Editorial: Impeachment highlighted the many broken parts of America

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

For those who survived the Cold War, they may remember a phrase that became part of the vernacular: “Mutually assured destruction.” It was a reminder that nuclear war would destroy both the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

The phrase made a brief comeback during President Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings. When the Senate was debating whether to call witnesses, some Republican leaders were warning that would result in mutually assured destruction.

Some in the country surely had a simple question in response: Can you promise that?

Wiping both the Republican and Democratic slates clean sure seems like an appealing option after witnessing this impeachment effort. At best, the process hurt the eyes. At worst, it left you looking for a desk to hide under like a Cold War bomb drill.

Start with the most recent. Pettiness oozed from Washington this past week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forgoing the traditional announcement of the president at the State of the Union. Petty. Trump’s refusal to shake Pelosi’s hand. Petty. Pelosi’s tearing up of the president’s speech. Petty. Trump’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast. Petty.

Now, move to the beginning. House Democrats ran a terrible impeachment proceeding. They never even took the time to ask the Supreme Court to rule on the issue of whether presidential advisers like John Bolton could be forced to testify or whether Trump’s emails could be withheld. They argued time was of the essence and such legal wrangling would take too long. But House Democrats could have asked for an expedited review from the Supreme Court. They had an excellent case to make given that an election is looming and an impeachment conviction would make Trump ineligible to be listed on ballots that must soon be printed. But House Democrats never even asked for such a review. It left them very vulnerable to the accusations that the only timing they were interested in involved the machinations of political theater.

Make no mistake, though, the sins of Senate Republicans are greater. Simply put, they had the chance to correct the mistakes of the House but chose not to do so for purely political reasons. Every senator should be asked this question: Are there instances where it would be dangerous to the country’s national security for a president to withhold congressionally approved funding to leverage an act that ends up being politically advantageous to the president? For those who answer no, clearly they are just political furniture to be moved by the president or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. For those who answer yes, then why would they not want to hear from witnesses and review documents that could shed light on whether this was one of those instances?

One of the things Democrats did get right is that the idea of a trial without witnesses sounds absurd to ordinary Americans. The problem is that most ordinary Americans paid very little attention to this impeachment process. America has devolved into a country where those who care about politics care with much passion, but most simply don’t care. They find it boring or discouraging. Either way, it is easier to do something else. Yes, many of those people will still vote because they want to be able to say they did, but they enter the polling place with not much more than a few snippets from a campaign advertisement.

Ordinary Americans long have been guilty of putting their political responsibilities on cruise control. But it seemingly has gotten worse since the end of the Cold War. That was the last issue that united us. We could agree — largely — to hate a common enemy. We can’t even do that anymore. A Republican-appointed special counsel, Robert Mueller, plainly found that Russia acted illegally to try to manipulate the outcome of the last presidential election. But outrage over this act mainly came only from people who dislike Trump’s policies and behavior.

It shouldn’t have been that way. This is an enemy who attacked us, but because it wasn’t an actual warhead hurtling towards us, it wasn’t enough to capture our attention. It must have been too boring. The level of drama needed to capture the public’s attention grows and grows, which may explain why we have a reality television star as president.

Some day, something really dramatic — and likely really tragic — will happen that will capture the public’s attention. That may be our best bet to come together as a country again. How sad. How frightening. How broken.


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