Keep Impeaching

From a Google Image Search – Sunday Post

Unbelievable! The President of the United States of America, our resident con man is trying to micromanage his own impeachment. He wants to call the shots even as he raises a dust storm of distractions and resorts to all his usual tricks. 

The whole thing is a scam he has the Republicans contend, so therefore no one has to comply with this process. It is being run by the corrupt Democrats, so not only is it partisan, but it’s a deliberate “witch hunt” meant to reverse the results of the 2016 election. You would think that Trump could at least think of an original term this time instead of just reusing the old witch hunt label he used to discredit the Mueller report. He could have saved himself a lot of verbal energy if he just hired William Barr earlier than he did. Rumor has it that Barr is preparing a report that will blow up the entire impeachment process like dynamite.

Trump gives nicknames as he has always done. Shifty Schiff is the nickname Trump has given to Adam Schiff who is heading the impeachment process. These nicknames are always corny and they generally exaggerate a minor character flaw or attack someone’s body image, with the purpose of robbing the opponent of their personal power by turning them into an object of ridicule. Adam Schiff is probably the least shifty person in the entire House of Representatives but that doesn’t stop Trump’s smears from being effective. And why are they effective? We see right through them and they still seem to work. It boggles our minds.

He has his toady toads out working the room, Devin Nunes (really?), Lindsey Graham, Mike Meadows, Steve Scalise, Mr. Gaetz, and the “star”, Mr. Jim Johnson, the man whose wit works best when he is in destruction mode. There are more of these Republicans who will sit stewing as they age wondering what happened to them to turn them into history’s villains. They will finally understand that this charlatan in our White House mesmerized them and they traded their gravitas for embarrassing antics. C’est la vie.

Well, let’s just keep the impeachments coming then, one after the other. Why stop at one. There are plenty of violations of our Constitution and our system of governance to go around. While he is out there showing his fear and his disdain by bringing out all the bizarre facets of his repertoire of vituperations we could just slap him with another impeachment investigation. We could investigate why people who were never elected, like Rudy Giuliani, are doing State Department business in foreign nations, because our president knows that real State Department employees will not comply with his corrupt wishes. 

We could investigate all the times Trump has violated the emoluments clause. We could investigate the stuffing of the courts with unqualified judges. We could heat up the search for Trump’s taxes. We could investigate why all his best guys are in prison or have served time and yet he has remained free. We could discuss whether or not we want to turn the Presidency into a get-out-of-jail-free card. We could impeach him for turning the executive office into exactly the thing it was never intended to be, an imperial office that wields absolute power. We could do this in order to save our Constitutional government. Impeaching this President is not a scam. It is richly deserved, and an existential necessity. Stay within the lines drawn by the founders but be brave and bold.

We could be as litigious as Trump and embroil our president in one impeachment charge after another. We could give up worrying about whether or not the charges meet the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, acknowledging the possibility that Trump, for one thing, has never minded trumping up charges, and, for another, these charges are just the tip of the iceberg. Then when he acts all wounded and victimized we have to harden our hearts because it is just a strategy and if we get soft we become the losers he wishes us to be. Mr. President, you do not get to dictate the terms of your own impeachment. Impeachment is the province of the people’s House and then of the Senate.

Impeachment – A Tool Meant to Be Used

From a Google Image Search – Vox

These have been trying times with Trump in the presidency and a Senate that is staging some kind of Republican rebellion. The GOP is deep in the middle of a one-sided battle without rules to unseat the entire Democratic Party and impose a Conservative, Evangelical, Corporatist agenda in American politics for as long as we all shall live. 

Trump is certainly an unlikely person to lead such a campaign, Mr. Richie Rich Bone Spurs avoids things like duty, and he is crude, far too crude for normal conservative sensibilities (oops, sorry George Will). Trump’s tactics are a bit fascist and bear a too-close similarity to those used by the mafia figures encountered by Trump in his NYC career as a ruthless real estate developer sans talent. Several recent articles have also painted a detailed picture of the role the very corrupt Roy Cohn played in Trump’s upbringing. 

But with a group like The Family (did you watch the series on Netflix, very compelling and more than a bit frightening) laying hands on Trump and with their strategy of buddying up with the powerful, no matter how corrupt, and referencing Jesus, almost any lout can be declared off limits as they are in the process of being purified. 

As I have watched Trump’s election campaign and these three years of his presidency he seems to me to have given us reasons to impeach him many times over. I believe our approach to impeachment is to turn it into almost a sacrament. We expect our presidents to exhibit a high caliber of ethical and chauvinistic behavior. Our forefathers gave us a tool, one tool to evict a man of low character from the highest office in our nation, or to at least censure him and that tool is impeachment. What good is a tool if you can’t use it? 

A number of people have warned us that our democracy/republic is in danger because lip service to Constitutional guidelines is not the same as actual adherence to the Constitutional rules of governance that guide our republic. Yes impeachment is a tool that should be used cautiously and with great respect and introspection, but it should be used, any time it is really needed, and I think it is needed right now, right this very minute.

There is an article by David Brooks in this morning’s New York Times in which Mr. Brooks lays out all the reasons this impeachment is a very bad move for Democrats. He says it is too close to an election (when aren’t we close to an election), he says it looks elitist, as if the Democrats don’t trust the people to make the correct decision (well it didn’t look like that until he put this spin on it, I think Democrats will show solidarity on this front now that the decision has been made to move forward). He makes a number of other complaints that are too late and too beside the point now that proof of calumny is at hand. Here’s a bit of what Brooks has to say:

“Remember, impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. There is no obligation to prosecute. Congress is supposed to do what is in the best interest of the country. And this process could be very bad for America:

This will probably achieve nothing. To actually remove Trump from office, at least 20 Republican senators would have to vote to convict him. If you think that will happen because of this incident, you haven’t been paying attention to the Senate Republicans over the past two and a half years.

Usually when a leader takes a big risk, it’s because there’s a big upside. But Nancy Pelosi is taking a giant risk and there is little upside. At the end of this process Trump will probably be acquitted by the Senate. He will declare himself vindicated and victorious in his battle against The Swamp. An ugly backlash could ensue — in both parties.”

(The upside is that this decision is principled, it is politically correct, and it is brave especially given all the opposition Democrats face. No one, Democrats included, expects that the Republicans have any principles left or will take a stand against this very flawed individual who happens to be presenting a warped America to a stunned world.)

“People will conclude that Democrats are going ahead with impeachment in an election year because they don’t trust the democratic process to yield the right outcome. Democratic elites to voters: We don’t trust you. Too many of you are racists!”

(Democrats are not making this move because they do not trust the American people; they are making this move to impeachment because perhaps this time the deniability Trump has learned to wield as a cloak has been pierced by the very safeguards we have built into our system, and a whistleblower and good record-keeping has exposed Trump’s lawless tactics in the open where they can be challenged by law or at least Congressional process.)

“An election can save the country. An inside-the-Beltway political brawl will not.”

(Impeachment should never be considered an ‘inside-the-Beltway brawl’ when it is the right tool used at the necessary moment. We the people may be diametrically opposed on the issue of impeachment but we have all considered it in these particular political times, either for or against. If we don’t call out Trump’s behavior now, if we keep excusing him while we wait for an election then he continues to appear blameless, or at least untouchable. I don’t think Mr. Brooks gives ‘we the people’ enough credit for the intelligence we actually possess out here in not-DC America.)

The decision to pursue impeachment has been made. This is not the time to second guess that decision. This is when we must all watch the proceedings closely to make sure that the process is allowed to unfold appropriately and reaches a reasoned conclusion based on the evidence that our leader is possibly in the wrong office, that he does not meet the high standards of our nation or match the imperatives of our history. 

Not Impeaching Right Away – A Gamble with Enormous Consequences

From a Google Image Search – Truthout

Not Impeaching Right Away – A Gamble with Enormous Consequences

The call for impeachment gets louder each day. As the President orders staff and former staff members called to testify before House committees to blow off any such requests up to and including subpoenas, more and more Democrats urge either outright impeachment or the beginning of an impeachment inquiry. 

Impeachment is a Congressional duty when America has a President who cannot seem to uphold our Constitution or respect the human rights which are the basis of our democracy. It gets old to repeat the specifics of Trump’s transgressions over and over but there are still Americans who just don’t see them. If you get your “news” from Fox you are told that the Mueller report totally exonerated Trump. If you get your news from almost any other source then you have either read the report yourself or you have heard summaries from people who have read it. The Mueller report does not exonerate Trump, especially of obstruction of justice.

The evidence also suggests that Russians, with probable connections to Putin, did help Trump get elected. Although Trump managed to keep his distance from the Russians there were hundreds of contacts between his campaign staff and Russians. Several of Trump’s campaign staffers have been indicted, convicted, and are serving jail sentences with more still under indictment. Since Trump has an authoritarian leadership style it is difficult to believe that he did not call the shots or at least have final approval over all that went down. Most of his cronies seem willing to take the bullet for him.

He also seems to have decided that the emoluments clause is not settled law, I guess, even though every other President has abided by this prohibition against accepting money or gifts from foreign governments which Trump continues to allow through his ownership of the nearby DC hotel where many foreign petitioners stay.

Timothy Egan sums Trump’s transgressions up this way, writing in The New York Times, and it is worth reading the whole article,

“After the inauguration debacle, Trump moved on to bigger targets — the judiciary, the military, the press, and the professional class of bureaucrats who have made the United States a model for competence and incorruptibility in the Civil Service.

With William Barr, Trump now has an attorney general who doesn’t care how much lasting damage he does to truth, justice and the American way. His mandate as the nation’s top prosecutor is to carry out Trump’s private vendettas.”

Although the evidence tells us that Trump richly deserves to be impeached I can see a possible advantage to starting an inquiry but waiting until after the election to impeach. However as Nancy Pelosi reminds us “impeachment does not necessarily mean removal”. So it is possible we could impeach and also win the election. But it’s a gamble. The order of operations could be very important here.

Trump is a terrible President, but he is also backed by an entire Party full of equally incomprehensible cronies who back his moves and seem sanguine about the damage to our constitutional government, perhaps because they are convinced that Trump is trashing the very same parts of the Constitution they want to trash.

If we could win the 2020 Presidential election and win enough seats in the Senate we could get rid of Trump, Pence, Mitch McConnell and the Freedom Caucus in one fell swoop. That would be a celebration. But if we impeached Trump and won the 2020 election, now that would be winning! 

Our Constitution has no Teeth

Upper portion of U.S. Constitution on wooden desk

It is entirely possible that our Constitution is no longer up to the task of keeping American governance on the track our forefathers set it on. There do not seem to be any teeth in our documents. As I listened to our “ersatz” President stand next to Putin in Russia and say to our competitor, a man who manipulates and controls everyone and everything in his own country, a man who we were just told tried to interfere in an American election, that he, Trump, is sorry that we have treated this absolute dictator so badly.

As these events unfolded I had to listen to commentators use adjectives that were not nearly powerful enough to describe the calumny that had just occurred – and as these events unfolded I had to admit that I was astounded that Trump is allowed to fly back to Washington, that he could blithely take his seat in the oval office as if he just made a great speech full of wisdom, a speech that proves he deserves to share a seat in the place where FDR once sat (or any other of the best Presidents we have put in that seat.) Even I who have no faith in this man, was shocked by the content of Trump’s address.

I have been a staunch fan of our founding documents since my first American History class. The Declaration of Independence was drawn up by brave men on a new continent, far from their homes, who made a new home in America and decided to go it alone without England. England was an overbearing parent, stealing the fruits of American labors in taxes and fees and tariffs. They brazenly asserted their ownership over the colonies by forcing families to give rooms to British soldiers in their own homes. The King of England did not expect our American forefathers to have the boldness to declare their independence, fight a war to back up their declaration, and then to win the right to make their own nation

When the American Constitution was revealed and read in Europe it was so powerful and such a great blueprint for governing that it spelled the end of the most powerful monarchies. I was deeply impressed by what our forefathers had done and the architecture of our democracy. I realize that we are admonished these days to call our government a republic. I realize that it is actually a republic because it is based on a constitution. But at the heart of our Constitution is a plan for a democracy, with checks and balances to forestall power grabs by people whose egos can lead them astray.

Until recently our Constitution has been respected enough by both politicians and citizens that any loopholes that were apparent were either passed by, or others curtailed their use by those without scruples. Our checks and balances seemed up to anything the very flawed human animal could dish up. That our Constitution made it through the Civil War intact is a plain miracle. Hatreds ran so high, opinions were so divided, that only the killing fields would stop the fever. That the entire controversy happened to be over whether it was legal or not to make some humans slaves, to make them less than other people, is something modern minds have difficulty grappling with. And humanitarian values won, although bitterness has remained all these years later. Our Constitution, our documents, held up,

Lately, though, I despair that there are American people who have decided to use the flaws and loopholes that always existed in our documents to hold onto power, to block the system of checks and balances that keeps our democratic practices on a somewhat even keel. America is obviously still bifurcated, and bitterness still abides in many American hearts. America has new challenges to deal with also, given that the chaos around the world is making old hostilities seem far less frightening than some of the terrorism that is arising from rapid political and cultural change around the globe.

Chaos causes migrations which threaten to change lives on a planet that once had far fewer boundaries and was far less crowded (although mass migrations have never been easily accommodated). And our country is being ravished by people who have decided to use what they consider their superior intellect to exploit the vagaries and loopholes in our documents. This time I think our Constitution might not be up to the task. Our republic/democracy, our grand experiment in equality, in the rights of man, may be dismantled by money of all things. And power and hubris.

It is difficult to believe that the bar for the rules that protect our government has been placed so high that those very protections are neutralized, cannot be used against anyone and especially against a President. When did we write the laws that put our President above the law? When did impeachment become a safeguard we can never use except frivolously? When were the rules for calling treason made so narrow that someone could commit treason and the definitions in the law would not allow us to name it.

If we keep letting our President slide when he tramples American mores our Constitution will be destroyed in the process and so will our republic/democracy. What will we be left with? I have seen many options in dystopian literature, but I still cannot imagine how we might be governed. We are far more likely to lose freedoms than to gain them. Since our lives go along pretty smoothly right now day to day comments like this are seen as the overreactions of someone drowning in negativity. If that turns out to be true I will be happy to be wrong.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Washington Monthly

Unseating an American President

Many Americans find our President crass, an ego-driven male drama queen, and an embarrassment. He has us frequently careening along a risky edge, using tactics (or reactions) that might be either purposely or accidentally brilliant, or exactly as overly inflammatory as they appear to be. Are we being led over the brink into World War III or will 45 somehow turn authoritarian world leaders into devoted Trumpers (heaven forfend). Just what we need, an alliance of sharks. What could go wrong? Perhaps we have taken our freedoms for granted. Perhaps we have demanded too many human rights.

Unseating an American President

Many of us like to think that we can find a way to unseat a President we feel is unfit to serve and who we feel will teach us hard lessons about how important our freedoms are and how there is no such thing as asking for too many human rights, until all humans own the rights to a productive life. We pin our hopes on the only Constitutional measures we have, impeachment or the 25th Amendment (a President can be removed if he proves unfit to serve). But you cannot impeach a President unless Congress wishes it and will vote for impeachment. With the Republican Party in charge of Congress and becoming more and more the President’s party, we understand that impeachment is not a possibility. The problem with the 25th Amendment is the pesky little detail that the President’s unfitness to serve must be provable. Proof of someone’s mental state is highly subjective unless they are incoherent or involved in harmful anti-social behaviors (and most adult Americans would have to agree about this).

Since this spoiled man-child also seems to have done an end run around the emoluments clause in the Constitution which prohibits a President from making money from foreign entities while in office, our next move has been to get shut of a person who does not have the moral fiber to be President. Previously Presidents have made trusts for their businesses to wall them off so that their personal money cannot be used as a lever of power against American interests. Previously Presidents also have been willing to present their tax returns in the interests of transparency. It bothers many of us that Trump flouts Constitutional law and tradition as he does, but our documents do not suggest repercussions.

There is also the problem that this American President, even before his election, stepped around our allies and embraced America’s enemies. He asked a nation like Russia, who we have no reason to want to be beholden to, for favors, and then used his favorite way out – consistent and vociferous denial –  until we question our own sanity. We worry that we may have elected an actual crook, involved in money laundering, to sit in our oval office. We look to Robert Mueller to prove that our President did anything at all that could be proven to be illegal, or, perhaps, treasonous, but many warn us that Trump may not be caught in this web and that he does have ways to stop this investigation however terrible the optics of this would be. Mr. Trump seems unconcerned about optics.

Other strategies

Since we seem unable to inspire our President to use a style of governing that is less hair-raising, less slash and burn, the Democratic Party has put in some solid work to recruit new, younger, and more diverse Americans to run for office on the left and to flip the majority in, at least, the House – to take back one branch of government, to restore our system of checks and balances. Will it be too little too late? Have the Dems let the GOP get away with their seditious machinations for too long? The 2018 election looks to be the best of all our options, a “blue wave” as they say, is essential to keeping this President and the GOP from wreaking havoc on our Democracy, a path he is already blazing with a vengeance.

Threat Levels and “Spidey” sense

Should Democrats and their allies be setting the threat level of the Trump-GOP government at Def Con 1 or are the Dems overreacting? Government-by-Tweet is one facet of the Trump Presidency that ups the threat level, but it’s difficult to tell if this is dangerous or just un-Presidential. However, our “Spidey” sense tingles.

We see our American President seeming to cozy up to Russia, China, Turkey, the Philippines, all nations with authoritarian leaders, and excoriating our old and loyal allies and world organizations that have backed and multiplied our power, such as the UN and NATO. Up another threat level.

We see a man who honors no bargains made by anyone except him, willing to alienate anyone in the interests of negotiating simply to prove how good he is at “the art of the deal”. The Paris Climate Agreement Accord, an admittedly toothless agreement, at least consolidated a global commitment to acknowledging and attempting to address possible causes of global warming and climate change, has been abandoned and disrespected by our chief deal maker. This seems like another attack on the other 190+ nations who signed on. He puts his marker on a denial of science, but what if he is wrong (which evidence suggests he is)?

In fact, insulting friends and even some of our rivals seems to be our President’s main MO for keeping everyone riled up, while fomenting uncertainty, and even astonishment, seems to be his sole negotiating style. He is not a nimble negotiator, switching tactics or using subtlety; he is a thug using language to belittle and then clubbing away at whatever matter he wants to change, hoping to beat everyone around the head and shoulders and pout and accuse until he gets his way. What do we gain by alienating everyone on the planet? It seems we don’t get good deals and we lose anyway in the end (as in win a battle, lose the war). Are your senses tingling yet? Does this kind of thing raise the Def Con level?

Our President cannot even seem to honor a tiny promise made by a previous President to a group of children and young adults, brought here by parents when they were too young to even understand their parent’s actions, the Dreamers. When did we start backing out of agreements made with children, a promise to let them stay in America if they are in school or have a job? Why is the DACA agreement being used as a bargaining chip to force Democrats to stop trying to block policies that are against their ideological mindset; to coerce them to look like there is bipartisanship when it is convenient to the GOP, even after the shoddy treatment offered up by the GOP over the entire duration of the Obama administration? (You could replace Dreamers and DACA with CHIP and this would still make sense.)

We are back to threats such as shutting down the government as another way to coerce Dems to look like they will bend over when even a very small, withered carrot is held out (although there is always the possibility that it will be yanked back at the last second, like that football that Lucy taunts Charlie Brown with). Do we dare extend a hand when it will likely be rejected? If we allow ourselves to be insulted at a moment when power is so one-sided, when our anger is likely to be unrequited, how much face do we lose. Should the Democrats knuckle under and let the Republican/Conservative way play out? Will it be as disastrous for America as we think it will be? Even if the Conservative way will play out regardless of what Dems do isn’t it better to be on record with our heartfelt objections and our warnings about the dangers faced by our Constitution and therefore our Democracy/Republic? Perhaps we are only at Def Con 2.

We wish that the book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House had been written by a more reputable person than Michael Wolff. It is telling that so many insiders seemed to make the same judgements about the President’s unfitness to serve. But since we are not sure about the author, and it is difficult to prove that insiders said the things that the book claims they said, this book is unlikely to get us any closer to unseating this President than have his refusals to honor the traditional interpretations of the Constitutional admonitions for proper Presidential behavior.

Not Everyone is On Board

Clearly, from my recent interactions with family and friends over the holidays and a few other family rituals, there are many Americans who are not at Def Con 1 or even Def Con 5. They claim that they hate politics, that they are not political (although they are, and vehemently, if you offer up any criticism).

They use evidence from what they see around them in their everyday lives, lives which are circumscribed by their finances and their neighborhoods. They see an improvement in the economy and they see rising employment. They are almost all retired. They do not have to work. They have health insurance. They have grandchildren who are turning out well, with a few worrisome exceptions. Most of the parental generation did not go to college but their children did. Their children were too young to be parents of millennials and just old enough to have stepped out of college into the job market while it was still strong. These offspring possess skills that have kept them employed. The “kids” have been promoted and their salaries have risen with their promotions.

Members of the parental generation are worried about rising health care costs but they blame Obamacare and immigrants/refugees and are happy with Trump’s hard line on immigration, although they may no longer be quite so gung ho about repealing Obamacare.

Their conclusions about America are based on anecdotal observations in their everyday lives and by their own feelings of well-being. It’s a small sample, perhaps 100-200 individuals and not a very diverse sample. But there are other circles of friends and family all over America who describe the same experiences, which offers them proof that Trump and the GOP are doing a good job.

Too many of them listen to FOX News or are too busy to pay much attention to any news. Their desires are simple and involve hanging onto financial and physical comfort and enjoyment of their growing small family dynasties. Vacations and socializing play a big role in the life of retirees who can afford it, which adds to their sense that all is well Their “Spidey” sense is not tingling. The contentment and complacency, along with effective propaganda which supports it, make it more difficult to communicate a sense of the danger. It is difficult to convince people who have not yet experienced even the future negative effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that our Democracy seems to be under a rather extreme renovation, a reconstruction, which could leave us with an America which would be unrecognizable to our forefathers and eventually even to us.

Where Does that Leave Democrats?

So, the hair-on-fire Democrats, the Democrats who feel the threat level rising are finding the resistance movement or even a clarion call for a blue wave is missing people who should be on board but who have not had enough of a shift in their fortunes, or who have been convinced to blame those who have already felt that shift. We cannot count on most of white America to assist in the blue wave we need in 2018. Fortunately, there are many folks with college educations and minority folks already impacted by Conservative racism and “othering” to turn the tide given a fair election. Although things feel quite urgent, our Democracy may prove to be more resilient than we think. But if we become the CSA (Conservative States of America, funny, same as Confederate States of America) it may be decades before we are able to turn things back around to offer opportunities to advance for the middle classes and the poor.

This is a view from the cheap seats.