Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Case Against Impeachment

If you are so disposed, it can be very easy to dislike Donald Trump as President of the United States. One may dislike him on the basis of his character (or lack thereof): his disrespectful treatment of others; his lack of empathy; his untruthfulness; his constant need for positive attention; his disregard for the needs and suffering of others.

One may dislike him on the basis of his lack of leadership as President: his inability to define a position and stay with it; his willingness to blame others for his failures and throw supporters under the bus; his inability to articulate a case for his goals, versus relying on empty slogans or simple Tweets that threaten or ridicule his opponents; his inability to build political support when needed, versus his continual attempt to divide us; his unwillingness to do his homework, think an issue through, and craft a viable plan to accomplish his objectives; his abdication of America’s leadership role in the world. All of which raise questions about why “the art (and artist) of the deal” has accomplished nary a single deal to date.

One may dislike his stated priorities themselves: gutting governmental regulations for its own sake without offering alternative protections that they were designed for; backtracking on our substantial environmental progress; backtracking on the many hard-fought achievements made in our civil rights; backtracking on the expansion of healthcare access and improved healthcare delivery for all Americans; a legislative and Executive Order program that seems little more than a reactive “just undo everything Obama did” versus offering original ideas of his own.

One may dislike his incompetency as an executive manager – especially given all his bragging about his “business success”: his lack of plans; the consistent chaos surrounding him and created by him; a White House office that cannot speak consistently with one voice or coherently explain any Trump action to anyone; his demand for personal loyalty and adoration from his Cabinet and staff versus loyalty to the presidency and the Constitution.

One may dislike his total ignorance, disdain, and disregard for the dignity of the Presidency, and the precedencies set by all who came before him in that office: his indifference to the responsibility of the President to model that which is America (and Americans) at its best; his abuse of his position to commercially enrich himself and his family; his impression that being President of the United States living in the White House is a step down from being CEO of Trump Inc. and living at Mar-a-Lago; his complete lack of class and dignity in knowing what is appropriate to say or do with a given audience – whether embarrassing us at a G-20 meeting of international leaders or giving a speech to the Boy Scouts of America at their Jamboree.

All of these interrelated conclusions we might make are damning enough, fatally damaging to someone claiming leadership of this powerful yet flawed, hopeful but struggling country. They invite our continual assessment, and criticism where warranted, in an attempt to change the country’s direction towards a better, positive future rather than into the negative abyss Trump seems to want to take us. Is it political chaos? Yes. Is it a social breakdown? Yes. Is it impeachable conduct? No.

There is a reason that, among our 45 presidents, only two suffered official impeachment indictment (both found not guilty), and one more resigned under the certain threat of impeachment. Impeachment deliberately has a high bar, and political disagreement is not the vehicle to cross that bar. “High crimes and misdemeanors” do not include stupidity, personal coarseness, bad choices for one’s Cabinet, failure to run a competent organization, or disagreement over policy decisions. We are a republic form of government, not a parliamentary one. Rather, intimidation of free speech and free press; obstructing justice; covering up illegal activity; selling favors for personal profit; aiding foreign enemies of America – these kinds of action come closer to that bar. We can speculate about what Trump has done, but impeachment still requires a) high crimes, and b) proof. So far, there is an excess of smoke, hints of flames, but no photo (yet?) of the gun out of the holster.

News media and multiple Congressional investigations of the Administration are happening all over Washington. A special prosecutor investigation has barely gotten underway. We need to wait and allow these initiatives to follow their natural course before judgements are made. Current talk of impeachment is both wrong and premature, driven more by political frustrations than by impeachable facts. Such talk builds barriers and defensiveness with supporters of Trump, and dilutes future efforts when they may be needed. In the court of public opinion, Donald Trump is overwhelmingly guilty of being a very bad occupant of his office. In the well of the Senate, a vote to impeach him from office is not yet to be found. If the case proves ultimately to be made, then and only then should it move to that forum. Given Trump’s penchant for self-inflicted wounds, it is likely only a matter of time before such truths and circumstances arise. The clean water of Truth continues its slow drip day by day.

Certainly there are members of Trump’s Team (current and former) who are in real legal jeopardy for their decisions, actions and lies. But that is an insufficient indictment for the impeachment of Trump, only more damming evidence of incompetence. Until demonstrable proof of high crimes happens – if it does – the energy of protest of Donald Trump’s presidency requires political engagement. Letter writing; social media posts that say something worthwhile (versus ranting and complaining); community conversations are all required. Exaggeration and hyperbole does not help; neither does insulting or ridiculing people with different views. The only thing that will stop Trump is people of all stripes coming together to say “enough is enough” rather than holding up in our separate dueling camps. It is all about election days. Every election that comes up – federal, state, local – is an opportunity to effect change. It is by the long, slow slog of election strategies, campaign organizations, good candidates and turning out voters that real differences are made. Impractical and premature calls for impeachment only stoke the emotional fires without results. Like it or not, right now it is all about hard-nosed politics that matter.

In six short months, Donald Trump has turned our Constitution, Republic and civic traditions inside out and upside down. We must not let his outrageous treatment of his high office, and our revulsion towards his actions, cause us to abandon the foundations and principles of our democratic government that have survived and served us for over 200 years.

©   2017   Randy Bell             www.ThoughtsFromTheMountain.blogspot.com