SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2021
Removed? Tried/convicted? Disqualified?: Should Donald J. Trump have been impeached this second time around?
We're forced to admit we're not sure. Once you're "in blood stepped in so far," there's no good way to get out or wade o'er.
It may be that the instant impeachment kept our disordered commander-in-chief from engaging in even crazier conduct as January 20 drew near. To cite one example, he didn't try to start a foreign war.
For that we should be grateful. That said, once he had departed the White House, should we have proceeded with the Senate "trial?" Should that trial have been delayed, permitting further investigation?
And not only that! If the commander had been convicted, should he then have been disqualified from seeking future office? Should he have been disqualified by a simple majority vote? Should we try to disqualify him now, through use of the Fourteenth Amendment?
To all those questions, we'd say we aren't sure (at best). Once you're in a mess this bad, there's rarely a good way out.
In Impeachment I and Impeachment II, our overall view has been this:
Removal from office is a necessary tool, but our system doesn't run on impeachment; our system runs on elections. We're reminded of two events from 1998.
In 1998, Bill Clinton was impeached by the House on a "too much oral sex" rap. In our previous 206 years of presidential history, we'd only had one such impeachment. That had occurred in 1868, as an offshoot of our nation's Civil War!
At the time, some pundits were saying that the impeachment of Clinton might normalize the practice—might lead to regular future impeachments.
That seemed unlikely to us at the time, but threats of impeachment did become more common after that. In this New York Times report, Mark Leibovich has now suggested that performative impeachment might become common in the future. We can't say that prediction is wrong.
Some sages were predicting that outcome back in 1998. Along the way, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) offered some good sound advice:
NADLER: The effect of impeachment is to overturn the popular will of the voters. We must not overturn an election and remove a president from office except to defend our system of government or our constitutional liberties against a dire threat.
And we must not do so without an overwhelming consensus of the American people. There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment supported by one of our major political parties and opposed by the other. Such an impeachment will produce the divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come. And will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.
Nadler was speaking of impeachment itself, not necessarily of removal from office.
He said there should never be a one-party impeachment. Except at times of terrible danger, we'd call that good sound advice.
Regarding removal from office, Nadler's point is even stronger. Of course, given the way Senate politics works, and given the need for a two-thirds vote. there could virtually never be a one-party removal from office.
Our system does suffer, in ways Nadler described, from heavily partisan impeachments. That doesn't mean that this latest impeachment was wrong. It means there may be a price to be paid.
In our view, the deepening craziness of Donald J. Trump presented a special challenge. In our view, politicians and journalists here in Our Town only heightened that challenge in recent years by refusing to discuss his apparent cognitive/psychiatric disorder—most especially, by refusing to discuss his apparent medical disorders in a sympathetic way.
(As we've noted in the past, no such discussion could have unfolded in an intelligent way. Our public discourse is too primitive to permit any such outcome.)
We've mentioned two events from 1998—Jerry Nadler's good advice, and the warning that flimsy impeachments might become more common.
Now, we'll mention two events from this very month. In each case, it seems to us that the event we mention made Our Town look bad.
We start with an analysis offered by one of Donald Trump's lawyers. We refer to the widely mocked Michael van der Veen. We offer a brief side point:
Last Wednesday evening, Rachel Maddow was still laughing and clowning about Trump's lawyers twenty minutes into her program. She was especially hatrd on van der Veen, a fellow who lacks the Rhodes Scholar sheen this corporate star offers Our Town.
Brian Williams was also mocking van der Veen. MSNBC's ditching of transcripts means that we can't show you the various things they said.
Having said that, we'll add this:
Our Town is strongly inclined to behave that way. We're strongly inclined to have our former Rhodes Scholars mock such others who aren't.
It's the stupidest thing a person can do. Our unnamed, top-ranking cable star has behaved this way from the start.
Van der Veen was a bit rough-hewn, but we thought he was rather effective. We were embarrassed for Our Town when he discussed the repetitive claim by our House managers that the disordered commander-in-chief had said the word "fight" twenty times in his January 6 speech.
They said it and said it and said it again, playing us every time. On Friday February 12, van der Veen played the videotape of all twenty utterances. We thought it was one of the most intelligent bits of exegesis we've ever seen on our home TV screen.
It's true! On January 6, the commander gave one of his standard meandering speeches, going on and on and on. Much of what he said that day was utterly pathetic—was barely this side of sane.
But just so you can understand why The Others don't think Our Town is so great, here are six of the twenty uses our tribunes kept yapping about:
TRUMP (1/6/21): As you know the media has constantly asserted the outrageous lie that there was no evidence of widespread fraud. You ever see these people? “While there is no evidence of fraud…” Oh, really? Well, I’m going to read you pages. I hope you don’t get bored listening to it.
Promise? Don’t get bored listening to it, all those hundreds of thousands of people back there. Move them up, please. Yeah. All these people, don’t get bored! Don’t get angry at me, because you’re going to get bored because it’s so much. The American people do not believe the corrupt fake news anymore. They have ruined their reputation.
But you know, it used to be that they’d argue with me, I’d fight. So I’d fight, they’d fight. I’d fight, they’d fight. Boop-boop. You’d believe me, you’d believe them. Somebody comes out, you know? They had their point of view, I had my point of view. But you’d have an argument.
Now what they do is they go silent. It’s called suppression. And that’s what happens in a communist country. That’s what they do. They suppress. You don’t fight with them anymore, unless it’s a bad story. They have a little bad story about me, they’ll make it ten times worse and it’s a major headline.
But Hunter Biden, they don’t talk about him. What happened to Hunter? Where’s Hunter? Where is Hunter? They don’t talk about him.
That's the speech of a punch-drunk Palooka, a disordered fellow who's out on his feet and is barely hanging on.
Regarding Covid, regarding the election, Trump had been making such punch-drunk orations on a remarkably regular basis all through the previous year. That said, there you see six (6) of the twenty times he said the word "fight" during his ludicrous speech.
Obviously, those silly statements had little to do with trying to incite those "hundred of thousands of people" to stage a deadly riot at the Capitol. But our tribunes stood up and pretended otherwise, over and over again.
Van der Veer went through the rest of the twenty uses of the word "fight." When he did, it was embarrassing for our side.
Our response? Brian and Rachel mocked van der Veer's Philly accent. This is the dimwitted way Our Town has played it since the dawn of time.
We'll mention one other embarrassing moment which emerged during the trial. This embarrassing moment involved videotape of Our Town's leading House manager on January 6, 2017, three days after he began his tenure in the House.
Jamie Raskin is a good, decent person, but this was embarrassing stuff. In his role at (outgoing) vice president, Joe Biden was trying to certify the electoral votes which had elected Donald J. Trump. As Biden tried to muddle through, of our tribunes were being highly performative. Three days into his House career, a good decent person said this:
RASKIN (1/6/17): I have an objection because 10 of the 29 electoral votes cast by Florida were cast by electors not lawfully certified.
BIDEN: Is it signed by a senator?
RASKIN: Not as of yet, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: In that case, the objection cannot be entertained. The objection cannot be entertained. The debate is not in order.
"Not as of yet," the performative tribune said.
We found that embarrassing (and disappointing) as we watched the videotape during the trial.. If you want to know why many Others may not hold us in the highest regard, we'd suggest that you consider behaviors which sometimes occur in Our Town.
Our view? We thought the House managers made a compelling case on Wednesday, January 10. By the end of the week, we had come to think less well of them as a group.
They combined absolute certainty in their cause with the kind of silly tricks which included their constant claims about those twenty uses of the word "fight." Meanwhile, as we finish today, we'll mention something Chuck Schumer said.
Last Saturday, Donald J. Trump won "acquittal" by a 43-57 vote. (Truly, Trump is a master at winning with well under half the votes.)
After the Senate vote, Chuck Schumer rose to speak, followed by Mitch McConnell. As he closed his speech, Schumer said something which strikes us as almost definitively wrong:
SCHUMER (2/13/21): This trial was about the final acts of a president who represents the very antithesis of our first president, and sought to place one man before the entire country, himself. Let the record show, let the record show, before God, history, and the solemn oath we swear to the constitution, that there was only one correct verdict in this trial, guilty.
And I pray that while justice was not done in this trial, it will be carried forward by the American people who above any of us in this chamber determine the destiny of our great nation. I yield the floor.
We agree with Schumer's general statement about what Donald J. Trump "represents." Concerning the highlighted statement, we will only say "Wow."
"Let the record show, before God...that there was only one correct verdict?" It's almost never true, in our human affairs, that there's only one correct assessment.
Nor can you run a modern continental nation on the basis of such tribal certainty. That's especially true if that nation is going to run on "the consent of the governed."
Was guilty "the only possible verdict?" We can't necessarily say that it was.
That said, we looked back at the rambling, innocuous ways Donald J. Trump used the word "fight" in that ludicrous rambling speech. When we did, it it didn't make us admire the way the trial was run by the House members from Our Town.
Our tribunes were running a bit of a con as they kept telling the nation that he'd said the word "fight" twenty times. We thought van der Veer performed an excellent bit of textual analysis as he showed us, all twenty times, what the Palooka had actually said.
Van der Veer did an excellent job with that. When he did, Brian and Rachel mocked him for his choices of words and for his Philly accent.
We frequently play it that way in Our Town. This may help explain why a badly disordered commander-in-chief—one who's likely a sociopath—is so widely loved in so many other towns.
If the commander had been convicted, should he have been disqualified by a simple majority vote? Should we be trying to disqualify him now, through the Fourteenth Amendment, which would also require a simple majority vote?
Our tribunes have said yes each time. In a nation which runs on elections and on consent of the governed, the notion strikes us as less than perfectly sane.
We're lucky we got that guy out of office. Can we possibly learn to persuade?