Donald Trump is the fourth consecutive baby boomer in the White House, and the second to be targeted for impeachment. And this is a momentous week in the process: the beginning of the public portion of the impeachment inquiry in Congress. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafe’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs, who has covered presidents back to Richard Nixon— another impeachment target— takes a look at the process, and why to him it looks legitimate.
Say what you like about the grounds for President Trump’s impeachment; the president himself cluelessly calls it a “coup.” It’s not. I’ve covered coups and attempted coups, from Spain to Sudan. If the president knew the meaning of the word “coup,” he would know that it’s an entirely different affair. Impeachment is not a coup. It’s a Congressional commitment confirmed in the Constitution.
The language is as clear as day: ”The President… shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Our nation’s Founders left it to Congress to define “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but they told us through their writings that it doesn’t mean crimes of the highest nature. It means crimes by the highest officials, who are singled out because they have obligations that the rest of us don’t.
The highest officials, like presidents.
No matter which side you’re on, you’ve got to admit that a cavalcade of credible corroborators, willing to risk the president’s rage and defying his deceitful claims about their immunity, told Congress the same story: Trump tried to bribe a foreign government. He dangled treats and overtly enlisted Ukraine to help incriminate a political opponent, all to prop up his own prospects. That is illegal on the face of it. Or to frame it in the context of the Constitution, a high crime. And then, they say, he went even further, conditioning military aid— money Constitutionally appropriated by Congress, meaning our money— on Ukraine’s compliance.
What is it about “high crimes and misdemeanors” that Trump’s people don’t understand? What’s more, if Trump has nothing to hide, why has he worked so hard to keep at least half-a-dozen top administration officials from testifying in the inquiry? Of course he says it’s all to protect the integrity of the presidency. That might be a bit more believable if he had done much else in the past three years to protect it.
The president denies he committed a crime, of course, but what else is new? Trump would deny that the sun rises in the east if it worked to his profit. Anyone who doesn’t understand that Donald Trump lies as readily as the rest of us breathe is living in a cave.
Of course Trump’s enablers, many sworn to abide by the Constitution, actually all but ignore it. They call the move toward impeachment an attempt to “undo the election of 2016.” The top-ranking Republican in Congress, that slug of a senator Mitch McConnell, says of the Democrats pushing to impeach, “They have denied President Trump basic due process.”
I could go back to the Constitution’s clarity about the due process of impeachment, but that point already has been made. It’s more fun to go back to McConnell’s own record on impeachment and here’s the funny thing: I checked on the last time a president was impeached— that would be Bill Clinton, a Democrat— and guess what?!? After the House impeached Clinton on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, McConnell voted in the Senate trial to convict on both charges… never once bellyaching that this would “deny President Clinton basic due process.” (Reminds me of McConnell’s other display of hyper-hypocrisy when he stalled President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court for ten full months in the election year of 2016, but then this year, when asked how he’d handle a Trump nomination if a Court seat comes up in the election year of 2020, he said with a wink and a nod, “Oh, we’d fill it.”)
To be fair, on impeachment, there’s enough hypocrisy to go around.
During Clinton’s impeachment, Representative Eliot Engel, today a prominent proponent for Trump’s impeachment, proclaimed, “I rise in strong opposition to this attempt at a bloodless coup d’etat, this attempt to overturn two national elections.” Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of one of the three House committees moving today toward impeachment, protested, “This partisan coup d’état will go down in infamy in the history of this nation.” And none less than Hillary Clinton herself, in her memoir Living History, called the impeachment of her husband an “attempted Congressional coup d’etat.”
But that was then. This is now. The hypocrisy of one side doesn’t mitigate the hypocrisy of the other.
Anyway, a coup d’etat altogether alters the governance of a nation, which politicians in both parties, if not Trump himself, probably understand. If this president is impeached… and long shots of long shots, convicted in the Senate… the power will stay with his party and pass, as the Constitution says it should, to his own Vice President. And, again thanks to the Constitution, it will still be true that the only people with the ability to alter America’s governance will be the voters.
Hopefully that’s not cold comfort.