The Democratic Party has a great friend in the White House.
And before I go any further on the main point, may I jump onto the rickety soapbox of the Grammarian? To my friends on the Right, please stop saying “the Democrat Party.” It’s the Democratic Party. The shorter version stems from GOP leaders attempting to turn the party name into a petty insult. Republican candidates have been urged to use such trigger words since at least the 1940s, and “Democrat Party” was a particular favorite of Joe McCarthy. (Did you see how I worked McCarthy into this? Clever!) Let’s make a deal, if I don’t say “the Republic Party,” will you agree to stop sinning against grammar for petty political reasons, and say “the Democratic Party?” Good, I’m glad we could clear that up. Now where was I..?
Oh yes, the friend in the White House. Recently some on the left have called on the House to impeach the POTUS, though it is quite clear the GOP congressional majority would never do such a thing. Yet every day on social media, the mainstream media, and quite a few other places, we here the “I” word. I have a warning to my I-word inspired friends – be careful what you wish for.
First off, what does it take to impeach. Well, that’s a trick question. Impeachment by the House of Representatives is actually just the legislative version of indicting someone. But that then leads to a trial in the Senate, wherein a conviction leads to removal from office. The “I” word is used loosely to refer to the overall process, but it is important to note the difference. Two presidents have, in fact, been impeached – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton – but no president has ever been convicted in the Senate and thereby removed.
So what does it take to impeach and be convicted? Again, a trick question! The Constitution talks about impeachment up near the front, in Article 1, sections 2 and 3, but it only refers to the mechanics. To get more into the intent, you need to dive into the Federalist Papers, and in particular Fed 65 by Hamilton. In that essay, Hamilton warns that there is a danger that an impeachment might be more the result of partisan political pressures than the actual guilt or innocents of the person involved.
You can bring Articles of Impeachment against a president for high crimes and misdemeanors, which basically means whatever the House at that particular time thinks it means.
So, why not support impeachment of Mr. Trump right now? Two reasons. First, the Mueller investigation is still cranking along, and this probe, led by a GOP former FBI chief, is the most likely source of actual criminal indictments, given the paucity of effort from the GOP-lead House and Senate committees that are supposedly looking into the Russian and other matters. (Remember Bengazi? Eight different committees? Over $7 million spent? Any sense that the Republicans in Congress will investigate one of their own as earnestly? Russia? Niger? Bueller? Bueller?) So that leaves Mr. Mueller as the best bet for any real criminal charges, should the evidence warrant it.
But there is a second, and in my view far more important, reason for Democrats to not push for impeachment. And that reason is – Mike Pence. The greatest thing going for Democrats in the Trump Administration is, well, Mr. Trump. He is simultaneously both dim witted regarding the actual functioning of government and he is supremely narcissistic about the same. Thus, in the months since he took office, he’s gotten zero things done legislatively. It is true that he has, issued more executive orders than Mr. Obama, impacting health, the environment, and dogs for combat wounded vets, among others. Indeed, he’s issued more than any president in the last fifty years! So much for campaign honesty, I guess.
But a Pence presidency would be much worse. He would still issue the damning Executive Orders, but he would also be a far greater danger on Capitol Hill, because, unlike his boss, the Vice President actually knows what he is doing. He would get legislation passed and signed.
And so, my friends on the left, I’d gently suggest you back away from the impeachment talk, keep an eye on Mr. Mueller, and be glad that Mr. Pence is not running things. Think of a wounded and ineffective Trump Administration as a blessing, and, perhaps, impeachment by another name.