The author writes a blog titled “The Last Zwerd.” He lives in Carpinteria.
True confession: I was in favor, though not a vocal supporter, of the Clinton impeachment. I have come to regret that support. I remember listening to the House vote while my kids and their friends were clamoring in the rear seats on the way to a skiing vacation. Each aye vote was akin to the Lakers hitting a jumper in an important game. The final tally was like Magic or Kobe winning Game 7. Perhaps it’s difficult to see a major error until positions are reversed, and it’s your ox getting gored.
The Trump impeachment effort has some similarities to that of President Clinton. Many opponents felt that Mr. Clinton had skated through too many wrongs — serial womanizing, possible sexual assault and rape, Whitewater, Travelgate — and when he lied under oath, they pounced.
The attacks on Donald Trump started before he was inaugurated — an illegitimately elected president — and have continued throughout his term. Critics have wanted him removed from office under the 25th Amendment for being mentally incompetent, impeached for treason for siding with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, removed for alleged racism for comments about “the Squad,” and impeached for collusion with Russia on the 2016 election and obstruction of justice of the subsequent investigation. Unfortunately for Mr. Trump’s critics, special counsel Robert Mueller, who led the inquiry into collusion/obstruction, provided insufficient reasons to generate widespread public support for impeachment.
Then, Mr. Trump, as did Mr. Clinton, presented critics with a gift — an easy-to-understand issue that sounds bad. He allegedly threatened to hold back weapons to Ukraine unless he received a political favor in return, a quid pro quo. Mr. Trump wanted a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, for possible corruption when Mr. Biden was developing and implementing policy for President Obama on Ukraine, while Hunter Biden, generally agreed as unqualified for the job, was receiving as much as $600,000 per year from a Russian oligarch who owned a Ukrainian company of questionable repute. A bit of irony here is that Vice President Biden’s mission included ending corruption in the Ukraine. Mr. Trump also wanted Ukraine to investigate possible assistance to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
Both Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president claim there was no quid pro quo, and the weapons were provided to Ukraine not long after the “incriminating” phone call between the two. Critics claim domestic politics and foreign policy should never be mixed, and there should never be a quid pro quo using the country’s power for political gain. Defenders claim that the president has a duty to expose corruption, especially of someone who may become president, and that he never had any intention to withhold arms — and if he gave an impression to the contrary, it was because he’s a great negotiator and was bluffing.
Ironically, the entire incident has proven very valuable both to Mr. Trump and the Democrats. Not so much for Joe Biden, who, while he may be guilty of nothing, continues to have a hard time explaining why his son was receiving $600,000 per year for which his major qualification was closeness to the man overseeing U.S. policy toward Ukraine, including ending widespread corruption. President Trump, reportedly regards Mr. Biden as his most formidable competitor in the upcoming 2020 election.
The Democrats, under Rep. Adam Schiff, who has replaced Nancy Pelosi as the bete noire of Trump supporters, have done a masterful job via closed hearings and selective leaks of tarring Mr. Trump as an abuser of power and a man who does not listen to seasoned, objective diplomats.
But — and this is a very large “but” — impeachment and threat of impeachment is no way to run a country. The country has far too many issues and problems to waste so much political energy on impeachment unless there is an action that threatens the safety, security or economic viability of the nation. Bill Clinton’s actions did not come close to this standard. Mr. Trump’s action, at least as alleged, is worse than Mr. Clinton’s, but does not rise to an impeachable offense. A congressional resolution of disapproval would be plenty sufficient, particularly since voters, who are and should be the ultimate deciders, will have their say in less than a year.
Democrats criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for saying his job was to make newly elected Barack Obama a one-term president. While few had publicly expressed Mr. McConnell’s sentiments previously, it was always understood that a primary goal was to replace the other party, elect yours and implement your agenda. This led to lots of tugging and pulling and occasional mutually agreed-upon legislation.
If the new standard is to think impeachment as soon as the people elect the other side’s candidate, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the future of the republic.