The Impeachment Dilemma

Is doing the right thing the right thing to do if it accomplishes the wrong result?

Should Congress impeach Donald Trump if doing so guarantees his election to another four years as President?

If Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses, should he not be impeached?

Richard Nixon left a smoking gun. Bill Clinton committed indiscretions in the Oval Office and lied about it to his Cabinet, his supporters and to the American public.

Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. Clinton was impeached by a Republican House of Representatives, and the GOP lost seats in the next election.

The long-awaited Mueller Report, although not exonerating the current occupant of the White House of charges of “collusion” (actually of conspiring or coordinating) with the Russians, doesn’t let him entirely off the hook, either. The report says it couldn’t find evidence of collusion, although the Russians did do stuff (a lot of stuff it turns out) and the Republican presidential candidate benefitted from their efforts, and seemed to encourage those efforts publicly. But actual coordination or cooperation? No evidence. It might have happened, but the Mueller team didn’t find it.

As for obstruction of justice? We all saw a lot of it. The President made no secret of his displeasure and disdain for the special counsel’s investigation. We weren’t surprised to learn that the President wanted to fire Mueller but the White House counsel and others refused to carry out the order. And he did fire the FBI director because, the President said on network television, because of “the Russia thing.”

So why not impeach him?

Why not indeed? Speaker Pelosi could probably get the necessary votes to do it. All it takes is a simple majority of the House. If he committed impeachable offenses, wouldn’t impeaching him be the right thing to do. Isn’t the right thing the right thing to do? Wouldn’t ignoring his offenses set a bad precedent?

The Senate, of course, would not convict the President (it takes a two-thirds vote after all). In fact, a majority would probably vote to acquit him.

So, the effort to impeach the President would be an exercise in futility, an empty gesture, a fool’s errand, a waste of time.

Worse than that, the Democrats might get the same reward that the Republicans got in 1998—loss of seats, maybe even loss of the majority. Then a reinvigorated, vindictive President, feeling his oats as never before, would be on a tear. The moral midgets in the Senate wouldn’t stand in his way. The House, once again in Republican hands would be all for him.

What would impeachment have accomplished? Or better, unleashed?

The impeachment process isn’t a judicial exercise. It’s political. The argument that ignoring Trump’s transgressions would set a bad precedent is, with all due respect, irrelevant. Congress lately has paid little attention to precedent, to keeping its decisions in sync with the past. So why all of a sudden should this “precedent” have such great authority?

Impeachment proceedings will exhaust the American electorate, not to mention distract them from the very real weaknesses that Trump displays. Focus on the issues, the very real inequalities that this administration has done everything to exacerbate–healthcare, maldistribution of wealth because of a tax “reform” that favored the rich, America’s decline as an international leader, our ignoring Russia’s outrageous  attacks on our democracy, and more.

The whole point and purpose of impeachment is to remove a sitting President from office—not merely to express disapproval or condemnation of his or her official conduct. But it’s a foregone conclusion that impeachment will not result in the current incumbent’s removal. The Senate will not convict him.

Impeaching Trump, on the other hand, will give him an issue to galvanize his base, improving—perhaps to the point of guaranteeing—his re-election.

If Trump deserves to be removed from office—and he does—there is a better way, even if it means suffering his tenure for another another 20 months or so. Defeating him at the polls, assuming the Russians do not steal the election for him, is the surest, safest, least controversial way of replacing him. The ballot box. That’s the way to remove him.

Let the people speak.



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