Wednesday, December 18, 2019
BTRTN: GOP Impeachment Mantra -- "What Does the President Want, and How Quickly Can I Get It For Him?”
Tom’s thoughts on the impeachment debates.
It’s 8:52 PM Eastern time and the House of Representatives just voted to impeach President Trump on the second article of impeachment, having adopted the first article 18 minutes before.
I watched most of the debate leading up to the historic moment. About the only thing the two parties agreed on in this uber-exercise in polarization was that it was a sad day for our country.
Each side claimed it was a sad day, but both sides willfully misrepresented why it was sad for them.
Democrats said it was sad because impeachment is a monumental step and no one wants to see it used. That is true in the abstract, but not in this instance. Almost all Democrats want Trump to be impeached, and were delighted that, after the fog of the Mueller investigation, Trump handed them the smoking gun that the American public, and even Republicans, could understand and act on.
But what was truly sad (and worse) for the Democrats was that their Republican colleagues failed to concede anything at all, not even that there was something wrong in the Ukraine fiasco. Instead they lined up and denigrated the senior Trump administration officials who dared to tell the truth.
Republicans, on the other hand, said it was sad because the impeachment process was a “sham” with “no evidence” to support it. But that’s not why it was actually a sad day for the GOP.
It was a sad day for the GOP because almost every member of the party knows that there was something horribly amiss with UkraineGate, but, in the face of their own political cowardice, they were powerless to do anything about it. Some might have expected to be able to adopt a defense that made clear that Trump’s actions were indefensible, though not impeachable. But Trump would not accept this; he made it clear that unconditional support for his “perfect” call was the only acceptable defense. And he got it. And that is sad, and they all know it.
Here are the reasons the Republicans gave for voting against the articles of impeachment:
· “Because 63 million Americans voted for Trump.” (I guess the GOP did not care much for the 47 million who voted for Bill Clinton in 1996; and by this logic, if one is elected president, you cannot be impeached. Dare I add, don’t the 65 million people who voted for Hillary Clinton have a say? Most every one of them wants to see Trump not just impeached but convicted and also thrown in jail).
· “Because Democrats simply don’t like Trump.” (Of course that is true, but they did not impeach him despite despising him for nearly three years -- in fact they voted it down on three occasions, even after the obstruction charges identified by Mueller were handed to them in July.)
· “Because the economy is ‘strong,’ our borders are ‘safe,’ and Trump puts American ‘first’.“ (We can debate all of these points, but impeachment is not a report card on a presidency or policy, it is an indictment on a specific charge.)
· “Because the impeachment was ‘politically driven’.” (Actually, Nancy Pelosi wanted to avoid impeachment like the plague, and I’m certain she still wishes she could have avoided it; it is not a political winner in the swing states, and she knows it).
· “Because there was no ‘quid pro quo’.” (Twelve senior members of the Trump Administration, including his hand-picked point person for Ukraine policy, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, testified that there was a quid pro quo – in fact that was exactly what Sondland said).
· “Because no members of the GOP were going to vote for impeachment.” (Ah, the glorious nature of circular logic – I’m not voting for the articles because I’m not voting for the articles!)
· “Because the ‘evidence’ was ‘heresay’.” (Debatable to begin with, but why not send the senior Trump officials to testify that their subordinates were somehow wrong? Could it be because they then would have had to lie under oath, or incriminate the president?)
· “Because the aid to Ukraine ultimately was released.” (But only after the whistleblower came forward and blew the cover off the quid pro quo.)
· “Because the process was a ‘sham’ and ‘flawed’.” (The process was not materially different from Bill Clinton’s impeachment process, which he by and large cooperated with – as did Nixon.)
· “Because Zelensky said he did not feel any pressure.” (Let me get this straight, you think the victim, who still needs to curry favor to Trump to receive ongoing aid, is going to say anything to jeopardize the fate of his country?)
It was dispiriting, to say the least, to see these third-grade level arguments being put forward in 90-second bites by one GOP representative after another. And it was stunning to see that almost every one of these representatives were white men, most of a certain age, most with a southern twang. They forwarded other arguments as well in Trump’s defense, each less defensible than the one before.
What was amusing was watching Adam Schiff calmly and skillfully eviscerate these arguments immediately after each righteously indignant GOP man-child spoke.
One wishes just one Republican had stood up and spoken the truth, the real reason for their blind devotion.
“Thank you Madame Chairman. I am voting against the articles of impeachment because, if I voted for them, my political career would be over. Donald Trump would make me disappear if I opposed him, or even suggested that that inane phone call was anything less than perfect. Remember Jeff Flake? Bob Corker? I would be primaried by a Trumper and I would lose that primary. I’ve had to support Trump down the line, and defended every stupid thing he has ever said or done, and now I’ve got to live with the 90% approval rating in our party. Of course what Trump did to Zelensky was crazy stupid, but I’m not going buck him. Hell, he’s right, if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, I’d argue it was for the good of the country.”
You would not fill a thimble if you added up the collective courage of Republicans in the House. The only one who stood up to Trump, Justin Amash of Michigan, left the party months ago.
During Watergate, the definitive question – uttered by a member of the Nixon’s party – was: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” The defining question for any Republican this time around is: “What does the President want, and how quickly can I get it for him?”
We’ll soon see if the Senate does even one iota better. We know they will acquit, but will they express some degree of chagrin?
Soon this will be over, an airtight case running up against a crooked jury. And then we must act. We must not only defeat Trump, we must take back the Senate and extend the Democrats’ hold on the House. We’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way, at the polls, and overcome the bile Trump will heap on our candidate, Russian dirty tricks, and ongoing voter suppression. We have to overcome all of this. And you have to ask yourself what you intend to do – beyond simply voting – to make that happen.