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Impeachment II: Beating a Dead Horse?

When you think about it, Donald Trump’s second impeachment brings forth some issues that transcend mere politics. For instance, what’s the point?
The point can’t be getting Trump out of office, because the voters have already done that (albeit with some difficulty). And it can’t be simply an opportunity for the Democrats to express how they feel about our 45th president, because everybody already knows how they feel.
Personally, I’m not even comfortable with the idea of declaring that someone can never run for public office again. The subtext to that could be interpreted as: “We’re afraid the American people lack the sense not to elect him again,” which seems to be the antithesis of a democracy. Is it really a good thing when the political majority gets to decide who the nation at large can vote for? (OK, they already do that, but this is worse).
Don’t get me wrong — I think Trump was an awful president. That has nothing to do with ideology (I’m basically a middle-of-the-road guy), just the fact that he was so obviously wrong for the job. I don’t even blame Trump for, as the saying goes, “being Trump.”
After all, it’s not as if Trump came out of nowhere, in the manner of, say, Barack Obama or Jimmy Carter. He had been a pop culture icon and general agitator for decades, the butt of thousands of jokes from late night comics. What made so many people think that would make him a good president?
If nothing else, perhaps we can take a collective vow to never again elect a president who has absolutely no experience in governing. In that sense, Trump was no different from Kanye West.
It goes beyond a mere lack of knowledge at the outset. Had he so desired, Trump could have done some late-night information cramming in an effort to catch up, or taken on some knowledgeable people to advise him rather than a malleable posse of sycophants. Instead, he wore his ignorance proudly, like a badge. He knew more about ISIS than the generals, he said, more about COVID-19 than the doctors.
Yet even if he truly had an encyclopedic knowledge of those things, that wouldn’t necessarily have made him a good president. American politics on that level is fraught with nuances and traditions and proscribed ways of doing things, and Trump had no clue. Because he had always operated as a lone wolf, he approached the presidency the same way.
Still, should that have gotten him impeached the first time? Or should he have been impeached for ignoring the coronavirus pandemic or lying all the time on Twitter?.
Besides the fact that the Senate was obviously not going to vote to convict, making the whole thing a gigantic, time-sucking exercise in futility, it should have occurred to those driving the process that hardly anyone in America really cares about anything that happens in the Ukraine. Later, the Republicans quickly noticed a distinct lack of public outrage over anything Hunter Biden did or didn’t do over there.
The Ukraine? Where’s that? Who cares?
I’m not saying the general American public should not have cared, but the fact is they don’t.
The danger with impeachment is that is effectively overriding the wishes of all the voters who put that person in the Oval Office, similar in intent to that hare-brained Republican scheme to negate the recent Electoral College results.
Think of the previous effort to impeach Bill Clinton because he had sex (depending upon what you mean by “sex”) with an intern and lied about it. What did that have to do with running the country? Shouldn’t that have been a problem for Hillary to deal with, rather than Congress? When you consider the extramarital activities of lots of congresspeople of both parties, the hypocrisy of that impeachment was mind-boggling.
Two trains of thought have emerged from the recent four years that I find highly disturbing, each party contributing one of them.
The first comes from the Republican side: If you lose an election, simply proclaim that it was “rigged” and start hurling lawsuits at the result like a kid in a snowball fight. The good news is, you don’t even have to present the slightest shred of proof. We’ve already seen a few losing candidates in statewide elections trying this method.
From the Democrats, meanwhile, we now have the notion that you can impeach a president simply because he or she is a jerk, or operates in a different political universe. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Qu’Anon congresswoman from Georgia, threatened to file impeachment papers against Joe Biden at the beginning of January.
“Uh, you can’t do that,” she was told.
“Why not?”
“Because he’s not president yet.”
What if some future Democratic majority decides to retroactively impeach George W. Bush for starting the dubious second Iraq War? Or Herbert Hoover for screwing up the economy?
I absolutely think Donald Trump bears responsible for the attack on the U.S. Capitol, based on things he has been saying and hinting at ever since he took office. However, I’m guessing that a good defense attorney would make mincemeat of the contention that Trump’s Jan. 6 Washington rally was truly a smoking gun. Although he had the safety off, for sure, was the gun really smoking?
Maybe I’m dense, but when I read the text of his remarks, I don’t see any place where Trump specifically says: “I want you people to go over to the Capitol, break in, and hang Mike Pence.”
OK, it seems obvious that he wanted to see that happen. and he is said to have been gloating while safely watching the whole fiasco on television.
Nevertheless, we’re talking about very specific, constraining, “innocent until proven guilty” legalities here. If a woman casually told the person with whom she was having an affair, “You know, my life would be so much easier if my husband wasn’t around,” could she then be convicted of murder if her lover took that literally and granted her wish? Technically, I mean.
If some e-mail or correspondence or video comes to light in which Trump is shown actively plotting with the Proud Boys or whomever, that’s another story. In that case, it would become a criminal matter
This second impeachment doesn’t seem to be any more promising than the first, based upon the continuing lack of support in the Senate. Perhaps its proponents were hoping for a different result because it was no longer about dumping a sitting president and leaving a vaccuum in his place. At this point, it’s become theoretical, and the basic charge is a bit hazy.
“But we need to teach him (Trump) a lesson,” the impeachers say.
Just ask Mary Trump — her uncle isn’t listening.
Darrell Laurant
Founder at Snowflakes in a Blizzard | + posts

Darrell Laurant is a veteran journalist who previously worked at the News & Advance (Lynchburg). He published over 7,000 pieces in three decades. Darrell has covered papal visits, the Olympics, American sports, and political issues in Virginia. He has also written a variety of books, including "Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks that Helped Change America."

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