Faux impeachment proceedings aren’t going to help the Democrat Party faithful’s deadly lack of enthusiasm; they’re paralyzed by their own ineffectiveness.
A Democratic Malaise
A few days ago, I noticed that my real-me Facebook page has been peculiarly silent about Ukraine and the impeachment. This silence interested me. Because I lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area, barring a few stalwart conservative friends, my Facebook page is almost entirely populated by Leftists. I would have assumed that they would be loud and proud about current events, given their histrionics since Trump first appeared on that Trump Tower staircase.
When Trump was first elected, 95% of my women friends proudly posted pictures of themselves in pink knitted hats, standing next to women dressed as giant vaginas, and all carrying obscene signs to protest the fact that the president, to their minds, behaved obscenely. When the bizarrely named “March for Science” occurred (bizarre because science is really a method not a “thing”), they were out there again, once more toting profanity-laced signs, this time to protest the fact that Trump “something something something” science. (No, that’s not filler language I forgot to delete. It reflects the weirdness of all the signage and protests.)
Over the years, my Facebook page has continued to highlight that the world in which I long lived hates Trumps with a deep, visceral, fiery passion. Indeed, I always found it funny to to see my Progressive lawyer friends opine sagely about Russian collusion, only to have the facts emerge and blow their fine opinions to pieces.
Looking back, I realize that the burning passion that distinguished my Facebook feed for so long started dying around the time of the Mueller report. Sure, my friends all posted about potential collusion, but you could see that their hearts weren’t in it. And yes, they liked pictures of Alexander “Trump hurt my feelings” Vindman in all his military finery, but I still wasn’t seeing the memes and insults to which I’d become accustomed. There was a distinct paucity of “quid pro quo” or “bribery” or “high crimes and misdemeanor” posts and memes flowing.
Clearly, my friends were burned out. As a very dear friend told me the other day, “I just realized that the day to day things in my life are more important.”
Still, I was certain that the whole House impeachment theater would arouse my friends from their stupor — only that didn’t happen. Instead, they seem wrung out. Just one hyper partisan man has proposed making today a national holiday. Frankly, I’m disappointed in my friends. Sure, they were fired up by pure craziness, but they were fired up. Now the fire is gone. They’re banked, dormant, or even extinct.
(If you’re finding this post too long a read, you can also listen to it at my podcast, the links to which are here.)
Some might point to the fact that “several hundred people” turned out in San Rafael, the main city in Marin County, to demand Trump’s impeachment, but that’s kind of pathetic when you consider that Marin County has over 250,000 people, with more than 70% of them voting Democrat. You’d think that they could field more angry people than “several hundred.” (And of course, this being the small town that is Marin County, I know one of the people quoted in the linked article.)
New York also managed to get a few people on the street for an impeachment rally. According to Scott Dworkin, an Obama activist who still believes in the Russian hoax, the rally “stretches over 5 city blocks.” Courtney Shadegg had the perfect comeback: “How many electoral college votes do they have?” In other words, the hatred is concentrated. The necessary geographic spread needed to win back the White House for the Democrats is leaking away.
Democrats can’t handle Trump’s success
Moreover, I’m not the only one noticing that the Progressive bubble is bursting faster than the Baby Trump float did when attacked. Just yesterday, the Marin IJ ran an article reflecting that, when it comes to Trump outrage, the Bay Area Left can’t get it up anymore:
But over the last three years, a survey of news clips found the number of organized Trump protests that brought at least hundreds of people to the streets has plummeted from 32 in 2017 to six in 2018 to just two this year. And one of those was in London.
Personally, I might think that “what gives” might be the laundry list of successes that Trump detailed in his magnificent letter to Nancy Pelosi:
You and your party are desperate to distract from America’s extraordinary economy, incredible jobs boom, record stock market, soaring confidence, and flourishing citizens. Your party simply cannot compete with our record: 7 million new jobs; the lowest-ever unemployment for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans; a rebuilt military; a completely reformed VA with Choice and Accountability for our great veterans; more than 170 new federal judges and two Supreme Court Justices; historic tax and regulation cuts; the elimination of the individual mandate; the first decline in prescription drug prices in half a century; the first new branch of the United States Military since 1947, the Space Force; strong protection of the Second Amendment; criminal justice reform; a defeated ISIS caliphate and the killing of the world’s number one terrorist leader, al-Baghdadi; the replacement of the disastrous NAFTA trade deal with the wonderful USMCA (Mexico and Canada); a breakthrough Phase One trade deal with China; massive new trade deals with Japan and South Korea; withdrawal from the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal; cancellation of the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord; becoming the world’s top energy producer; recognition of Israel’s capital, opening the American Embassy in Jerusalem, and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; a colossal reduction in illegal border crossings, the ending of Catch-and-Release, and the building of the Southern Border Wall — and that is just the beginning, there is so much more. You cannot defend your extreme policies — open borders, mass migration, high crime, crippling taxes, socialized healthcare, destruction of American energy, late-term taxpayer-funded abortion, elimination of the Second Amendment, radical far-left theories of law and justice, and constant partisan obstruction of both common sense and common good.
Leftists, of course, don’t agree that there’s any future to that list or, if they agree, they won’t say so out loud. To hear them tell it, they’re not quiet because Trump’s election is paying massive dividends for America and the world (except on the national debt, which he must attack). In their view, Trump made them stop protesting because of the darkness in his soul:
“I think mass protests work better when you have leaders who know shame,” said Elisa Camahort Page, co-author of the book “Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All,” summing up her droll assessment of futility that frustrates so many anti-Trump activists.
“It could be that a lot of the country is just exhausted with what’s happening,” Garrick Percival, a San Jose State associate professor of political science, said Monday. “We’re now three years into the Trump administration, and the volume of scandal and conflict has ironically made it so any one thing doesn’t take on great importance. If this (impeachment) was the only thing, it might be mobilizing more people.”
It just kills the Leftists that Trump is unimpressed and unaffected by pink hats, women dressed as giant vaginas, cutesy posters about science, people twerking in unison, homages to broccoli, and all the other ridiculous protest theater in which the Left engages. He’s also unimpressed by Antifa’s violence. He just keeps moving forward, exhausting those who routinely scream at the sky.
Monica Showalter, at American Thinker, has also noticed the malaise:
They’re not talking about it in the streets, not even in far-left Berkeley. They’re not talking about it among the tech wokesters in Silicon Valley or beyond. There are no bumperstickers, there are no lawn signs. Not even the people who think they are winning are bothering to cheer.
A MoveOn protest held in San Diego to protest impeachment, or maybe the other way around, last night looked forced and weird on local news. Only lefties respond to their own supposed victories by … protesting.
The Los Angeles Times just released its most-read stories of the year a few minutes ago … and none of those stories even remotely touched on impeachment. The Angelenos were focused on the shooting of rapper Nipsey Hustle, the university admissions scandal, the wildfires, and the homeless crisis on the streets instead of this big “historic” impeachment, as the nets say. Impeachment didn’t figure at all.
Scott Johnson at Power Line took a link at the day’s most-read stories at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and found the locals there interested in bear-on-the-loose stories, not impeachment.
The networks, with their wall-to-wall impeachment coverage, are collapsing in the ratings.
As I see it, just as toddlers, with the best will in the world, cannot maintain perpetual temper tantrums, outrage theater also runs its course. And while Lefties love to intone about Trump’s endless scandals, the fact is that he’s been a strikingly scandal-free president. He’s governed by the book and, when the Leftists, usually with help from activist judges, throw roadblocks in his face, he uses constitutional methods (and lots of patience) to challenge those roadblocks.
At bottom, the so-called “corruption” and “scandals” to which the Leftists point are merely policy disagreements. To them, it’s scandalous and corrupt that
- Trump does not believe in destroying the American economy because of alleged anthropogenic climate change;
- Trump supports Israel over the Palestinians (a group hated throughout the Arab Middle East, incidentally, but seen as useful pawns);
- Trump has turned America into a net energy exporter;
- Trump wants Europeans to help pay for their defense;
- Trump believes a nation needs actual, functional borders;
- Trump says that able-bodied people on the dole should still contribute to society;
- Trump believes the content of people’s character is what matters rather than their race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or so-called gender identity;
- Trump believes in the viability of the Second Amendment; and
- Trump opposes the death cult that the abortion rights movement has become.
And that’s just the short list of policy disagreements between Trump and America’s Left. Each of these policy disagreements is, to the Left, a sign of corruption and scandal. In other words, the Left has leeched those words of their original meaning and redefined them to mean “we hate you.”
At the start of the Trump presidency, Scott Adams said that people in America are watching two different movies. One is a documentary; one a fantasy. He was right and he’s right that reality will tell which movie is which.
The Leftist movie is about a hate-filled, racist, sexist, classist, homophobic America government which angry, white men control in their never-ending quest to dominate a polluted, dying earth. The conservative movie is about a safe, prosperous America, with a small government, which focuses on national security, trade, policing genuine crime, etc., in which the free market works for everyone’s benefit, regardless of race, color, creed, sexual orientation, sex, and so-called gender identity.
If polls are anything to go by, more and more Americans are concluding that the conservative movie is the real thing while the Leftist movie is an ugly, pretty-much-unwatchable dystopian fantasy. If America were a multiplex, people would be streaming out of the Leftist theater and heading for the conservative one, with the Leftist hucksters standing there yelling, “No, no, don’t go in there. Come back! We’re just about to start an impeachment double feature. You’ll miss all the fun if you just see a movie about your growing retirement fund.”
The ridiculous impeachment theater does not feed Democrat souls
The impeachment process to date is a joke and may well be unconstitutional
Part of the burnout may also be the ridiculous Articles of Impeachment that the House is contemplating as I write this. But before I explain just why those Articles of Impeachment are ridiculous, let me throw in my two cents about the whole bass-ackwards House “impeachment” process.
The Constitution at Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5 states that “The House of Representatives . . . shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” The House impeachment process is analogous to a prosecutor both building and putting before the Court (i.e., the American people and the Senate) the facts of its case. If the House is satisfied with its own presentation, it formally votes on Articles of Impeachment, which refers the case to the Senate. Once in the Senate, the Senate acts as the jury, before which the President finally has the opportunity to mount his defense.
As I’ve argued before, the reason the process starts in the House is because the Constitution created the House to be the branch of government most closely connected to the voters. None of the other branches are as close to the voters. The president is not directly elected to his four year term. Instead, the Electoral College stands as a buffer to mob madness and the weight of mass population centers. The Senate was not originally intended to be subject to any direct election for the six year term. Instead, until the 17th Amendment, state governors appointed Senators, again removing them from the direct will of the people. And of course, federal judges are entirely appointed and serve for life.
Only House members are the people’s direct representatives. They serve for only two years and every two years all House members must face their constituents again. They truly are the people’s representatives. It therefore makes sense that the House carries out the impeachment process, which encompasses, as I said, the prosecution’s fact finding, which is also their affirmative prosecution. If the People like the House’s decision to impeach a president, the People will reward the House members within less than two years. If they don’t, woe betide those same House members.
For this reason, it should be important that the entire House buys into the Impeachment process from the get-go and that the process is public. Instead, what happened in this case was that for months, Nancy Pelosi insulated House members from the decision to impeach by going it alone. It was Pelosi who unilaterally announced an “impeachment inquiry.” Doing this, I believe, violated the requirement that the House of Representatives, a collective entity, not the House speaker, an individual, “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”
Pelosi then assigned the inquiry not to the public forum of the House, but to old Pencil Neck, Crazy Eyed Schiff and, over time, some other committees. Schiff, though, made himself the face of impeachment theater. With his mandate from Pelosi, he immediately put together a series of secret basement proceedings, calling favored witnesses, and silencing Republicans’ ability to speak about the proceedings. (Schiff, of course, selectively leaked everything.)
Eventually, recognizing that Americans really don’t like secret hearings, Nancy got around to asking other House members to approve these decidedly Star-Chamber-ish goings-on. What resulted was not a House vote for impeachment, although some like to say it is. It was just a House vote for rules.
The whole farce culminated with three law professors, all Trump haters, assuring everybody that Trump had to go, and one voice of reason saying “Stop! The edge of the cliff is near and you’re about to go over.” Jonathan Turley was, naturally, ignored.
And then, with startling abruptness, after most proceedings were hidden from the voters, the House rushed into voting on two Articles of Impeachment. That doesn’t sound very constitutional, does it?
The whole thing has bee an Alice in Wonderland version of impeachment. For those unfamiliar with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Wonderland is not a nice place. It’s a quirky, often mean-spirited, upside down place. At book’s end, Alice finds herself a spectator to and then a witness in the trial against the Knave (i.e., the Jack) of Hearts, who is charged with stealing the Queen’s tarts. Even Alice, a seven year old, understands that there’s something very wrong with the proceedings.
Right of the bat, Wonderland proceedings go off the rails in a very Democrat-ish way (all emphasis mine):
‘Herald, read the accusation!’ said the King.
On this the White Rabbit blew three blasts on the trumpet, and then unrolled the parchment scroll, and read as follows:–
`The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts,
All on a summer day:
The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts,
And took them quite away!’
`Consider your verdict,’ the King said to the jury.
More now-familiar nonsense occurs when the Mad Hatter takes the stand, complete with assumptions and threats:
‘Take off your hat,’ the King said to the Hatter.
`It isn’t mine,’ said the Hatter.
`Stolen!’ the King exclaimed, turning to the jury, who instantly made a memorandum of the fact.
`I keep them to sell,’ the Hatter added as an explanation; `I’ve none of my own. I’m a hatter.’
Here the Queen put on her spectacles, and began staring at the Hatter, who turned pale and fidgeted.
`Give your evidence,’ said the King; `and don’t be nervous, or I’ll have you executed on the spot.’
The Wonderland trial really starts to sound like the current impeachment process when Alice takes the stand:
‘What do you know about this business?’ the King said to Alice.
`Nothing,’ said Alice.
`Nothing WHATEVER?’ persisted the King.
`Nothing whatever,’ said Alice.
`That’s very important,’ the King said, turning to the jury.
They were just beginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Rabbit interrupted: `UNimportant, your Majesty means, of course,’ he said in a very respectful tone, but frowning and making faces at him as he spoke.
`UNimportant, of course, I meant,’ the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, `important–unimportant– unimportant–important–‘ as if he were trying which word sounded best.
The Wonderland judicial farce culminates with the Queen of Hearts in the role of the entire Democrat Party:
`Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
`No, no!’ said the Queen. `Sentence first -– verdict afterwards.’
`Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. `The idea of having the sentence first!’
Considering that Democrats starting insisting on the day he was elected that Trump needed to be impeached, the Queen of Hearts perfectly expressed their sentiment: “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”
Let’s talk about “high Misdemeanors”
Having established that Lewis Carroll was prophetic, I’ll now turn back to charges so silly they could be a nursery rhyme. But before I do, let me provide a little legal framework for understand what kind of charges can and should be brought in an impeachment proceeding.
There is an old legal doctrine entitled “ejusdem generis,” which translates to “of the same kind.” Black’s Law Dictionary, the preeminent legal dictionary explains it this way:
In statutory construction, the “ejusdem generis rule” is that where general words follow an enumeration of persons or things, by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are not to be construed in their widest extent, but are to be held as applying only to persons or things of the same general kind or class as those specifically mentioned.
In other words, if you have a list that says, “cows, pigs, goats, chickens, and other animals,” ejusdem generis means that this set can include bunnies, but cannot include lions or wildebeests. And if you don’t understand my example, you might be a Democrat. Keep this ejusdem generis doctrine in mind as you look at the constitutional bases for impeaching a president.
Article Two, Section 4 of the Constitution is short and sweet:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
So what do those terms — Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors — mean?
Treason was and still is a hanging offense. It was so serious that the Founders defined it in the Constitution, at Article Three, Section 3:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
With the Mueller report staring them in the face, even the Democrats lacked the chutzpah to accuse Trump of giving Aid and Comfort to Russia which is, in any event, a geopolitical opponent, not an enemy in time of war. We can all heave a sigh of relief that the Cold War is over.
Bribery too is a statutory criminal term, and it refers to bribing an American official – that is, a situation in which the American official is on the receiving end of a bribe, with both briber and bribee being subject to severe criminal sanctions. This element of the impeachment clause was a response to the exceptional corruption of the British government, which helped lead to the American Revolution. In the colonial era, as is still true for Democrats in the 21st century, being a government official or bureaucrat was profitable. Unfortunately for Democrats in this era, the House Dems very quickly realized that asking Ukraine to do something called for by treaty, relating to a past election, and without the Ukrainians feeling coerced to act, did not amount to anyone bribing Trump nor to Trump accepting a bribe. Wipe that one off the slate.
The last relevant phrase in the Constitution is “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” “High Crimes” is self-evident, and even with the best will in the world, the Democrats cannot and, in fact, do not accuse Trump of high crimes.
This means that all the Democrats have left in their arsenal is “high . . . Misdemeanors.” Nowadays, we tend to think of misdemeanors as a form of low crime but that’s not the case when looking at the Founder’s understanding of the word. An article from The Federalist Society, after looking at both British and American jurisprudence in the 18th century, concludes that,
We best capture the meaning of the phrase “high . . . Misdemeanors” when we think of it as referring to breaches of fiduciary duty. High misdemeanors are not limited to commission of crimes, but they do not include mere political differences. While violations of the criminal law provide grounds for impeachment, high misdemeanors encompass breaches of the duties of loyalty, good faith, and care, and of the obligations to account and to follow instructions (including the law and Constitution) when administering one’s office.
And at long last this is where we get back to that ejusdem generis doctrine. Given the company in which those high misdemeanors find themselves (treason, bribery, high crimes), the Founders manifestly did not mean those “high misdemeanors” (or breaches of the president’s fiduciary duty) to revolve around either policy differences or the ordinary, daily modus operandi of the president’s office. This breach of fiduciary duty has to be massive and serious, for it is part of a list of crimes that involves potential capital punishment and other criminal acts.
The Articles of Impeachment do not meet the high standard the Constitution demands
Do the articles of impeachment meet this high standard? I don’t think so.
The first article accuses Trump of “Abuse of Power.” And what did Democrats content constituted this abuse of power? First, they say, Trump asked the Ukrainians to help him overthrow the Biden candidacy.
Unfortunately, for the Democrats, they will have to deal with the reality that Trump did not actually ask this. Instead, as the transcript shows, he asked a government with which we have a treaty for mutual corruption investigations to investigate a past act of possible corruption – one, incidentally, that the actor boasted about. Trump did not frame it as an election favor nor was there anything in the conversation that pressured Ukraine’s president to act. It’s hard to elevate this to a major breach of fiduciary duty. No wonder voters are bored and Leftists inert.
Second, say the Democrats, Trump asked Ukraine to investigate “a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine – rather than Russia – interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.”
That is such a ridiculous statement on its face that my first instinct is to ask, “So what? Is this the kind of thing you Dems think should knock out a duly elected president to forestall your having to face him in 2020?” But putting aside snarky responses to a farcical statement, the statement is also a lie. Per a January 11, 2017 article in Politico (no friend to Trump), Ukraine did interfere in the election:
Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.
A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.
The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails.
Ukraine, on the other hand, has traditionally enjoyed strong relations with U.S. administrations. Its officials worry that could change under Trump, whose team has privately expressed sentiments ranging from ambivalence to deep skepticism about Poroshenko’s regime, while sounding unusually friendly notes about Putin’s regime.
Poroshenko is scrambling to alter that dynamic, recently signing a $50,000-a-month contract with a well-connected GOP-linked Washington lobbying firm to set up meetings with U.S. government officials “to strengthen U.S.-Ukrainian relations.”
Even if I were the most partisan Dem in the room, I can’t see getting enthusiastic about this Abuse of Power claim, and I’d be very worried that it would be knocked out of the box for failing to meet the minimal standards for presidential impeachment. No wonder my proggie friends remain unenthused.
But what about that second Article of Impeachment, namely Obstruction of Congress?
First, consider my earlier argument that it’s questionable whether the House, before today, engaged in a real impeachment process at all or if it just staged a vague simulacrum of impeachment for the media’s benefit. I would argue that, before today, Trump had no obligation to participate in this kabuki theater. If you have no obligation to participate, you cannot be obstructive when you don’t participate.
Second, keep in mind the core charge, which is buried in a lot of words: Trump told the various Executive Branches under his control not to comply with the House subpoenas. One can argue that the so-called “House subpoenas” were, in fact, not consistent with traditional subpoenas. Many were just requests. Moreover, they came from various committees, not from the House as a whole — because the House had never authorized an impeachment proceeding.
More importantly, when Trump objected, Democrats did not do what the House had done in the past, which was test the president’s refusal before the Supreme Court. Instead, the Democrats merely reserved the right to whine at a later date about Trump’s refusal.
Third, keeping in mind my ejusdem generis discussion about the level of wrongdoing needed to trigger impeachment, Obstruction of Congress isn’t in a class with treason, bribery, high crime, or even low crime. In fact, I think one could argue that there’s no breach of fiduciary duty at issue here. The President certainly owes a fiduciary duty to the People; it’s not clear that he owes a fiduciary duty to a co-equal branch of government, especially when the House’s demand is that, in a weird and informal proceeding, the President give them enough rope with which to hang himself.
History provides guidance here: When Andrew Johnson was impeached, it was for his refusal to comply with a statute that Congress had enacted. It’s irrelevant that the statute was almost certainly unconstitutional and was repealed. What matters is that, when he acted, Johnson was breaking the law. When Nixon was impeached, he was accused of being an accomplice after the fact in a criminal break-in, itself a criminal act. When Clinton was impeached, he was accused of perjury under oath, another criminal act. Here, Trump’s being impeached for asserting executive privilege.
Democrats are exhausted because they’ve been fed nothing but meaningless promises from their morally corrupt politicians
The Articles of Impeachment are, at bottom, exceptionally weak sauce. The first one accuses the president of probing Ukrainian corruption and election interference. That’s not a winner unless you’re a hardcore partisan. The second accuses the president of asserting executive privilege in the face of an arguably invalid, unconstitutional, totally partisan witch hunt against him. This is also not a winner at the popular level.
Do you remember Madeline Kahn as Lili von Shtüpp, the “Teutonic Titwillow” in Blazing Saddles? She sang one of my favorite songs, I’m Tired?
I think my Proggie friend’s and all those other tired Leftists feel like Lili von Shtüpp. They’re tired, so tired, of being shtüpped by the Democrat party when it comes to going after Trump. Whether from below (the Proggie street theater) or above (Congressional Democrats), these Resistance faithful have gotten the shaft. They’ve been on the receiving end of seemingly thousands of impeachment promises, all premature, starting the day Trump was elected, and all those promises went nowhere. No wonder my Proggie friends are tired. Just tired.