In any “stupidest” or “most worthless” contest, America can confidently put its money on the President Donald Trump impeachment mess.
What frivolity. What junk. What an irredeemable waste of valuable time.
Almost irredeemable. I should make that clear.
As Pliny the Elder, in Roman times, nicely put it, “There is no book so bad that some good cannot be got out of it.” You just have to look.
Such is the nature of human society, in the aftermath of that outdoor disaster involving a talking snake and an unclothed woman named Eve. Every disaster, we find, yields consolation and opportunity of some sort or another.
Here’s ours, with respect to the Trump impeachment:
You won’t see any more presidential impeachments held around here for a while. The exception I craft in my own mind is that of a chief executive videotaped while taking a Chinese bribe for ordering the armed forces to disband.
The longer the Trump proceedings went on, the wider — save, perhaps, to the House impeachment squad — seemed the disjunction between complaint and called-for remedy. It was unseemly and dumb to suggest to a friendly foreign official the need to investigate a potential election opponent; we can swallow that much without coughing violently. The thing is you make such a request only when you think you’re untouchable. We don’t ever want political figures thinking they are untouchable. That message needs regular reinforcement. And now we have just that, to one degree or another.
Then there’s the other side to the matter. If no particular harm seems to have come of the Trump–Zelensky conversation, why make a big deal of it? Yes, we needed to make some-size deal of it, but not the deal we actually made. Congressional Democrats made a naked attempt to clear the way for the election of a Democratic presidential candidate.
This was clear, partly because the punishment proposed for Trump’s undoubted error of judgment failed to fit the unproven crime and partly because two other remedies were at hand, singly or in combination.
One remedy was censure by vote of Congress, as was attempted of President Bill Clinton due to his, shall we say, obfuscations concerning the Monica Lewinsky affair. Remedy No. 2 was the final verdict of the voters — coming up in November. As Trump attorney Pat Cipollone well put it: “Leave it to the voters” to choose their president. Unless you so despise the voters’ presidential choice in 2016, you no longer trust commoners — nonpoliticians — to discern right from wrong and you decide so to speak to trump their choices.
The sheer pointlessness of the impeachment exercise underscored the impeachment squad’s insincerity. The squad knew, or certainly should have known, that the Senate would never muster a two-thirds majority to convict and remove the president. Please, oh, please, is it necessary to waste public time trying to convince us otherwise?
The worst of the matter likely was the sheer embarrassment that congressional posturing over this supposedly high-minded venture in morality occasioned America and the American people. What irony — that those who exposed our government to ridicule through such a ridiculous, overargued, overwrought proceeding chose to preen before us, every day, with chest-thumping praise of the Founding Fathers.
Most of the Fathers cleaved to high moral ideals; we must give the impeachment lobby that. Among the loftiest of those ideals: respect for fitness and proportion and dignity and intellectual honesty as distinguished from the overblown, Manichean-style words of Rep. Adam Schiff. That’s to say nothing of all the other Democrats working to persuade us the future of the republic rested on their shoulders.
Fortunately, it didn’t, or we’d be in a bigger mess than the one depicted by the impeachment lobby. You don’t have to believe Trump is George Washington. Or that he’s St. Thomas Aquinas. What is he? A man freely chosen by the voters for purposes that seemed essential to those who chose him with eyes generally open wide. Too many in our nation’s capital these days seem unable to get the essentials of democracy through their heads.
Well, here’s a start on that seemingly forsaken goal — no matter who likes it.
William Murchison is writing a book on moral reconstruction in the 21st century. His latest book is The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson.
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