t want to give the congressman in the next district a hard time. I fully appreciate that it’s a tough call for a guy who wants to stay in office and happens to live in South Carolina.

But I also fully believe that if you can’t support impeachment under these circumstances, then you shouldn’t BE in office.

And yeah, I’m talking to you, Lindsey Graham. And Tim Scott and Joe Wilson and those other four moral Munchkins in the House…

Henceforth, all witnesses should talk like Fiona Hill

No, I’m not just talking about the accent, although I would love that.

And it wouldn’t have to be her specific Northern-English accent, either. I’d settle for a nice, posh RP mode of speech, which for a brief second was what I thought she was using — she just has such an authoritative delivery that it came across as upper-class until I’d listened a moment.

Or failing that, perhaps a thick Cockney — say, Michael Caine or even more so. Or Scouse — think of any one of the Beatles, especially George.

That would really liven the proceedings, and make me want to listen. But I don’t mean merely to indulge my unabashed Anglophilia. I’d love to hear a Scottish accent, a la Fiona Ritchie. (A Scottish ancestress of my wife was accused of witchcraft back in the 1650s, although eventually released. I suspect her guilt, in the sense that I find few sounds more bewitching than a woman speaking with a Scottish accent.)

Or Welsh. I seldom hear a true Welsh accent, and would like to become more acquainted with it. Especially since family lore holds that the Warthens were Welsh (although to my great frustration, I’ve been unable to nail that down).

Better yet, given the topic of these proceedings, how about having a witness who lays out all the facts in a true Ukrainian accent? That could be edifying.

But I digress…

Back to where I started: It’s not about the accent. Tonight, my wife was watching a rerun of Dr. Hill’s testimony and remarked that she seemed the most intelligent witness she’d heard yet.

I don’t think that’s a matter of accent. After all, while she sounds as educated as she is, those Northern tones — she’s from County Durham, the daughter of a coal miner and a nurse, educated at the University of St Andrews — tend to be looked-down-upon, historically, by the Southron snobs in London.

No, it’s the fact that she knows what she’s talking about.

Like most of these witnesses, she’s a professional, a person of obvious expertise and discernment. The accent just serves as a garnish, calling extra attention to the fact this is not your average idiot at the end of the bar holding forth on what his gut doth dictate.

She — like Vindman and Taylor as so many of these people, and so unlike Nunes and Jordan — is the embodiment of what Trump and his supporters despise. They are, as I said, people who know what they are talking about, and have this country’s best interests at heart. It radiates from them; it’s undeniable.

They are, in short, the anti-Trumps.

And I want to hear more from them, and less from some of those idiots on the committees. I doubt Fiona Hill could get elected to Congress from any district in the country. And that’s the country’s loss. And an indictment of democracy as practice in the 21st century.

I want to hear more from her. And people like her. They give me hope for the country, hope for humanity…

Fiona

NO, I’m not watching TV all day. Are YOU?

live tv

I’ve never been fond of “man-on-the-street” interviews. I prefer “people-who-know-what-they’re-talking-about” interviews. Guess that makes me an elitist. That, and… other stuff.

Anyway, this morning on NPR — I think it was on “The Takeaway” — there was this long string of short clips of Real People answering the question of whether they’d be watching the impeachment hearings on TV today. As usual, I could only take so much of it before switching it off.

If I remember correctly, most of the Real People were not planning to watch the hearings. (Actually, I just went back to check, and all of the ones I heard said that. There was a string of people who said “yes” after that, but I had turned off the radio before they came on.)

Presumably, I was supposed to be interested in their reasons for watching or not watching, as though there would be something edifying in these reasons, as though I would be somehow wiser for having heard the usual comments like “I’ve made up my mind,” “It’s all a partisan farce,” “I have a life,” etc.

And I’m thinking, Who can sit and listen to TV all day — TV about ANYTHING? And moreover, who on Earth would WANT to?

Or NEED to in order to be an informed citizen? I take in news and analysis from quite a few competent professional services every day. I’ll get all the information I need from those sources. (Unlike the president, I trust professionals to do their job — and I know if one slips up in doing it, the next one will fill in that gap.) If — and this seems doubtful — I feel the need to watch a portion of the testimony, to get intonation or whatever, I can go back and find and watch it with little trouble. In fact, I most likely won’t even have to look for it, because so many sources will be throwing the clip at me.

So in other words, the Real Person who sounded most like me was the one who said he would not be watching, but “I will pay close attention to the media recaps.”

Which will give you more than anyone needs to know. In fact, you’ll have to scan the whole mess with skill, discernment and alacrity if you’re going to get anything else done that day.

So who’s watching? And why?

the room

The Whistleblower? Who still cares about him?

A portion of the front page of The State today...

A portion of the front page of The State today…

… or her, but the hints I’ve seen have pointed strongly toward a “him.”

The front page of The State today (above) had a headline, above the fold, dealing with The Whistleblower. And I thought, “Who still cares about him?” Hence the headline.

One does hear Republicans, and their master Trump, speak of him as though he and his identity were crucial, the main point, even. And we know why. They want to have a face, a person, they can thoroughly trash, to distract everyone from the truth he told about what Trump has done.

That’s why one Republican leader has rejected the idea of Republican lawmakers being able to depose The Whistleblower. They’re not interested in facts, not interested in getting answers. They’re interested in the Trump base seeing them, the Republican members of Congress, attacking the guy and demonstrating how hard they’re trying to defend Trump. To them, nothing else matters.

That’s why the arguments they present make so little sense. A reasonable, impartial person might wonder why, after demanding over and over that a formal vote be taken on initiating the impeachment process, they complained so mightily when such a vote was taken last week. Because, boys and girls, that’s the point: not the facts of the matter, but whether they are recorded on sound and video loudly decrying the process and competing to see how many times they can say “sham” in one sentence. It’s about the emotion, about the indignation.

Anyway, seeing and hearing (on radio) The Whistleblower back in the news reminds me that last week I meant to share this editorial that was in The New York Times.

The headline was “Thanks, Whistle-Blower, Your Work Is Done.” And it was accompanied with a copy of the official whistleblower complaint, with portions highlighted to show things that have been corroborated by other, usually named, witnesses.

That document, of course, was pretty much redundant the day it was released — because the day before, Trump’s own White House had released the memo that confirmed The Whistleblower’s account of the July 25 phone call.

It’s only become more obsolete since then.

In fact, that editorial with the highlighted complaint has been made pretty dated with the release today of a first batch of transcripts from the closed-door depositions taken thus far.

But anyway, I pass on the editorial and the annotated complaint, as they are still interesting — although the whistleblower himself and what he had to say become less central each day.

A portion of the complaint, annotated by the NYT.

A portion of the complaint, annotated by the NYT.