Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What To Do Next

Would it have been reasonable to remove Bill Clinton from office for lying about having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky?  If the GOP had controlled both houses of Congress, and done so, would the country have rewarded them?  Or shrugged?  Or exploded?

Ezra Klein asks a relevant question that makes me consider that historical counterfactual:

Is the case for impeachment really going to be that Trump wanted to fire then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but didn’t? That he wanted to fire Mueller, but didn’t? That he fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017? That he asked his staff to do illegal things, but then accepted their judgment when they refused? That being a liar — which has been obvious about Trump since long before the American people elected him — is a high crime and misdemeanor?
Leaving aside the argument Klein goes for, that polling shows Americans don't support impeachment now, this raises a different question for me:  would they later?

It took Mueller 2 years, nearly, to produce a report that is damning in its revelations, but also (here's the real paradox), not all that new to us.  "Us" being the people paying attention to this.  Is the general public devouring Mueller's near 450 pages?  Probably not.  I haven't tried to read it; but I don't need to.  The news tells me it's what I already knew, and knew because of...the news.  True, I didn't know about Eric Prince's trip to the Seychelles, but do I really need to?

Now, two years later, we have the report and a strong public debate about it (even Chuck Todd couldn't believe what Rudy Giuliani was trying to sell on MTP this morning).  The venerable NYT is calling the sitting President a liar, without qualm or hesitation.  But Congressional hearings sufficient to bring this to the public's attention (who are you kidding now?  I remember the Watergate hearings, with a cast of characters I never did keep up with.  And I was in high school with plenty of time to be appalled at Nixon's antics., as well as hope Vietnam would end before I turned 18. Oh, yes, I was motivated.   I'd read Hunter Thompson, I subscribed to "Rolling Stone," I was a liberal and politically aware as any non-college student in America [and the "activist" college students were a minority of the minority of college students in the population.  When Kent State happened, the people killed were all just walking around campus.], and I couldn't keep up with the cast of characters or even all the allegations of wrongdoing.  When it came down to charges of "obstruction of justice" for years I had no clear idea what that was based on. I know Nixon wad guilty; I didn't really know why.) will take a year or more.  Will anyone besides SNL pay more attention to that?  How loudly will it resound in the campaigns for nominations, especially with Warren being the lone voice (now, anyway), calling for impeachment hearings?  If Congress investigates, then decides to begin to impeach, when does that process start?  Next spring?  Just in time for primaries and conventions and the long slog to November?

And the case against Trump is that he couldn't get his staff to do what he wanted them to do?  I think that works pretty damned well in an ad; as grounds for removal from office, it's never gonna happen.

So is the point counting coup?  The Democrats get a scalp on their belt, to match the one Gingrich Republicans had after Clinton?  Are we really that anxious to be copycats?

One possible answer is in Appelbaum’s thoughtful piece, which argues that “impeachment is best regarded as a process, not an outcome. It’s the constitutional mechanism for investigating whether an executive-branch officer is fit to serve.”

Yeah, but who in American politics is that high-minded?  Mitch McConnell?  Jim Jordan?  Devin Nunes?  And does the republic really need to "normalize" the process of impeachment, so that every President is subjected to "the constitutional mechanism for investigating whether or not an executive-branch officer is fit to serve"?  Put a different GOP Speaker in the office for Obama's first term, and what would happen?  Yeah, the republic needs that like it needs another hole in its head.  I don't really think that's what Newt Gingrich was up to, and I don't really think we can guarantee we avoid another Newt Gingrich in the future.

It's all part of looking for a system to save us from ourselves; but no such system exists, or ever will.  As Klein put it:

But then, we’re trapped in a terrible political system. All the options are bad. Justice is never assured, and it’s not even likely.

Justice is not a political solution. If you want justice, indict Trump the moment the next President's hand comes off the Bible. There are 12 investigations out there. We have time.

Yeah, I know; I repeat myself from time to time....

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