Editorial: Democrats are conducting the worst kind of impeachment: half-hearted

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

House Democrats should be congratulated on the strength of their conscience. They should be chastised for their lack of conviction.

A president asking for a favor from a foreign leader that involves investigating a political rival of the president should create multiple questions of conscience for members of Congress. Forget about quid pro quo, when is it appropriate for the president to ever seek such a favor? What evidence has the president submitted that it is appropriate now? Democrats have raised the right questions of conscience.

The president’s defense has been tough to follow. It seems to be 1. There was no quid pro quo, and 2. The president wasn’t seeking to benefit politically from the investigation into a Biden family member. A circle of public servants once or twice removed from the president says differently. But what does the president’s inner circle say under oath? Democrats won’t take the time to find out.

That says a lot about this process. It will be remembered as the half-hearted impeachment.

Democrats have done nothing to force the hand of the Supreme Court to compel testimony from inner circle members such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Adviser John Bolton. President Donald Trump barred them from testifying, and they’ve complied. It appears we are going to end this impeachment process with Democrats doing nothing to get a legal ruling stating that a president simply can’t decide who gets to testify in an impeachment proceeding. If this precedent stands, America will be in a worse place than before the impeachment proceedings began. By trying to remove the president, Democrats may have actually strengthened presidential powers.

There is much House Democrats could have done to force the hand of the Supreme Court. At the least, they could have asked for an expedited hearing on the question of executive privilege that the White House is using to bar the testimony. If that failed, the House could have held its own trial on contempt of Congress charges for those who refused to testify. Find the secretary of state guilty of contempt and detain him, and you likely would get quick action from the Supreme Court.

Yes, it would be messy business. Yes, it is a big weapon to bring to this fight. But did the Democrats actually decide to get in a fight with Trump and not use all the weapons available to them? That was unwise. If you are going to fight him, you had better be prepared to do what is needed to win. Otherwise, pick another battle.

That may have been good advice for the Democrats to heed. The Ukraine matter is a tough one to sell to the public. Richard Nixon was run from office because the crime was easy to understand. Normal people go to jail for breaking and entering. If the president is involved in such a thing, the public understands he has to go. Despite what he may think, Trump would get impeached if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue.

The public struggles with the Ukraine matter because for too many it doesn’t sound a lot different from politics as usual, which they already know is filthy. The public believes money trades hands all the time in politics and smears of political opponents are routine. Asking a foreign leader to get involved in this business really does make it different, but that is a nuance. Broad swaths of the public aren’t good at nuance. Others, like leaders of the Republican Party, are choosing not to be. Near the top of the list of discouragements is that Republican leaders can’t even bring themselves to say the president acted inappropriately. Not even censure is in order, it appears. Maybe that will change during the trial. If not, will the American public remember this discouragement at the polls? It probably depends on whether Democrats run a campaign better than they run an impeachment.

But now there are Democratic voices — see the New York Times column by Charles Blow — saying Democrats actually have been victorious in all this. The real victory, they say, simply will be winning an impeachment vote in the U.S. House. The fact the Senate won’t convict won’t really matter. The Democrats appear to be on track to not have convinced a single Republican to vote against the president. Yet, there is a victory somewhere to be found here?

Who says that? The party who lost to Trump, that’s who.

More importantly, maybe the party that will again.


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