Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Not since Caligula enrolled his horse Incitatus in the Roman Senate has a deliberative chamber of a great power seen such a display of undignified triviality and dishonest sophistry as the case for impeachment that the House Democrats delivered last week. Over and over the same flimsy arguments we’ve already heard for months were repeated, with all the same question-begging accusations gleaned from second- and third-hand office gossip, and the same fake “high crimes and misdemeanors” fabricated by the desperate Dems. Time for the Senate to restore its dignity, put an end to this taxpayer-funded political circus, and get back to doing its job.
The House Dems’ argument boils down to criminalizing the President’s Article 2 powers into made-up crimes like “abuse of power for corrupt purposes” and “obstruction of Congress.” Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a mundane example of the President conducting foreign policy in straightforward style, is an “abuse of power,” because he brought up the hinky behavior of the Bidens supposedly in order to benefit himself politically.
This sophistry is transparently specious. Ukraine’s government is notoriously corrupt, and our president was right to ask for some help in getting at the truth of the evidence that Ukrainians had been involved in meddling with the 2016 election, and that a U.S. vice-president had used his power to benefit a son who, with no record of expertise and experience, nonetheless was being paid $50K a month by a sketchy Ukrainian company. For Trump not to mention it just because Biden was running for office would have been a ridiculous application of the Caesar’s Wife standard, and made running for office a convenient defense against scrutiny.
Indeed, the bad odor around Biden’s son seemingly leveraging his father’s position was noisome enough that the Obama administration was worried about it, and the New York Times was investigating it. A chain of e-mails from May, 2019, publicized on FOX News’ The Ingraham Angle last week, reveals a Times’s reporter querying officials about a White House meeting earlier in 2019 attended by a “whistleblower,” Ukrainian officials, and White House officials. “The subjects discussed,” the reporter wrote in the email, “included efforts within the United States government to support prosecutions, in Ukraine and the United Kingdom, of Burisma Holdings . . . and concerns that Hunter Biden’s position with the company could complicate such efforts.” The story was never published by the Times, which has not explained its reticence. Given this prior interest, Trump was correct to ask Ukraine’s president about a continuing concern.
But like Stalin’s thug Beria, the House already had their man on Inauguration Day, and has needed only to find the crime once the “Russian collusion” mytheme imploded. After trying out “quid pro quo,” the House Javerts settled on “corruption,” because Trump allegedly withheld aid from Ukraine to leverage Zelensky into “digging up dirt” on Joe Biden, his likely foe in November’s presidential elections. But this charge deflated after Trump made public an exculpatory transcript of his conversation with the Ukrainian president, who said he didn’t feel pressured, and didn’t even know the aid had been withheld. Aid, by the way, that was delivered within the statutory time limit. All the House “investigators” could do, then, was repackage the “quid pro quo” allegation into “corruption” for personal political gain.
But of course, all foreign policy involves a “quid pro quo,” whatever new name the House calls it, and seeks “political gain.” NATO is a quid pro quo, and so was the Marshall Plan. The U.S. government, after all, is not a charity. And the accusation of “personal political gain” is laughable. Everything a politician does serves his personal and partisan political gain. The House impeachment is all about political gain: Tarnishing the Dems’ foe Trump, keeping their party in control of the House, and the House Speaker and Committee heads holding on to their positions of power and influence. These are not political “high crimes and misdemeanors,” they are electoral politics as usual.
Finally, no one should credit the Dems’ and other Trump critics’ tacit claim to be mind-readers who have divined Trump’s “real” motives in his talk with Zelensky. Nor is it the case that principle and expediency are mutually exclusive. Sometimes doing the right thing also benefits a person. For Trump, getting to the bottom of concerns that had troubled the previous administration about Hunter Biden and Burisma, was something a president should be doing on principle. It happened also to taint his political rival. Most important, in the end nothing of material benefit to Trump followed his request: Ukraine got the dough, and Burisma wasn’t investigated. The House impeachment gang are like Horace’s mountain struggling to give birth and then delivering a ridiculous mouse.
Trump’s behavior, then, is light-years away from “high crimes and misdemeanors,” whether criminal or political. The House is trying to make a preterit for impeachment what the Founders called “maladministration,” but rejected as a basis for impeachment for all the reasons evident in the House’s behavior: The vague subjectivity and partisan interests vitiating “maladministration” turn policy disputes and factional differences that should be settled by elections, into offenses grave enough to undo the sovereign people’s legal election of the president––all to serve one faction’s interests at the expense of another’s.
As for “obstruction of Congress,” this is an even more ridiculous sophistry. Our whole political order is based on each branch “obstructing” the other, each branch checking and balancing the other in order to prevent any branch from usurping more power from the others. You might as well call impeachment “obstruction of the Executive.” The House’s demand, per its oversight powers, for witnesses and documents from the Executive collided with the doctrine of Executive Privilege. So each branch was availing itself of its Constitutional resource for defending its prerogatives. The stand-off could have been ended by the House issuing subpoenas, then asking a court to adjudicate the conflicting claims. The House chose not to do that, because it wanted to ram through the impeachment and milk it for every drop of “personal political gain” that it could. Just calculate the value of free television time for a glorified political ad that the House Dems have enjoyed at the taxpayers’ expense.
Now that the House has made its case, such as it is, it is time for the Senate to exert its Constitutional powers and end this charade. Prolonging it only serves the Democrats’ political interests by putting more seconds on the clock so they can keep trying more evidentiary Hail Marys, and keep enjoying free television time for preening and blustering and advertising themselves. We know that this impeachment has nothing to do with “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Even if Trump were to be convicted, no district attorney or grand jury would indict him, and no judge would try him, for the simple reason that nothing illegal, criminally or politically, has been done. So, Senator McConnell, brush aside the demand for more witnesses, which is nothing but the Dems’ attempt to find a new fishing hole.
But, the preemptively cringing Republicans will squeal, providing an opening for the Dems to cry “coverup”! Or, if you are the verbally incontinent Rep. Jerry Nadler, to cry “treason”! Our squishy Republicans seemingly can’t grasp that after 50 years of Democrat progressives and one-eyed-Jack “moderates” calling them “fascist,” “racist,” “sexist,” “xenophobic,” and every other thought-crime in the politically correct penal code, they’re not going to stop whatever Republicans do. They live by the code “any means necessary,” and so are the purveyors of the “big lie,” no matter how patently devoid of evidence or plausibility or even common sense. Moreover, we live in a world of 24/7 information avalanches over multiple platforms, most of which have a sell-by date of a few days. It’s unlikely that many voters are going to base their vote in November on a transparently political sophistry like “coverup,” a zombie cliché from the Watergate scandal.
Republicans, no amount of groveling or apologizing will make Democrats like you––you are the enemy just for being Republicans, not for anything you’ve done. The leftist Dems remind me of what Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka, said about the purpose of Bolsheviks terror: “We are not waging war against individual persons. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. During the investigation, do not look for evidence that the accused acted in deed or word against Soviet power. The first questions that you ought to put are: To what class does he belong? What is his origin? What is his education or profession? And it is these questions that ought to determine the fate of the accused.”
And don’t forget, the Democrats are getting desperate. Their socialist tail is wagging the party dog, and proposing policies that alienate the middle- and working-class voters who put Trump into office. Smarter Democrats know this, which is why, as they did in 2016, they are scheming to keep socialist Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination. The problem is, the other candidates are almost as unappealing. Worse yet, their “woke” socialist base has all the enthusiasm and energy, and who knows how they will respond to their champion Bernie being gypped once again by the party establishment? Then there’s the incongruity of a party whining non-stop about “white privilege” and “inclusion,” then making its front-runners three rich old white people, all three of whom, to paraphrase St. Jerome, talk like socialist angels but live like capitalist fatcats.
The Republicans should not in any way help the floundering Democrats. Let the president’s lawyers make his case, then shut down the impeachment circus. You sent in the clowns, now send them packing.