So Lamar Alexander is going to vote with the GOP. Which means that despite Mitt Romney and Susan Collins (And ten’ll get you five that she would have changed her vote to the party line at the last minute) saying we should have witnesses in the Senate trial, Mitch McConnell still has enough votes to block witnesses and acquit Trump of wrongdoing. Which he will do in the next 24 hours.
Alexander made a statement critical of the President’s actions, of course. Because he wants to be seen as moral, even as he abdicates all responsibility, all semblance of actually doing his job and adhering to the oath he took. Nobody likes admitting that they’re doing the wrong thing. Even when they are doing the wrong thing.
Oh — President Obama did the wrong thing when he used drone strikes to kill Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists, especially because there were civilian casualties, and especially because he targeted American citizens. He did the wrong thing when he refused to close Guantanamo and either try or release the accused terrorists imprisoned there. He did the wrong thing when he — okay, I can’t think of a third thing. I think he probably did the wrong thing when he pulled troops out of Iraq and allowed ISIS room to grow; and he probably did the wrong thing when he refused to send troops into Syria to stop Assad from using chemical weapons, and he did the wrong thing when he allowed the CIA to help overthrow Gaddafi in Libya. But I think any intervention in foreign wars is probably wrong. You can make a case for intervening to end brutal dictatorships, but it’s tough to maintain that case when we’ve not intervened in either North Korea nor Rwanda, so. It’s easiest to say that American foreign policy smacks of jingoistic imperialism, capitalist exploitation, and colonialist arrogance, and therefore is troubling even when the goals are good.
Alan Dershowitz is wrong: the idea that abuse of power is not impeachable because anything done in the public interest, according to the president’s understanding of that, can at worst be seen as misgovernance, which the Founding Fathers clearly refused to allow as grounds for impeachment and removal — that as long as President Trump thinks he’s doing what’s best for the country, and not committing any officially illegal acts like witness tampering, he commits no impeachable offenses — is ridiculous. It’s almost cute, because the President’s defense team is arguing that the House impeachment rests on reading the President’s mind, and knowing what he intended to do and why, because his actions by themselves are not impeachable (Mostly because no official crime, but also because according to them Trump did nothing wrong in that perfect phone call — it’s wild to watch smart people shift their stance daily, almost hourly, and still refuse to admit their case is weak); but: Dershowitz et al. knowing that the President thought what he was doing was in the public interest is also somehow reading his mind. Unless they have evidence as to the President’s specific, provable intention with his perfect phone call, in which case, that evidence should be brought forward and examined. Maybe call John Bolton, or something.
But they won’t. Because this is not a real trial. It’s not a real adherence to the Constitution and the law. Of course not. You can tell because they’re arguing that bullying an ally into mudslinging to win an election is somehow not abuse of power. Or that it is abuse of power, but that it isn’t impeachable — which is amazing, because that means there is some level, and in this instance it’s a pretty high bar, of acceptable abuse of power.
Abuse of power has to be impeachable. You can argue that it’s a vague category of offense, but so is the “specific” wording in the Constitution: “Treason, bribery, or other High crimes and misdemeanors.” Treason is betrayal of the United States, but what does that mean? If you do something like, I don’t know, start a trade war that ruins American manufacturing and farming just as those industries are pulling out of a recession, is that a betrayal of this country? Or how about betraying a longtime ally in a critical military operation, by pulling out troops so that their longtime enemy can move across an international border and bomb the shit out of innocent civilians? Is that a betrayal of the country? Is that treason? Is it bribery if you accept money from foreign heads of state who rent rooms at your hotel? How about if you put in place as ambassador to the EU some random schmoe who gave you a million dollars? Is that bribery? (Of course it is.)
Would it be a high crime and misdemeanor if the President shot someone on 5th Avenue?
What if he had sex with a 21-year-old intern and then denied it under oath? Would that be a betrayal of the country? Is that treason?
And the point is, it’s a judgment call. There is no clear and well-defined standard of what is and is not corrupt because corruption comes in as many potential forms as there are people. I have changed grades because it was funny. Seriously: I had a student make some snarky comment about how grammar didn’t matter, except he spelled it “grammer,” and I gave him +1 for irony. That’s corrupt. It’s a betrayal of the trust put in me to grade my students to the best of my ability and with perfect honesty and integrity. I think it’s a minor infraction, but — that’s subjective, isn’t it?
Of course it is.
Abuse of power is the whole point of impeachment and removal from office. It has to be impeachable, and it has to be left vague so that it can be interpreted to fit the context of the present situation. Abuse of power is the definition of “high crimes and Misdemeanors,” a phrase taken from English common law and used to describe someone who betrayed an oath of office and the public trust placed in him, but who did not necessarily break any legal statute. I recommend you read the Wikipedia article on this, actually; very illuminating. My favorite part is this:
Benjamin Franklin asserted that the power of impeachment and removal was necessary for those times when the Executive “rendered himself obnoxious,” and the Constitution should provide for the “regular punishment of the Executive when his conduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused.” James Madison said that “impeachment… was indispensable” to defend the community against “the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate.” With a single executive, Madison argued, unlike a legislature whose collective nature provided security, “loss of capacity or corruption was more within the compass of probable events, and either of them might be fatal to the Republic.”
I mean, Trump “rendered himself obnoxious” before he even took office, so. The Democrats who have sought to impeach him from day one have always been correct. I think the case for negligence and corruption, both potentially fatal to the Republic, is even easier to prove in this case. The goal is not to find the perfect set of rules and restrictions, definitions and elaborations, that will stop only those specific crimes that constitute an impeachable offense; it is to put our trust, the public trust, into our elected officials to hear the evidence, weigh the facts, and make a decision.
Let me just boil all of this down, rather than getting too deep into the arguments. This is really, really easy stuff.
Trump did the thing. It was a violation of the public trust because we expect that the President not do anything in office expressly to benefit himself personally; and especially not fuck with an ally in danger: we expect that he not fuck with military aid intended to protect several allies from one of the world’s more dangerous countries. That’s an abuse of power, and it’s impeachable, and he should be impeached and removed.
He won’t be, of course. Because the GOP is becoming more and more obedient to a single, specific goal, which is “Fuck the liberals.” That’s what really got Trump elected — because I know there were a hundred reasons why the moderates and independents and disillusioned Democrats voted for Trump, and plenty of reasons why people voted against Clinton, and the Electoral College is the only reason Trump’s lost popular vote put him in office, but when you get down to it, if 30 million or so angry fucking Republicans hadn’t voted for him from the outset, those other things wouldn’t have mattered — and the harder Republicans work to keep him in office and get him reelected, the more they are showing their loyalty to exactly that base, and exactly that credo. Republican congressmen and Senators are toeing the line because they’re afraid of being primaried, afraid that someone will show up in their districts who is more credible when they say “Fuck the liberals,” and will take their job away. And they’re right, that’s exactly what would happen; because Trump’s base votes to fuck the liberals. That’s it.
You can tell that this is their fundamental idea because every single argument about Trump and what he has done comes back to liberals (mostly Obama) doing worse. You say that Trump is abusing his power, and they say that Obama abused his with executive orders. You say that Trump is hurting our national reputation, they say that Obama did worse when he bowed, or went on his “apology tour.” You say that Trump is a rapist, they say so was Clinton.
All of those are terrible arguments. If you accuse me of murder and I say “Well Ted Bundy killed WAY more people than me!” it doesn’t mean anything other than “Fuck you.” And that’s all I’ve been hearing this entire time, ever since the whistleblower tried to do the right thing: Trump isn’t as corrupt as Biden, he didn’t hurt Ukraine as much as Obama did by not providing actual weapons to fight Russia, the GOP bullshit tactics aren’t as bad as Adam Schiff. All they’re saying is that your side is just as bad as your side; and if they then don’t go on to say “Wow, that’s fucked up and we should fix both sides,” their real belief is that your side (the liberal side) is worse simply because we’re liberals. So even if what Obama did isn’t comparable to what Trump did in an absolute sense (And it’s not: comparing clear criminal acts and abuse of power to actual policy decisions, even policy decisions you hate, is just bullshit.), it’s worse because Obama did it. Because he’s a liberal. Of course.
I did realize the other day that there’s a fundamental difference in opinion that changes how people see this impeachment. I don’t think anyone really believes Trump when he says he did nothing wrong; I am positive that no one believes President Zelenskiy of Ukraine when he says there was no pressure; when the teacher comes across the bully in the middle of applying an atomic wedgie, and the victim says, “No, sir, nothing wrong here; we’re just playing around,” you don’t believe that kid. You know better. Zelenskiy still needs the military aid and the goodwill of the US, and as Trump has made abundantly clear to him since last July, that means doing whatever makes President Trump happy, and fuck everyone else in America. So Zelenskiy is lying to suck up to the bully. Of course.
Tell me that’s not an abuse of his power. Tell me he’s working in the public interest. Go on.
But that’s what I realized: the people who think Trump is the best president we’ve ever had — and the vast majority of those are, I am confident, the Fuck the Liberals wing of the Republican party — really don’t think he did anything wrong because they think getting Trump reelected is the best thing for the country, and so whatever Trump does to achieve that is actually a good thing. Even if it’s shady. Even if it causes some conflict with Ukraine — the Ukrainians (anyone, really) don’t matter as much as America does, and America is better off with Trump in office, these folks say. So that’s why there was no crime, no impeachable offense: he was doing the right thing.
(A couple of quick things while we’re on the subject: the accusations keep getting thrown around that this is a partisan impeachment. Of course it is: all impeachments are partisan. But in the Democrats’ case, while they may be biased against conservatives, it’s not because they belong to the Democratic party, it’s because they disagree with the ideas. So even if the parties were reversed — like, say, the Republicans being the party if Lincoln and the Democrats being the party of the segregationist South — the ideas would still clash and they’d still disagree, and the process of impeachment would be partisan no matter what parties there were, or how many. The parties reflect our divides, they don’t create them. Though I wonder if that is still true of the GOP under Trump. And also, it keeps being said, in various ways by both sides, that this process will ruin impeachment, ruin Congress, ruin the country. Of course it won’t. If people with integrity and good intentions get into office, things will improve; if corrupt cowards get into office, everything will go badly. The question is if this process will lead to more corrupt cowards being elected, and at the moment, I’d say: of course.)
So, now we won’t have witnesses or evidence, and Trump will be acquitted and will go back on tour leading up to his reelection bid. And about 50 million people will vote for him because A) he’s not a socialist; B) he put in place those nice white Jesus-lovin’ Justices who will end abortion for us all, and C) fuck the liberals. And I truly hope, and I mostly believe (as cynical as I am, I still believe) that a large number of key voters, moderates and swing voters and those who really hated Hillary Clinton so much they voted for Trump instead of her, will vote for someone who didn’t abuse their power and who isn’t a spurting fountain of corruption. I think a lot of smart people voted for Trump in 2016, and a lot of them realize it didn’t work out the way they wanted it to. I believe that a lot of them will vote him out of office, at least partly because he abused his power and the Congress failed to act on it, failed to do their jobs as Trump has failed to do his job. I hope that they will also vote out the Republican majority in the Senate, because they abdicated their responsibility and betrayed the country.
I don’t know if it will happen that way. I hope so.
But I know this: if he does get reelected, I’m going to look into emigrating to some other country, somewhere that doesn’t reelect a corrupt narcissist because the other political party makes them mad. It’s bad enough that the politicians choose party over country, but they’re cowards who want to keep their jobs more than they want to do their jobs (And yes, that goes for both sides; Dianne Feinstein fucked up the Kavanaugh hearings because she played it for maximum political damage to Trump, and so we got that shitstick on the court for the next thirty years.), but when my countrymen do that? Fuck them. I’m out. And yes, that means they win, and they will gleefully cheer as I leave. And I sincerely hope that my fellow liberals will all come with me, and leave this broken, failing country in their hands, so they can turn it into Gilead and start picking out their Handmaids. I wish them as much joy of what’s left of America as they wished me when they voted Trump into office expressly to fuck with me.
That is: none. Of course. Choke on the ashes of what you’ve wrought, you GOP bastards. Follow your Perfect Leader into hell. I’m done with all of this.
To be perfectly clear: I will fight with everything I’ve got for the next nine months. But if they win again, presidency and congress, that’s my last straw. This is my Waterloo.