Impeachment, A Postmortem

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump will end Wednesday night, February 5, 2020, with the President’s acquittal.  It was a forgone conclusion.  Any Democrat Party leader with even a smidgen of intelligence knew that a Republican Senate was not going to produce the 67 votes required to convict the President and throw him out of office. 

Why did the Democrats decide to impeach the President?  I believe there were two reasons.  First, there were some Democrats who believed Trump to be an evil and unprincipled man doing great damage to the country.  From the beginning of his Presidency they had been looking for any means to end his term in office. The Russia collusion charges faded with the end of the Mueller investigation, but when Trump’s enemies subsequently exposed evidence of his putting pressure on a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 election (by investigating a political opponent), they thought they might unseat him.  Even though the odds were against their success, for many of them it had become a matter of principle, and they were determined to do the “right” thing.

Pelosi was more pragmatic.  She feared that a failed impeachment effort would be politically damaging, and she resisted it.  Finally, however, she was persuaded, and the impeachment investigation began.  Perhaps her reversal was because of internal party pressures; or perhaps it was the hope that, even if the Senate failed to convict, the impeachment hearings in the House and the Senate trial would seriously hurt Trump’s 2020 prospects.

Was President Trump guilty of the charges made against him?  Based on all available evidence, it appears that he delayed the military and other assistance to Ukraine in order to encourage that nation to investigate the Bidens.  Nevertheless, the military aid was given without undue delay, and the Ukrainian government did not announce an investigation into the Burisma-Biden connection.  No real harm was done.  Senator Lamar Alexander expressed the sentiments of many of us when he insisted that no additional witnesses were needed.  The basic facts were established, and any new witnesses would only confirm what was already known.  Senator Alexander went on to say, “Though he was probably guilty as charged, I think what he did is a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes, and misdemeanors. I don’t think it’s the kind of inappropriate action that the framers would expect the Senate to substitute its judgment for the people in picking a president.”  The Senator could have added another observation.  If the Senate had voted to convict Trump on these paltry and insignificant grounds, there may have been rioting in the streets. Fully half of American citizens supported the President, and some of them would have vigorously resisted his removal from office.    

As the impeachment trial ground to a halt, politicians and pundits on the extreme left reacted with hyperbolic rage.  Senator Shumer, Senate Minority Leader, said it was one of the worst tragedies in Senate history.  Carl Bernstein, a journalistic hero of Watergate, accused Republican senators of a coverup and said they had “joined hands with a tyrant.”  Jon Meacham in NBC opined that “President Trump is functioning as a monarch at this point.  If the king does it, it’s okay.”  Liberal leaning jurists condemned members of the Trump legal team, distinguished lawyers all, and said they should be disbarred. Alan Dershowitz, former hero of the left, was vilified as a traitor. Meanwhile, vitriolic comments from anonymous network sources reached their customary lows of meanness and vulgarity.   

The impeachment effort has failed for the moment, and we are left to examine the wreckage.  You may be certain, however, that most Democrats dislike and distrust Donald Trump as much as they ever did, and they will continue to seek ways to curb his power and, if possible, terminate his Presidency.  If Trump is reelected in 2020 and the Democrats hold the House, it is highly likely that there will be new moves to impeach the President should there be the slightest hint of malfeasance on his part.

It is my sincere wish that we get past this bitter partisan discord. Much of our political divide is because of deep philosophical differences about the proper direction of our nation, differences that are often magnified by the fervid rhetoric of a biased and dishonest media.  Yet, there are many areas of public interest and cooperative endeavor on which all parties can agree. Democrats and Republicans should stop calling each other names and labor together to build a better America.   

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